Expecting Hate Mail...W7W/WE-021

Second CW SOTA attempt today on W7W/WE-021. I had a ton of fun; the CW aspect adds some challenge that SSB doesn’t have. There were pile-ups on both 20m and 40m that my little 5 wpm brain could not comprehend.

In class we were told to send QRS when we needed the TX station to slow down. This works ok, but not great. One poor soul today slowed from 12 wpm to something like 2 wpm, and his keying sounded frustrated at this noob attempting CW in public. The angry keyer left almost no spacing so even at 2 wpm I couldn’t make anything out. He wanted a S2S, so I sent the summit id a couple times, gave him a RST and said 73. Is there a better way to request ‘Farnsworth’ spacing but at a normal pace?

Even with all that I got 8 QSOs, 2x S2S (not including the guy above) and my copying is improving. Thanks to all the chasers. For any haters, feel free to use QRZ email with my sincere apologies.

All kidding aside, I’m loving SOTA, especially CW.


Hi Matt,

Well done on activating with an unfamiliar mode. It’s tricky to master any new mode and morse is not a pushover when you are new to it.

As for the speed etc, I suggest sending at the speed and style you want people to respond in. Don’t get caught up by the speed others use, sometimes without thinking. ie. you should consistently send at the character speed you are comfortable copying and at the spacing you need to copy at.

If you consistently ignore those who don’t take the clear message of your wide spaced 12wpm, you will still work those who do understand it. Don’t reward the others by trying to copy them.

Stay with it, I’m sure it will give you great satisfaction and fun on the summits.

73 Andrew vk1da/2uh


I would advise avoiding 40m until you get better. Start on 10m and work your way down to 30m until you get the contacts you need. 40m is very busy, even for more experienced hams. All of my first solo activations were on the upper bands, and that was stressful enough. Good for you getting on air and having a go.
73 de OE6FEG


This problem has been discussed a few times on this reflector - some operators simply refuse to slow down. Even if they can’t or won’t reduce their character speed they can certainly increase inter-character spacing [unless perhaps they use keyboards?].

Maybe they are in a dreadful hurry. In which case, don’t they understand that sending their own callsign just the once but slowly will shorten the QSO rather than keep repeating it at high speed?

Anyway, well done, stick with it - increasing speed and confidence will come with practise.


Matt, maybe nobody told you this, but there are plenty of people who can copy CW well in their heads but couldn’t send easy to copy CW at any speed even if their life depended on it. Plus all the people who send too fast and send extra dits typically in numbers and sometimes the number in their own call if it’s a 1 or a 6.

You just have to learn to cope with them and move on to chasers who are trying to help you have a QSO.


Well done on the CW activation Matt. I agree, CW activating is great fun. I’ll never forget the exhilaration of my first one in 2007 (on 40m!) and I still love it to this day. In fact I ought to be doing more of it - I’m doing too much on FT4 / FT8 at present.

The main thing to remember is that as the activator, YOU are in charge. You might be a “noob” and being called by chasers with 50+ years of CW behind them, but you’re still the boss of that frequency. YOU are the DX and they want to complete the contact with YOU. So YOU set the speed and style of the operation, and work those that match it. Ignore those that don’t. I’ll absolutely guarantee that this approach is effective. Stick to it, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly lots of chaser operating transforms to what you need!


One thing which needs to be said is that the shoe can be on the other foot. Quite a few activators are much better at CW than I am. I always appreciate it when they slow down to my speed. I will never manage 25wpm with my straight key, but that is what it is. :grin:


Don’t you like using an electronic keyer? Sending morse with a keyer is far less exhausting than doing it with a straight key.
I started with a straight key in 1985 but soon got an external electronic keyer and a 2 levers paddle. It was straightforward getting used to it and I have only got back to straight key in very few occassions and for a sort of romantic vintage experience only.
I very much recommend anyone to adopt the iambic keying ASAP.



Me too. I was pretty good with the straight key before and after taking the Morse test [in the mid 1990s]. But after about 20 years using one of three lovely iambic keys I found [after whimsically purchasing a Kent KT1 Pro straight key at a radio rally] my sending was a bit rubbish. After lots of practise my fist is okay again but what an effort it is compared to using the paddles for any length of time.

I have the lovely Palm Portable Key [PPK] but can’t think of a good reason to use it for SOTA activating instead of my Palm Nano paddles. Someone @MM0FMF (?) suggested you can pump a SK with cold fingers (or maybe your clenched hand!) better than finger / thumb twin paddles. But my answer to that is to have my Palm paddles on a metal plate inside my winter jacket pocket. I defy anyone to try doing that with a SK without looking rude.


I don’t recall suggesting it but it maybe true. Me? I hate straight keys. We normally have a nice ex-RN key for our VHF and up contest station and I have used it when I forgotten to bring a 3.5mm to 6.25mm jack adapter and couldn’t use my Palm Paddle. Such an adapter now lives in the bag of contest tools (assorted ratchet rings and small sockets for work on antennas) so it cannot be forgotten unless I forget all the contest tools.

Andy, I had hoped your memory was better than mine [which is bad]. You were probably in on that particular discussion but it probably was someone else who made that point…

With this spy key I purchased at the Dayton Hamvention when I attended for the first and only time with my ex-work mate and friend Mark KB3CI.

It brings me good memories.

I still use my small about 35 years old Schurr paddle (2 lever). What I was told is that for minimal error sending the best is a paddle single lever, for example the one from Begali, also a sidesweeper could be interesting.
As for cw speed with qrp (sending) I think around 24/ 25 wpm is the best. I can get around 30 wpm in hearing cw OK for SOTA or standard qso. A typical 30 wpm operator in SOTA is HB9BIN.
Coming back to sending 25 wpm max in qrp, keep in mind errors due to weak signal. Take my own call as example: ON4BCA can easily get ON4DCA.

When I started CW with a straight key, as I said in my earlier post, I soon got my first external electronic keyer and before purchasing my Hy-Mound 2 lever paddle, I home brewed a single lever paddle.
After trying the 2 levers and learning the iambic mode, I found it far better, easier and effortless than single lever and I’ve never got back to it. I’m sure I would be really clumsy with a single lever paddle now.


No doubt spoken by a single lever / cootie user. I see no evidence for why a single lever keyer would minimise errors compared to a twin-paddle one. Notwithstanding their important role in telegraphic history (particularly in the reduction of ‘glass arm’ for professional telegraph personnel) I find the slap-the-paddle technique used [needed?] for sideswipers, bugs and single paddle keyers inelegant and inefficient compared to the gentle index finger / thumb stroking of the iambic twin paddles. [That should set the cat among the pigeons].

P.S. some of my best friends are cootie users :grinning:

To W7MDN: Don’t give up! You’ll get faster as the days go
by. There have been several activators who I recall being real slow
a year ago and now they’re going great. I heard all of that S2S QSO
yesterday, and with the signals being kind of weak and the other
station sending too fast I could see why you were having trouble.
But you and I made it just fine! Thanks. And as far as what kind of key to
use, I’ve tried a couple of the “mini” keys. Not too good. You have to
hold the thing still so it doesn’t move around when you’re sending.
I started with a hand-key (J-38 from the local radio store in 1957)
then borrowed a Vibroplex bug, (Couldn’t afford one at around
$29.00 US!). That got me used to the single lever concept. It’s
still my favorite, still having a bug and 2 single lever paddles.
But I do have two 2 lever paddles but I don’t do the squeeze thing.
Just can’t get the hang of it.
Good luck and keep on going, you’ll get there !
John, K6YK



Thanks for the QSO yesterday! It was fun. I’m surprised at the amount of action on a weekday on CW vs SSB. Seems like you could spend a couple hours working through all the chasers.

I’m still on my first paddles, CW Morse double paddles which work fine for a Padawan learner like myself. I missed out on the era of the Pico Paddles by a few years or else I’d get a set. I used a nano straight key for LICW classes but enjoy the paddles more.

Well said and good advice. I’ll set the pace for the QSO next time.

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When I did some of the first SOTA activations I had my keyer set at 18 wpm and someone asked me to slow down. It never crossed my mind at the time I thought it was slow having 25 wpm rag chew qso for many years before SOTA. Now I run my keyer at 15 wpm mostly and slow down for some chasers by leaving bigger gaps, I chase from home the same speed. One thing some of the less experienced VK SOTA ops wanting to get better at a quick exchange QSO did was have a quick call up every morning on 40m and just swap a simple report and callsigns among them selves. That way they got used to that type of QSO and experience at the same time. Maybe as a regular chaser, most should know the ability of the activator who is just learning and help them by sending simple exchanges and keep it simple and slow. Hope you come to terms with it and remember you can take your time to work through the pile up you are the one running the activation. Regards
Ian vk5cz …

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I understand personal challenge. 25, 30, 40 wpm is realy the challenge. But, life on the bands is different.

What are you doing during activation/chasing? Excange recipies or call sign/rsr/sota/name? Is there need for 25 or 30 wpm? I think not

My 818 is blocked at 14 wpm. I need to look at the manual to change speed. At 14 I feel relax and comfortable. And everybody copies me first time. No need for repeat