Sunday afternoon while I was waiting for the Superbowl to start I decided to set up my MFJ 9040 qrp transceiver on the kitchen table and see what was on the amateur airwaves. From this operating position I could see the television in the other room and keep an eye on the pot of ham and bean soup simmering away on the stove. Sunday afternoon multi-tasking at it's best!
After my second set of CQ calls WA4WMN in Robbins, TN answered my call. This was my first qrp contact of 2011. This was also the first time I have used the Vibroplex Iambic paddles to drive the internal Curtis keyer that I installed in the MFJ rig last year. The combination worked great and I have really come to enjoy operating this little battery powered rig.
Monday evening after dinner I was scanning around the lower end of the 40 meter band and came across a strong signal calling CQ. I answered the call and promptly established contact with K0JVX in Olathe, Kansas. John who was 648 miles away sent a signal report of 579. We enjoyed a half hour chat before I signed off as John's signal was slowly getting weaker and weaker. High frequency radio propagation is always changing and a good op will be mindful of conditions and draw to a close a QSO if conditions deteriorate.
Tuesday morning found me at the kitchen table enjoying my coffee and sending out some CQ's. My normal procedure when calling CQ with the MFJ is to send: "CQ CQ CQ DE KD8JHJ KD8JHJ K" (pause) "CQ CQ CQ DE KD8JHJ KD8JHJ K" (pause) "CQ CQ CQ DE KD8JHJ/QRP KD8JHJ/QRP AR". CQ means "calling any station", DE is a telegraphy abbreviation for "This is..." and the "K" on the end stands for "Go Ahead" or please respond now. Every third call I amend my call sign with /QRP to denote to any stations that happen upon my signal that I am operating low power at five watts or less. The AR at the very end of my transmission stands for "End Of Message" These abbreviations or "Prosigns" are a long standing and handy tradition of telegraphy. Because every letter of every word must be manually keyed into the transmitter the prosigns make sending traffic much easier and less work. After a short time an operator becomes used to these codes within the code. Another useful Q-signal is QTH which means "My Location Is". The distinctive three letter signal warns the receiving operator to get ready for incoming information. With use prosigns become instantly recognizable buzz words that help the telegraphy operators keep on track and ready for what is coming next.
After sending my first three calls station W2ZRA located in the north-east end of Long Island, New York answered my call matching my sending speed perfectly. The operator's name was Kevin and he sent back a 589 signal report from his QTH 540 miles away. I am proud to have our QSO in the log. It turns out Kevin was a U.S. Coast Guard radio operator aboard the USCGC Hamilton serving in the North Atlantic during the early 1970's. Although he was a licensed amateur during his Coast Guard years Kevin was off the air for 33 years until he re-applied for his license last year. Kevin said he had no trouble re-establishing his sending and receiving skill and gives credit to his USCG training from decades earlier. To me his cw fist was spot on and a pleasure to copy.