The Lifeline of CW and POTA

Many thanks to Teri (KO4WFP) who shares the following guest post:

The Lifeline of CW and POTA

by Teri (KO4WFP)

The past five months have been tumultuous. I am now divorced and my son and I are making a new life for ourselves with my family. Those of you who’ve been through a divorce know how stressful and difficult a process it is, especially when navigating it for the first time. You are undoing relationships and patterns of behavior and figuring out how to move forward and what that looks like.

Why do I tell you this? Partially because I want those of you who’ve said “where the heck have you been?” to know why I’ve been absent from QRPer. However, I also want to thank all of you in the ham community because it is this community that saw me through my difficulties. Hams are some of the kindest and most wonderful people, especially CW and POTA hams. This community has rallied to my side and given me a reason to keep moving forward.

As Thomas noted in his September 17 post of this year, CW is indeed “radio therapy.” After I relocated, it was six weeks before I had a home station again. Six LONG weeks without seeing my code buddies – Caryn KD2GUT, Glenn W4YES, and Charles W4CLW – on the air. I felt cut off not having those QSOs, not being able to get on the air when I desired, like someone had removed my legs! The absence reinforced how much CW and POTA mean to me.

While working to get a home station again, I latched onto POTA. I vividly recall driving home from my first POTA activation after leaving my ex-husband and, for the first time in several weeks, the stress temporarily melted away. Life, for a few hours, felt normal. I felt like my old self.

CW and POTA were indeed therapy as I put my life back together. Getting out and activating was good for my mind and body. Ham radio for me is about relationships and seeing ops who hunt me regularly was like reconnecting with friends saying “hi”.

POTA became an integral part of my healing process and I pursued activations at George L. Smith State Park and, my old stomping ground, Butter Bean Beach, part of Wormsloe State Historic Site.

George L. Smith State Park is a pretty site for POTA. The park’s focal point is Mill Pond Lake which was created by the damming of 15-Mile Creek in 1880. Visitors can rent kayaks or canoes to explore three paddling trails in the 412-acre lake and its wetlands but are warned against swimming due to the presence of alligators. The land adjacent to the lake has seven miles of nature trails through sand-bottomed forest with hardwoods and longleaf pine.

The old mill at the site still exists. The original floodgates are used to control the water level in the lake with the addition of an electric hoist to open and close the gates. The mill, known as Watson Mill, is housed in a bridge which was open to motor traffic until 1984 and is one of only two mills operated by the State of Georgia. Watson Mill housed a sawmill for lumber as well as a gristmill, the latter which remains operational for demonstration purposes.

After a quick drive through the park, I chose to set up on the hill next to the park office which offered an open area without adjacent power lines. It wasn’t long before my EFRW was installed in a tree and I was on the air.

The first activation at this state park was my second activation ever bringing my dog Daisy. I jokingly call myself a POTA Babe (note the shirt). Well, every POTA Babe should have a POTA pooch!

Daisy proved to be a great POTA companion, content to lie down and be entertained by her surroundings. She was so well behaved, she didn’t chase either of the two fawns who later showed up to cavort not far from our location.

As a reward for such exemplary behavior, Daisy and I took a walk after my activation. The short trail led through the woods and along the edge of the pond, giving us a good look at why Mill Pond is called a blackwater habitat. (Note the water stained black like tea from decaying vegetation.)

The five activations at Butter Bean Beach during my divorce were to complete my kilo for this park. During my fifth activation on November 14th, I needed a little over 70 QSOs to reach 1,000 contacts. The temperature was 57 degrees but the wind coming off the water made it feel much colder. I resorted to pulling the Jungle Blanket from my car, wrapping it around me to tough it out!

You never know what you’ll see while at Butter Bean Beach. This day the local police department showed up for training exercises. Not only were divers getting in and out of the (cold!) water, later a SWAT team ran out into the parking lot past my car and got into a helicopter that landed. The helicopter then rose, circled over the parking lot, and zoomed off!

Before the divers finished their training, one came over. He said they’d been trying to figure out what I was doing the past few hours. So we had a pleasant ten minute conversation about ham radio and morse code. You never know when an opportunity for outreach will present itself.

Forty meters usually is my workhorse at Butter Bean Beach. However, there was significant site noise this day and I spent very little time on that band. Twenty meters proved to be the heavy lifter. Over the course of four hours, I band-hopped back and forth, between 20, 40, and 17, picking up QSOs here and there including three overseas – France, Sweden, and the Azores. Finally, FINALLY, when I could stay no longer due to an afternoon appointment, I reached 75 QSOs, just enough for my first kilo. My determination paid off!

However, remember what I said earlier? CW and POTA is about relationships. None of my activations would be successful without hunters supporting me. And I wouldn’t be where I am today with CW without my code buddies and the Straight Key Century Club operators who’ve given their time and assistance as I develop my skills.

Ham radio IS a lifeline. When life gives you lemons as it did to me, hop on the air and make lemonade, meeting new friends and reacquainting with old ones. I hope all of us will be active and helping one another in this amazing hobby for a long time to come.

21 thoughts on “The Lifeline of CW and POTA”

  1. Thank you Teri. This is a very personal account you’ve shared, and while I haven’t yet had to deal with a life event of such magnitude personally, I can attest to the therapeutic effect of amateur radio, CW, and POTA.

    Even a fairly routine life accumulates stresses and being able to get on the air, concentrate on the craft of CW and connect with “regulars”, all of whom are people I’ve never met, is such a counterpoise to all those stresses.

    Thanks for the FB field report, congrats on the Kilo, and all the best to you and your family.

    73 de W6CSN

  2. I’m sorry to hear Teri, I’ve been through two of those and one nearly killed me with stress. I hope you get through everything with the least damage to your psyche. Take care.

  3. Teri I have you programmed in “Ham Alert” and try to work you when I am alerted. I have experienced many of your heart ache in my 83 years of life and have used Ham Radio as a pillow of comfort in my troubled times. Hang in there, God has a place for you if you have turned your life over to Him……Tommy NG4S

  4. Teri, thank you for sharing this with us. No doubt, your world was turned upside down. I think it’s just amazing how you’ve taken lemons and turned them into lemonade!
    We’re all on Team Teri! And here’s to much more POTA and CW therapy in the New Year! We’re here for you.
    Cheers & 72,

  5. Thanks for posting, Teri. Happy that CW POTA has been so helpful in your journey.

    FL has been a stretch for us here in western WA, but I’ll look for you on the POTA website.

    73, Vic KB7GL

  6. Teri, thanks for the post. While I’ve been spared your heart aches, I’ve just had a bout with cancer, and indeed getting on CW has been a lifeline at times. Now to get back on SOTA.
    Mike WA6ARA

  7. Great article and beautiful pictures. I can empathize with you having gone through a divorce myself. Glad you found some solace and grounding through POTA/ham radio.

    Hope to work you sometime! 73 de N3HSH

  8. Teri, great report coming in time of your personal efforts. Time cures all so hang in there. I liked your photo with your KX3, would like to post in our club newsletter for which I always add something about QRP and POTAs. Yes often at a POTA get some interest by bystanders. Always like explaining what we are doing and most are amazed the distance we work other stations. 73, ron, n9ee

  9. Hi Teri;
    You show great courage with your post. I have two Exe’s but lucky for me the second got her Ham licence. While it is tough this time of year, When I look back it was a blessing. I am trying to re-learn CW after not using it for 30 years and your posts, QRZ page, and Thomas’s encouragement have been a great incentive. I hope to meet you on the air for a POTA CW contact. All the best.

    72 Tim Va3UZ/VE3VTH

  10. Thanks for being brave enough to share such a personal story. Happily, I don’t believe that we are in danger of being trolled here. Not too much anyway lol.
    Love the shirt! I love everything that promotes Ham Radio and POTA. It’s a life changing hobby. I don’t know how I would survive without my ham friends. I don’t want to imagine life without them.
    Congrats on your kilo! I’m still a long ways from mine, and I moved away from my ‘home’ site so I have to work on it in another site. Not a bad goal to have so it’s ok.
    You’re a kindred soul as you have attached your happiness to CW, SKCC, QRP and all things CW related. Me too. The CW Academy changed my life for the good ?.
    Hope to hear you on the air. I’ll watch for you on the POTA site!
    73 de NG9T dit dit
    SKCC 15054T
    NAQCC 8057
    CWOPS 1936

  11. What a beautiful report! Ham radio provides a distraction, and community supports you. I know. All the best! Hope to meet you on air one day. Wlad.

  12. I loved reading this, Teri. As always, you convey so much in so few words, and your .sig phrase is certainly being lived-out by you every day. I’m pleased to have been a small part of your kilo. Congratulations!

  13. What a great post! A great message of resilience and optimism in this time of turbulent politics and negative news. Good for you Terri, and keep on keepin’ on!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.