The nice days have come again! For me, this means going up to the roof deck of my building, usually with a ham radio or two. Elecraft, the manufacturer of my HF radio, makes a portable key which connects to the radio. I really liked the concept and the way the key screws into the radio, which provides the base, but I could never get it sending just right. At the end of last year I knew that I needed to buy a new portable ke. I decided on the Begali Adventure Mono. It exceeds my expectations, and I would highly recommend it. For the non-hams, we use a key to send Morse Code.
The K1USN Slow Speed Test happens on Friday afternoon and Sunday evening. It provides a fun hour-long event where we make simple contacts, containing the name and state abbreviation. For example, I would send Austin PA. Last October I went up to the roof deck for the final time. I wanted to give the KXPD3 key a final chance. I sent Austin PA and it dropped the first dot of the P, turning it into a G. The other station thanked me for GA. I knew I needed a better key for next year.
Many other users of the Elecraft KX3 recommended the Begali Adventure, so I decided to make the purchase. Begali makes both a double paddle and a single paddle version. I started on a double paddle key, but ever since I switched to a single paddle key I cannot go back. Plus, I can use it both as an electronic key and as a mechanical key for doing SKCC work. I set the PF1 programmable function key on my KX3 to let me select the CW keying mode. The key took a month to arrive from Italy, but I didn’t mind. I ordered it well in advance for just this reason. I also ordered the base and a steel plate to mount it on, if I wanted to use it in the shack.
The weather had not warmed enough, so I first tried it in my shack with the base. It performed beautifully. It did not miss a dot or a dash. It has one knob to adjust the tension on both sides of the paddle, which I appreciated especially for field use. I looked forward to its initiation on the roof deck.
Today we had a lovely day with temperatures in the low 70s. I got a haircut, and made it back just in time for the Slow Speed Test, feeling good and ready. I unpacked everything, and tuned up my AX1 antenna. I had started later than I wanted, and of course the first time of the year meant untangling wires and testing things. Still, I worked two stations, one in Illinois, and one in Oklahoma. I felt good, but not great. I had worked both stations before from my shack using my Alpha Loop. I wanted something more.
I checked in to the Drive Time net on the Phil-mont machine, a fun local net. The temperature had started dropping, and I also had to think about dinner. I decided to tune around 20 meters one last time before going back downstairs. I tried a few stations, then heard YL3CW calling CQ and working stations.
In ham radio parlance, we refer to all men as OM, which stands for Old Man, and all women as YL, which stands for Young Lady. CW means Continuous Wave, the way we send Morse Code over the air, so clearly this call belongs to a woman who loves CW. I hoped that she loved it enough to pick my little QRP (low power) signal out of the noise.
I sent my call, and she heard the 3. I slowed my speed and tried a few more times, and finally she got it. KA3TTT! We exchanged signal reports and names. She gave her name as Val. I gave her a signal report of 569, and she gave me one of 449. A signal report contains the readibility, signal strength, and tone, abbreviated as RST. I gave her a perfect readibility and a pretty good signal. I had almost perfect readibility, and a signal 2 S-units less than her’s, which I consider respectable given that I made the contact running 5 Watts into a loaded whip. The AX1 continues to impress me. We completed the exchange and ended the contact.
After it ended I looked up where I had just worked – Latvia, 4300 miles. I had gone on my first Begali Adventure! I wonder where my next one will take me.