I’m currently taking instruction with the CW Academy for their Level 2 course. This is for those ham operators who use Morse Code but want to elevate their skill level. In my case, I’m usually operating in contests by copying call signs (often with the aid of the CW decoder in the Elecraft K3) and then sending 5NN and the contest exchange using the N1MM logger program (which involves pushing pre-programmed buttons).
Left to my own devices, I’m at 10 words-per-minute or a bit more, having passed the W1AW qualifying run for that speed. But, get me into a rag chewing QSO and after the RST, name, and QTH, I’m generally hopeless for copying what’s being sent to me.
Of course, operating in the VHF/UHF contests on CW is a bit more casual than the 30 wpm or more in the HF contests. But still I’d like bring my solid copying speed up to 15 wpm so that I can engage in good QSOs with the other operators, either at VHF/UHF or in HF ragchewing.
After week four in the class, here’s what I’ve learned.
- Working with Others – There are five people in my class and just spending time with them has been very valuable. We meet twice a week via Skype and have recently added a separate practice session with a group of three. They have taught me that I’m not alone in my struggles.
- Practice Makes Perfect – One of my first breakthroughs (or head slapping moments) was when our instructor suggested I practice sending “Grapevine,” my QTH, with which I’ve always struggled. Sure enough, practice has greatly improved my sending. I do though have to ramp up the time I spend on Morse Runner and the audio tapes they send me.
- Solid Teaching Skills – Jerry Weisskohl, AC4BT, is our instructor. He’s been doing a fantastic job of keeping us on track, adjusting where needed to everyone’s challenges, and moving us all forward. He has a great deal of skill, upwards of 40 wpm, but still works well with those of us that operate at a much lower speed.
- KK5NA’s Advice – My friend Joe Spencer, KK5NA, is also a CW Academy instructor. His comments about the academy prompted me to sign up. His most recent comments have been that you need to do more sending to get your code speed up. I had always been told to focus on receiving and the sending would take care of itself. So his encouragement along these lines is very helpful. That, and I just need to do 30 minutes practice every single day.
This is another fun aspect of my ham radio adventures. Hope to work you on CW and do a better job as a result of CW Academy.