I’ve always wanted to master sending Morse code using a traditional straight key like the operators of old. It’s a deep-rooted feeling I’ve had for decades.
K3Y SKCC Event – A Safe Place To Hone Skills
I started transmitting and receiving Morse code in the late winter of 2013. Jim Cluett, W1PID, has been my mentor on this magic journey. It all started on a frigid dark winter night in central New Hampshire at a Boy Scout meeting.
Watch this video of the meeting to see what re-ignited that decades-old smoldering fire inside me about sending Morse code:
I drove home alone from that meeting bound and determined to become a Morse operator. Little did I know how arduous the journey was to be and how many plateaus I’d rest upon as I transformed from an apprentice to a journeyman.
Straight Keys Create Music
I’ve use a Bencher paddle the past five years to send Morse. Paddles and the electronic counterparts in modern radios do all the heavy lifting when it comes to sending Morse.
A point often overlooked is how they work together to create what I call droid code. It’s plain, it’s blunt and it has little character.
Listen to a straight-key operator hold down the contacts on the last “dah” of the letter K and your head will be on a swivel.
Sooner or later, the cadence of a straight-key or bug operator will be music to your ears. You don’t get much of that using a paddle.
Straight Key Night Turns Into a Passion
I’ve come quite far in my Morse journey. I could write about that for another hour.
It’s important to realize that as you get better with Morse code, it’s like going up a set of steps. You work hard to get to a flat spot.
The stairway is very long and I’ve got many more steps to take, but I got to a landing just three days ago when I dusted off my straight key and participated in the ARRL’s Straight Key Night.
I was instantly hooked and Jim told me the next day about the K3Y SKCC event.
Pileups At Your Speed – Great Training
The year 2016 was instrumental in my Morse journey. I was very active in the ARRL NPOTA event. Throughout the year I activated national parks in several states. On sacred and hallowed ground in southern Pennsylvania I managed a 90-minute CW pileup I had only dreamed of doing.
For one thing when the event ended, I felt an emptiness. I loved the thrill of working a pileup.
Last year I got involved in the Parks on the Air event to fill the vacuum. What fun I had! My most exciting POTA activation happened deep in the coastal redwood forest of northern California. I was at Mendocino Woodlands State Park.
My takeaway from all those events was that if you want to get better at something, say using a straight key, then do it in a setting where it’s just for fun and there’s minimal pressure.
That’s what this morning was all about.
Just two days ago I signed up to do a one-hour shift for the K3Y SKCC event. I had a blast and worked 13 operators in an hour.
Yeah, that’s a pretty slow pace, but it doesn’t matter.
All that matters is that I had fun and my confidence jumped up to the next step.
Be brave. Become an operator in a fun event to hone your straight-key skills. You’ll never regret doing it!