Learning the Code (again) – Part 4

We’ve now finished 6 weeks of CW Academy. The work hasn’t really gotten any easier, although at times now it surprises me when I hear a snippet of code on the air and I know what was said. I don’t know why that should surprise me, as that has been the goal of this course all along, but practicing with canned files and doing it for real are two very different things.
On the air I no longer strain to pick out call signs, or signal strength reports, or names. Casually listening in to a conversation isn’t too much of a strain. This all depends on how fast the stations are sending, of course. Anything much over 20 words per minute and it still sounds a bit like swarming bees to me. But, progress. Yay!
At this point in the class I can say that the methodology employed by CW Ops works. All it takes is a commitment on the part of the participant to put in the required study time. What’s required? Count on at least an hour a day of receiving practice, and 30 minutes of sending practice. I know, that sounds like a lot of time, but the only way you’ll see progress is to keep at it and practice. Maybe, at some point, the times required for listening and sending will flip flop; that will depend on how well you send the code. Everyone is different, and the times required will be different as well. Be patient. Relax.
I’m happy to have signed up for this voyage, even though there were times when I thought I was going to call it a day. Sticking it out has paid off in the form of the skills I’ve gained as well as the new hams I’ve met. Using the code when on the air is enjoyable, and not frightening. Looking at my logbook yesterday, I discovered that in my last 50 contacts, I’ve used voice once. That is a tremendous change over my previous hamming. I now use the code because I enjoy it, and can relax a bit when using it. That was my stated goal in taking this class. Goal achieved.
The class I’m in has decided to meet once a week through the summer, in order to keep our skills up to par and sharpen them a bit further. Plus, it’s a fun group of guys who all have a pretty good sense of humor. One of them is a sailor, so I don’t know how much we’ll see him during prime sailing season, but I’m sure he’ll make an effort to join in. Maybe Maritime Mobile on Skype?
As I mentioned in an earlier post, CWA holds 3 levels of classes; level 1 for those who don’t know or only barely know the code, level 2 for those who are OK at about 10 words per minute, and level 3 for those who are comfortable at 16-20 words per minute. My intention was to be put into level 1, and to then survive level 2, and I never once intended to proceed to level 3. As you know if you’ve been reading along, I skipped level 1. If I got comfortable at any speed north of 15 WPM, I told myself that would be enough, and I didn’t need level 3.
My level 3 class starts in September.
It’s kind of like a drug.

To be continued…