First CW Contact - by David DePue, N3ZU

Who among us will ever forget that first CW contact?  For many of us that event occurred in the distant past.  We may forget that first CW contacts are still being made today.  Here's a great story from an OM whose first CW contact was with K6KPH - under rather trying circumstances!

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A memorable #001 CW Contact.

A few months ago I made my first CW contact. I was trying to re-trim a 20/40 meter delta-loop that had come down in a storm. I dialed in K6KPH's frequency on 40 meters and listened for a while, sent out a QRL?, then listened again. It was quiet, not a soul around. To check my VSWR while I was trimming the antenna I would transmit "K6KPH" a few times and check the reflected power.  I didn't want to just transmit a constant short carrier and then an ID. I thought it would be more efficient to call K6KPH when I wanted to make a test transmission just in case someone was monitoring, not really expecting K6KPH to hear my meager transmission. While I was still under the desk completing the antenna trimming I reached up one final time and tapped K6KPH (by this time I had gotten pretty good at sending K6KPH on a straight key upside down under a desk). Things looked pretty good on the SWR meter so decided to go ahead and button everything up. At that moment I heard what I thought was a "DE" from somewhere. I listened more closely; there it was again, DE. OH NO it's got to be K6KPH answering. Now what do I do. WHAM... first thing hit my head trying to get out from under the desk. Where's the key, there’s that sound again "DE". Grab the key, ok now what, DON’T THINK just send your call, and stop shaking just send your call. Tap...tap...tap...N3ZU…. N3ZU…K, buy now it was quiet once again.

I was a bit relieved as I was not prepared for my first QSO (for that matter how does one completely prepare for their first QSO?). The heart rate started settling and I was finally beginning to relax. Then out of the speaker came the nice clear sweet note "N3ZU de K6KPH.... Here we go again…where's some paper where's a pencil. What are all these tools doing all over the desk? Just wipe all this clutter on to the floor. Heart rate is again skyrocketing, what's he saying, where the hell is my pencil. Ok paper, pencil start writing, DON’T THINK just write!

I never though my fist QSO would be on my knees surrounded by a smattering of electrical tools. It was a most memorable contact, not only for my dilemma but actually to have K6KPH as CW contact Number 001.

My heart rate once again began to slow down to something closer to normal. I began the tedious process of sorting through the mess I had created on the floor of the shack. As I sorted I thought more of that first contact. To me it was a “right of passage”. It was a mixture of panic, an unclear head, shaky hands, sweaty palms, and to be sure absolute pleasure. I wondered how many of those superb operators at costal stations like KPH and on board distant ships had at one time in their lives experienced such feelings on their first contact.

I stood up from the floor, walked back to the desk and found myself staring at my key. The key that I had made contact with K6KPH was modeled after the Marconi PS213 used by UK Marconi Costal stations. It’s known as a Rugby or Portishead key. They were manufactured in the 80’s at the GPO workshops, Rugby England and replaced the old original PS213’s. I just stood there staring for a moment at its inscription. “Last Radio Officer North Foreland Radio (GNF) 31st March 1992”. The first thing that ran through my mind,  ZUT!                   

I must say RD it was quite an experience. I don't think my heart rate returned to normal till sometime that afternoon. Yes the Marconi molecules were aligned in the Ether that Saturday morning. It’s a day I’ll never forget. 

Keep up the great work you’re doing at KPH. If by chance you need some volunteer help with a project don't hesitate to give me a shout.

Thanks for CW contact 001!

All the best,
David
N3ZU

SKCC#4759