Jay discovered that his first CW POTA activation wasn’t scary at all!

Many thanks to Jay (W1ASP) who, last week, sent me a note about his first POTA CW activation. I asked if he’d consider writing up a short field report about his experience to share with others and he was happy to do so. Thank you, Jay.

Halloween POTA

by Jay (W1ASP)

Halloween doesn’t have to be scary.

I set out to Bear Brook State Park (K-2643) for my first CW POTA activation.

Bear Brook is relatively close by, its the largest state park in New Hampshire with over 10,000 acres. There’s camping, hiking and biking trails along with an archery course and plenty of swimming and fishing areas.

I didn’t give it much thought about what day it was, just that I had the time to do an activation and it was nice out, what a perfect opportunity to break in the newly assembled kit.

I decided on a spot next to the water and as luck would have it there was a picnic table right there. I took out my gear, set up and proceeded to tune around and listen. The band seemed pretty quiet. I wasn’t sure if I’d get enough QSO’s in to make it an official activation. I decided on 14.038 MHz, I sent QRL? I then held down the memory button, took a deep breath and hit it again to transmit: CQ POTA DE W1ASP

I waited a second or two and used the memory keyer once more, again nothing. I went to the POTA website on my phone and added my activation.

The memory keyer was used for a third time, I noticed a message pop up on my logging app, the Reverse Beacon Network spotted me. It wasn’t too long after, the first call came back to me!

I was nervous and fumbled a bit here and there but once I took my time I was fine, sending their call back and TU UR 599 599 NH BK. I cheated a little and left the CW decoder enabled. I wanted to be sure I had the call correct as I logged my 13 QSO’s. (I swear the 13 wasn’t intentional.) for my first CW park activation! I only realized that it was Halloween while walking back to my truck.

I thought to myself, “that wasn’t scary at all.”

Once I decided that, as an activator I’m in charge of the QSO, I relaxed and it was a lot of fun. I may have made a few mistakes but everyone was patient with me. I later received an email from another Ham in Delaware. He was using the same radio, and referred to them as the perfect “picnic portable radio” we emailed back and forth a few times and I look forward to hearing him on the air again soon.


The week before, I finished building my second QCX Mini. The first kit I built was for the 30 meter band around this time last year, this second one is a 20 meter version. I love these little radios, there’s something about these little transceivers that I just can’t seem to put them down.

I took my time making sure it was working properly, I hooked it up in my shack and I had my first QSO with another POTO activator in Maryland just over 400 miles away.  To say I was excited is an understatement!

I planned on putting together a kit about a month ago for POTA and eventually SOTA with the QCX Mini as the radio. I decided on using a small pack, I wanted it to be a self contained kit that had everything I needed to do an activation and nothing extra.

I keep the wire and radios together,  and depending what band I choose to operate on is the one I pack. I’m considering a third kit; maybe a 10m version? I threw the EFHW matching transformer in the bag along with a notebook, mechanical pencil and a battery pack I put together using four 3.2v LifePo batteries. The paddle I’m currently using is a stainless paddle I found on online with a mini CW paddle for backup and set of folding headphones.

I’m looking forward to my next park, this was a great experience. I wanted to learn CW since I became a Ham in 2016, that’s another story of what got me into Ham Radio in the first place.

20 thoughts on “Jay discovered that his first CW POTA activation wasn’t scary at all!”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this first CW Activation with us, Jay!

    I’ll admit that I love your QCX-Mini field kit. Simple, compact, and effective!

    Keep up the great work and I look forward to working you Park-to-Park someday soon!


  2. Jay, Good on ya!
    Inspired by K4SWL Witherspoon Wonderful Videos, I took last winter to learn CW. I have hunting down pretty well and now await opportunity (and nerve) to do an activation. Your report confirms to this old guy that I just need to GO DO IT!! Thanks! Hope to exchange dits and dahs in future! 73

    1. Yes! That was pretty much my feeling, just go do it! I’m completely hooked! I just need to find time in my now back to a very busy work schedule to squeeze in some more POTA activations!

  3. CW is a very satisfying way to operate. I have learned a rhythmic technique for using the paddles that is almost effortless. With a bit of practice I don’t have to think about what I’m sending. It’s the same with copying code; when I relax the decoded signals just seem to pop into my head. If I try to do too much though my sending and copying goes a little haywire, that’s when I know it’s time to call QRT at the next break in the action. So congrats on joining the POTA CW fraternity; I hope to catch you on the air.

  4. Great job Jay. Being a Ham for over 42 years, I have jumped back into CW. POTA CW operators are the best. They are very patient when you are activating and you are all thumbs!! Hope to work you in the future.

    1. The batteries are meant for solar lights, I bought a separate charger when I bout the batteries. They are the size of a AA, but instead 1.5v they’re 3.2v

  5. Jay,

    Great job & congrats on your first activation.

    I love your kit! My QCX Mini kits are very similar. Except for the key, which is either my Palm Pico, or my little Bamatech TP-3.

    I don’t consider it cheating at all… I use my decoder & keyer all the time. Slowly, I’m learning. The important thing is to have fun. CW is an amazing mode. And not learning it, denies a Ham valuable experience.

    I also use a cheat sheet, a personalized QCard. It’s laminated, and fits nicely inside my logbook, inside my kit. I’ve got my Grid Square, FCC License number, Kit inventory, local park numbers, contact info, yada… And the complete CW alphabet, punctuation & numbers, Prosigns, and several messages, like CQ, RST, 72, Rig, QTH, Call, Name, POTA exchanges, and the like.

    Radio is both Art & Science. Our field skills, the art, the equipment the science… own the best tools, and practice, learn, and have fun along the way!

    72 de W7UDT

    1. I guess I’m not the only one doing this, I try to copy as much as I can in my head, but it doesn’t take long to loose your place. The decoder is nice to have and I’m actively learning the code.

  6. Great post. Is that the spark plug antenna? I guess with the correct length radiator you don’t need a tuner.


  7. Congrats on learning CW! Best part of the hobby if you ask me. The QCX was my first HF rig and is still in use today!

  8. Way to get out there! What method did you use to learn CW? I’m in the learning processes right now and hope to activate some day.

  9. You have NO idea how inspirational and motivating these postings are. As ham radio is often a solitary affair, I think we’d all do more if we had someone nudging us, for example, portable ops and CW. And BOTH simultaneously!

    Your observation about the originator of a QSO is spot on. As scary as it might be to call CQ, you control the length of the QSO, a godsend to nervous newbie CW operators who don’t want to get into a long ramble.

    Susan, WB2UQP

    1. I agree Susan!

      I think sometimes we aren’t in control… the reality is we are.

      No one can see us, The hunter doesn’t even know if he’s been heard… and the truth is we’re all here to help each other perfect our craft.

      We can take pride in our efforts, no matter how successful. Ultimately we all face the same set of problems as QRP operators.

      I’d be just as ecstatic, if trying to make a Dx contact, another QRP operator would relay to make the QSO, then if were solely on my own.

    2. I appreciate all of the positive comments and feedback, it was my hope to help at least someone by sharing my experience!

  10. Jay…

    Below is a link ti a battery solution for you… I have four of these. The battery pack utilizes 3x 18650 3.7v LiFePo4 batteries. It’s about 3aH… and it mates perfectly with the QCX Mini. The pack has a BMS and can be readily recharged on route to your next activation.


    It’s well worth the money, and makes for a great addition to your kit.

    72 de W7UDT

  11. Bravo!

    I admire this entire effort, a stylin’ throwback to an earlier day in ham radio – when we would have traded an arm for today’s technology.

    Cheers to great adventures with ham radio in the great outdoors!

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