First CW Only POTA Activation

Since getting back into amateur radio in December 2022 my goal has been to become proficient in Morse code (CW) so that I can activate a park as part of Parks on the Air.

This past Saturday, April 27, 2024, I activated my first park using CW only. I went to Minute Man National Historic Park and set up my homebrew quarter wave vertical antenna with my Xiegu G90 and began calling CQ.

Minute Man National Historic Park

I’m lucky enough to live about 5 miles from Minute Man National Historic Park. It’s a gem of a National Park where the opening battles of the American Revolution were fought on April 19, 1775. The Battle Road Trail is park’s most prominent feature, stretching about 5 miles. It connects historic sites from Meriam’s Corner in Concord to the eastern boundary of the park in Lexington, following the original route taken by British soldiers and colonial minutemen.

When I make a POTA visit, I like to set up at a picnic area near Hartwell Tavern. If the picnic tables are being used there are plenty of open spaces in that area I can set up in without disturbing other guests.

My Radio Setup

I was using my SP4 Magnetic Tension Paddle from at 17 words per minute (WPM). It wasn’t long before POTA hunters started to find me and reach out to make contact.

I really appreciate how patient the hunters were as I fumbled with my logbook and Morse code paddle while trying to decode their call signs. I’m sure that I missed some hunters; I’ll get you in my logs next time.

I made 24 contacts total. Most were in the Continental United States and one contact was in Italy.

Thanks to IK1LBL in Italy who was awake and hunting POTA at 11PM Italian time.

CW Fun

I had a ton of fun activating my first park with CW only. When I set up my station I scanned the bands and SSB frequencies on 20 meters were absolutely jammed. CW frequencies were busy as well but there it wasn’t hard for me to my own piece of the spectrum.

I was worried about picking call signs out of large pile ups. I like to practice Morse code decoding by watching real-time CW POTA activators on YouTube (e.g., K4SWL, W4ARB). These POTA Activators are “Ham radio famous” and have to manage large pile-ups of Hunters when they’re activating parks. Although I did have some pile-ups when activating - they were not as large as the pile-ups that well known, activators are dealing with.

When I couldn’t pull a sign out of a pile-up I would pause and call CQ another time or I would send a questions mark. The next time I would usually be able to pick out a partial call sign to work with. Some Hunters from the first attempt probably moved on. That is fine with me.

I want to specifically thank Long Island CW Club. Their classes and coaching were critical to my progress in Morse code / CW so far. I highly recommend the club to anyone interested in radio and CW.

Moving Forward

Next time, I’ll slow down my keyer’s words per minute just a bit. I was a little nervous and I didn’t work my paddle as deftly as I would have liked. Slowing down will encourage me to take more time and key more cleanly. Hunters may also slow down which will allow me to request fewer repeats to decode their call signs.

I have a lot more to learn - this is just a first step. I’ll continue taking classes on-line and practicing on Learn CW Online.