How to Succeed With QRP (Repeat)
QRP With K3WWP - Column # 94 - This is an update of material that I first used here in this column some 6 years ago. The material is still applicable today. In fact perhaps even more so as a lot of hams venture into CW these days with no one to guide them in the proper use of this wonderful mode. This column looks at what you can do to be more successful with QRP (QRO as well). Just read each question and answer honestly. Then explore the explanation and make any necessary adjustments you feel necessary to your station and/or yourself.
1. Are your CQs short and to the point? The best CQ pattern is a simple 3X2 with breaks of 4 or 5 seconds to listen for an answer. For example CQ CQ CQ DE K3WWP K3WWP K, listen for 4 seconds. If you don't get an answer, repeat the sequence until you do or until you get tired and go fishing or do something else. Please never call endless CQs before sending your call. How often have you heard someone send a string of 10, 15, or even more CQs without identifying himself? Doesn't that turn you off? It does me, and I tune away from that person very quickly. Remember short CQs with frequent breaks to listen for answers are the best way to go about getting a lot of QSOs with your QRP (or QRO) station. Oh, and be sure to tune your RIT up and down a few hundred Hertz to find those stations that are zero-beat challenged. Probably half the stations who answer my CQs are not zero-beat - some not even that close.
2. Is your Morse as near to perfect as possible? The DX stations themselves say it's much easier to copy a weak station whose sending is perfect than a strong station who is sending a conglomeration of dots and dashes that only occasionally form letters. Strive for perfection in your sending. Listen to W1AW or other 'machine sent' perfect code and strive to emulate it when you send CW. I'm sure you've all been forced to try to figure out if that was a Q or the letters MA, etc. As I write this, I just finished listening to someone calling KWA KWA KWA DE xxxxx. I assume he was trying unsuccessfully to send CQ. Another thing - please keep those extra dots under control. If you're stuck with a call having H, 5, 6, S, etc., be sure you're sending the right number of dots in each letter. The problem also happens with dashes but not as often. It's very unprofessional to send 6, 7, or 8 dots when trying to send a 5. Now we all do it once in a while as mistakes are a part of human nature, but it becomes a habit with some hams to send sloppy code.
3. Is your keying free from chirp, clicks, and drift? The same thing applies here as to sending perfect Morse. It's much easier to copy a signal that is clean and crisp than one that sounds like a canary singing or a cricket chirping. Make it a point to periodically check your signal on the air either by exchanging stations with a ham friend so you can hear your own signals, or having someone you can work who will honestly tell you if your signal is not up to par. If you have a separate transmitter and receiver, it's easy to check yourself. I used to always know just how my signal sounded before I got my new transceiver. Now all I ever hear is how the sidetone generator in the transceiver sounds.
4. Is all (or as much as possible) of your RF being radiated up to the ionosphere? When you are dealing with such a small amount of RF to start with, it is important to waste as little of it as possible heating up your feedline or any of the many other ways it can be wasted. If you use a single band antenna, be sure it is resonant as close as possible to the frequency you use the most. If you use a single antenna on several different bands, use some sort of matching network to get an SWR as close to 1:1 as possible. I hear many stations running 100W or more who are much weaker than they should be, and I'm sure there is a mismatch somewhere in their antenna systems I know QRP works great even with simple antennas if you're just sure those antennas are doing their job.
5. Do you use proper procedures in your operating? This covers a multitude of things. I'll just mention a few here. If you DX, be sure to listen to the DX station before jumping in and calling. Find out his pattern. Some stations finish each QSO with their call; others send simply dit dit. Learn what the station you're trying to work is doing before you jump in. Also be sure where he is listening. If he ends with UP, UP 1, etc., never call him on his own frequency. Call 1 (2,3, whatever) kHz higher than his frequency. Often times the station won't say UP, and then it's up to you to figure out what he is doing with some careful listening. If he's very rare with no pileup on top of him, then it's virtually certain he is working split frequency. Search for the pileup a kHz or two higher in frequency. Otherwise don't do things like ending your CQs with KN, don't call someone at the end of a QSO if they have sent CL. Learn all the procedure signals and what they mean, then use them only in the correct way. A good place to learn is on my web site at http://home.windstream.net/johnshan/. When there, check out a lot of things pertaining to CW and QRP. The specific page for CW procedure is found via the CW link in the left column. That section also contains a wealth of info about Q signals, abbreviations, and the like.
6. If you are calling CQ at 30 WPM, and someone answers you hesitatingly at 20 WPM, do you slow down to answer him? This is a rough one, but generally it is best to match your sending speed to that of the station you are working. There are cases where someone can copy 50 WPM, but just can't send faster than 20 WPM. So as I said this is a hard one to be definite about. However, never answer someone's CQ faster than the speed at which they are sending unless you know them and know they can copy faster.
7. Do you zero beat a station each time you call someone? This is very important, so learn how to zero beat someone with your rig if you don't already know. If the station you're working is running 400 watts, and you call him 500 Hz higher in frequency, it is quite possible that another station will not hear you and jump right on top of you. However if you are on the exact frequency of the 400-watt station, you can pretty much be sure that he will keep the frequency clear for both of you. Even more important, when you zero beat someone exactly; the two of you are only using one frequency instead of two leaving that much more room for other stations. Finally, if you call off frequency, you are less likely to be heard. The station you are calling will almost always start off listening on his own frequency (except for some DX operations as mentioned previously), and if someone else is zero beat and you are not, guess who is going to get the QSO.
There are many other things that you can do to be successful with QRP. I'd appreciate hearing any suggestions you have. One thing that many QRPers do is to sign /QRP at the end of their calls. I've made around 55,000 QRP QSOs, worked 212 countries, all states many times over, and all continents many times over in the past 19 years or so and have never done that, so...
Finally if you operate QRP/CW, and are not a member of the biggest QRP/CW club, the North American QRP CW Club (NAQCC) - Why not? Membership is FREE. Come on and join over 6,000 members who love to operate QRP, occasionally, full-time or anything in-between. The NAQCC is the perfect complement to FISTS, and the two clubs work together beautifully to promote CW use - FISTS at all power levels and the NAQCC at 5 watts or less. Join at our web site. The URL is just below here.
Contact me in any of 3 ways: John Shannon, 478 E. High St., Kittanning, PA 16201-1304 - home.windstream.net/johnshan or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit our NAQCC site at naqcc.info/ 73. -30-