Sunday, October 16, 2016

Mosquito Food

By SEKARC Contributor David Keith NØWKZ

Recently while conducting the fine business of a special event CW radio station, the realities of fishing came crashing back into my existence from memories long hidden file. Fishing? Yes!

During this event, a number of the other operators involved communicated back and forth for a time using a group email address. This was sort of neat as it raised my own awareness of the other operators and their struggles and successes. One of them related a tale of woe that I know only all too well; the woes of apartment dwelling operators. By my own estimation, my Morse Code/CW career is only about three years long. In that time, I have fought tooth and nail against the ear splitting forces of electromagnetic despair that apartment dwelling operators have to endure. A plasma one floor below is turned on and suddenly a guy across the pond disappears from my headset. Water heaters, washing machines, throngs of unshielded wall warts dancing on the edge of hash, and even AC units from the building next door. Chargers, flat screens, power supplies; the list of sources is endless. All of it; a symphony of spectrum wash dancing wildly across the S Meter. To be sure, many of my operations are with my friend and Elmer W0IIT just a few doors down, and sending from the pages of a random book through my code practice oscillator into a recorder, and copy practice from the WebSDR or W1AW. Countless days have passed where my main operating has been with myself. I have often sat dreaming with envy of those ops with towers and clear viewed signal paths before them. I myself have to get out.

In the past few years, I have fine tuned my portable pack and antenna work to the point that I can generally set up in about thirty minutes and walk away for the effort with at least one contact. However, I can still remember when I went out many times in a row with zero contacts. In fact, one summer I went out nearly every day with nothing to show for it. I can remember watching passers by and the ants on the table as my fingers danced on the key sending CQ DE N0WKZ in a seemingly endless string. I would go home and practice and then get out the next day to try it again. Endless antenna configurations, earth ground vs no earth ground, battery and power hookup issues, fishing tackle experiments to raise wire to the heavens, and pouring over endless articles about solar weather. I tried it all. Day after day, month after month, year after year, and I am sure I am not done learning yet. I suppose through it all, I have gained some meager experience and have learned to operate with more successes but one thing this last week taught me well, I am still mosquito food.

I sat last night under the silent wooded sentinel that held my wire like a great friend looking down on my sad estate in pity. For two hours I pounded brass into the endless ether without a single flick of response. Hands cold, eyes squinting under the tense light of a Baofeng LED, and skin feeding the mosquito passers by at random. This is fishing I thought to myself. Cast out, reel in. Cast out, reel in. Slap my arm and stare into the darkness only feet away, squinting my ears for any faint or weak answer I might get.

Often, for all this work we HAMS do, what we get is air heated around a piece of wire. We get bitten, cold, tired, and often narrowly miss the sullen silence sitting still on the speaker that is telling us no one is home. But, isn't that fine? Isn’t that part of the glory of QRP and CW? Those days when all else fails and we head home with an empty log? Or do we head home better for trying? Better and more experienced? More at ease? More frustrated and resolved both. Take, my friends, the good with the bad and remember that today we are operators on call.

Just don’t forget the bug spray…



  1. WOW! Someone else is/has been going through the same struggles that I have in the past. I love CW but have gotten away from it for a long time. But this article sure brings back the memories of a young novice pounding the brass late into the night and wondering if there was anyone else out there in the ether. It's been over 40 years ago that I endured the same hardships. But QRP is fun.....isn't it?

  2. Great article David. QRP is the only way to go and really have fun at it. Just about anybody can do it with a kilowatt.


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