CW Pileup Story and Tips

It happened so fast it was over before I knew it.

I had about ten minutes to kill before I had to eat dinner and scoot to my monthly Central New Hampshire Amateur Radio Club meeting. Moments before I had raced up to my shack to drop off some 1-cent stamps for my QSL cards.

I jumped on 20 meters and went to 14.050. Nothing. Deader than a doornail.

I went up to 14.055 and had the same results. My CQs were like trees falling in the forest.

No one was listening, or if they did hear me, there was no pathway back to my zepp dipole 80/6-meter antenna.

I decided to give 40 meters a shot.

I tuned my antenna and was 1:1. Sweet.

After tuning to 7.058, same thing. Nothing. I was beginning to think everyone was eating dinner.

I gave it one last chance at 7.050.


Seconds later I hear someone tuning up.

Bingo. Even though I’ve only been doing CW for four months, I knew what was coming. This guy or gal was cracking his/her knuckles getting ready to come back.

I send out: CQ DE E W3ATB K

Immediately, I hear back:  N1EFX

Cool! I’m going to get this QSO in.

He sends his call one more time, then KABOOM!

All of a sudden, I hear three maybe four other operators pounding my call sign.

GULP! What do I do now?

N1EFX was trying to transmit, but I could hear nothing as the frequency was jammed tighter than two 16d sinker nails driven into a 1/4-inch concrete hole at the same time.

I panicked. How could I answer all of them? What should I do?

I did the stupid thing and turned off my rig thinking it was some ferocious animal that was going to bite me.

But as I was exiting the shack, I let out a huge Yahoo! and the grin on my face must have been wider than the 405 in west LA.

Down the steps I went and proceeded to make a quick salad with turkey cubes and croutons. I inhaled it and sailed out the door headed to my meeting.

Once in route, I turned on my 2M Yaesu 8900-FT and called to see if by chance my mentor, Jim Cluett – W1PID, would be listening.

“W1PID this is W3ATB calling.”


“Jim, can I call you in about ten minutes? I’ve got a story that I’m sure is going to make you laugh.”

“I’m driving now and can’t talk. I’m headed to the meeting.”

“Oh, okay, I’ll just talk to you there.”

Well that’s rare. Jim usually doesn’t go to the meetings, but then it dawned on me that tonight the topic was D-STAR and Jim is just getting into that part of the hobby.

I get to the meeting and just a few are there. Jim had beat me and was standing alone looking at his cell phone.

“I’ve got to meet with Adam for a few minutes, then I’ll catch up,” I said.


Jim is a man of few words most of the time. I can’t say as it’s a bad policy.

Once Adam helped me see if my new multimeter was accurate, I cornered Jim.

“Guess what happened?”

“Did you try to transmit and your antenna was down?”

“Oh no, I had my first pileup. It was amazing. I had no clue what to do so I shut off the radio.”

I fully expected him to break out laughing.

Nothing. Stone face.

Hmmmm, I wonder if his blood sugar is low?

“Well, pileups are normal. Did you at least get any portion of one of the operator’s call signs?”

“Oh yes, I got the first guy out of the chute, N1EFX.”

“Well, all you had to do was wait till the commotion died off and then call him back. The others would step aside and wait to work you once you finish up.”

And there you have it. The words of wisdom of W1PID dispensed matter-a-factly.

Now I know what to do and I can’t wait for my next pileup baby!

One thought on “CW Pileup Story and Tips

  1. Great story!
    I hope you enjoy additional ‘pile-ups’ in the future. Maybe I will be in there in the pack trying to give you a call, too.

    73 – Mark, WU7F

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