I haven’t written a post in a while, so I figured I’d write a quick update on my progress with learning Morse code for CW operation. I’d completed CW Academy Level 1 at the end of October 2017 and I’ve been doing CW SOTA activations since. CW Academy Level 1 got me from sort of knowing the characters to actually being able to use Morse code to communicate. I still wasn’t comfortable actually having a conversation, but simple contacts were actually possible and, dare I say it, enjoyable! I had initially gone ahead and signed up for the very next Level 2 class (running Jan-Feb 2018), but soon decided I wasn’t quite ready for it. I requested to bumped to the next one (running Apr-May 2018).
For CW Academy Level 2, I was again assigned Rob K6RB as my advisor. He’s one of the founders of CWops and CW Academy. A really great guy, with a very easy-going and helpful attitude. I’d also met him in person not long after completing Level 1, since he lives about 40 minutes away from me, with his big tower of Yagi antennas near the Pacific coast. Being a brand-new CW operator at the time, I had to turn down his offer to try and have a CW QSO with his 500-watt station. Too much pressure! But now, being more than half way through Level 2, I gotta say—I’d definitely take him up on the offer now!
About CW Academy Level 2
As with CW Academy Level 1, Level 2 is broken up into 16 sessions. For each session, there are practice/study assignments for the days between online meetings, of which there are two per week. In the time between online meetings, you do the assigned practice (and more, if you want) and then meet with your advisor (and the other students) on Skype. During this meeting, your advisor checks in on your progress, how you feel you’re doing, etc. Rob is great at giving pointers that help steer you in the right direction, and tailoring his advice to each student.
My class consists of a couple of guys a bit older than me, and one young person who’s 13 years old! He’s a graduate of the brand-new Youth CW Academy. It’s really inspiring to see younger people learn and embrace Morse code as a means of communicating, as I believe it’s one of the most simple and effective means of communicating on the air and a useful art that deserves to be preserved and used.
At the beginning of the sessions, we were each asked what we’d like to get out of the class. I simply said that I’d like to be able to comfortably have a conversational QSO. And I’m definitely getting there! It’s amazing what happens when you’re forced to practice for several hours per week.
CW Academy Level 2 mostly consists of head-copy practice at various speeds, starting out pretty slow and getting faster as the class progresses. For example, right now (in session 14 / week 6-7), we’re listening to W1AW practice files at 20/25wpm, and QSO practice files at 20/25wpm. Yeah, that’s pretty fast! With the W1AW stuff, we’re mainly just going for picking out words at this point. But sometimes sentences will start to come together! Another form of practice (it alternates session to session) is more contest focused, with practice sessions consisting of copying callsigns on “RufzXP” and contest simulation on “Morse Runner.”
Tangible Progress with Morse Code
All of this practice has already given me these tangible benefits:
- I’m not afraid of having a conversational QSO anymore! Not at 20wpm, mind you – probably more like 15wpm.
- On SOTA activations, I can usually copy a callsign the first time, at 18-20wpm.
- I can listen through noise better.
- I was actually able to participate in a contest, using CW! I did the “7QP” QSO Party and had fun with it.
Sign Up for CW Academy!
Well, there you go. I can’t recommend CWops’ CW Academy enough. If you want to brush up on your CW skills, sign up. If you’re brand new to Morse code, sign up. They have a program that works. One thing I will stress (as have others that’ve reviewed the program), is that you get out of it what you put in. Do the practice. Do additional practice if you can. It’s all about putting in that time.
73 de KE6MT