For most of the last few months my CW activity has centered on hunting POTA and a few SOTA stations and steadily adding them to my log. Though I wasn’t on a mission from God like Jake and Elwood, I found it pretty easy to work three or four of them while the coffee was brewing. Six a day seemed a nice clip. And then there were the regular CW practice sessions. You know, the weekly SST and CWT events. It was easy to snag another 20-30 contacts for the log with each of these. Add to these a few monthly sprints and the occasional big contest and working a lot of CW isn’t particularly difficult.

If you think about it for even a moment you begin to realize this is spending my life, time I can never get back, exchanging ten seconds of data with masses doing the same thing. I made a public comment recently about POTA being like a “contest” and immediately drew friendly fire from all around. Some folks want to believe that contesting is an unclean activity while hunting POTA is more noble, but that notion is built on a shaky ladder of facts. Speaking as a ‘hunter’ I visit a Web page to see who is operating and where, then I spin the VFO and call them. We exchange signal reports and SPC and more infrequently, a quick 72 or 73 and it’s over. Tell me how the hell that’s the least bit different than a typical contest exchange? In a few cases it may be even shorter than a contest exchange. And the POTA pile-ups have grown to insane levels — just to work some guy sitting on a park bench in Alabama. I’ll sit in a pile to try and work a guy on Bouvet, but Alabama? Look, I enjoy POTA, it has revitalized outdoor radio activity in America, but if you truly believe it’s more than just another contest you probably also believe Field Day is something more than a contest — but you still keep score.

Actually, I think I do have a mission in piling up CW contacts: Contrition. I’ve been working a lot of FT modes while chasing DX lately. My station is modest, but my goals are oversized and it’s been easier to use digital than CW in this quest. Even with these currently good band conditions. Especially with these good conditions. A hundred watts and a vertical is considerably more potent using FT4 or FT8 and I have been taking full advantage. So while the digital side of the ledger grows I think I have been attempting to balance the CW side with piles of trite CW contacts. I tell myself it’s still good practice, a CW man can never have too much practice, right?

My feeling of guilt about all this having been exacerbated by recent diary comments from K3WWP.

John has implied on several recent occasions that it’s getting much tougher to find anyone with which to have an actual CW QSO. He’s been using CW POTA contacts and practice sessions (SST) to help continue his long streak of making a QRP CW contact a day and I get the feeling this has been unsatisfying. He would obviously prefer a little more conversation than is gleaned from a hundred rapid fire RST/SPC exchanges that is all that can be found on CW these days. To test his theory, I just spent eight days without sprints, POTA, or SOTA and I gotta be honest, John isn’t wrong. CW has become a desolate land if you exclude those activities. But if you spout off about that in any of your social media spaces you too will draw rapid fire. Almost everyone will insist that CW is alive and well and growing and if by that they mean that more people have figured out how to send and decode “599 TU 73” they might be right.

Now ask the next guy you work via CW if he has had to rake many leaves this year and it’s likely you will draw a quick gotta go 73 because he has no clue what you just sent…

2 thoughts on “Contrition

  • I sure don’t understand the derision directed at POTA. Is it a contest? Who the heck cares, except for the ‘get off my lawn’ folks who want the POTA activity off the WARC bands? Is it a game? Maybe. What it is, for me, is *fun*. It’s providing an impetus for me to get off the dime and build CW skills so that I can manage “GM UR 5nn 5nn WA BK” and “BK TU TU ES GL 72” and perhaps feel like I’m making progress. This is bad exactly how? It’s bad because I can’t hold a CW ragchew and learn about a fellow ham’s struggles to get the transmission on his F150 working? I’m not sneering at the ragchew, I’m just pointing out that before I can discuss torque converter problems via CW I need to be able to handle “GM OM UR RST 579 579 K-1234”.

    Will I ever get to the ragchew level? Maybe, maybe not, but I’m having *fun* learning something.

    I am apparently missing some gene which makes DX chasing fun, I’d just as soon work a small pileup to make a QSO with a fellow in Alabama who’s sitting on a park bench, coffee sitting beside him, EFHW strung into a nearby tree. And that’s the thing: it doesn’t have to be for everyone. Some people are avid contesters – I’m not, but I say good on them for having fun. Some people chase DX. That’s not for me, but I’m glad the people who enjoy it can indulge. It’s no skin off my nose if someone does something I don’t care to do, and has wicked good fun doing it, as long as they’re not hurting someone.

  • John McGrath

    I am sure that POTA, as well as FD, did not start out as contests.

    Unfortunately, they have evolved into ‘uncontests’, where there are some players that act like it is, and others that are out to have fun in a twist of operating without the pressure of a contest.

    I haven’t developed my Morse skills to the point I am ready to operate on the air yet. I am concerned that the mode is falling away from rag chewing because that is one of the easier ways to build the skill.

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