Sunday, November 27, 2016
Maryland Slow Net
(Article Written 11/27/16 for RAG CHEW, the Straight Key Century Club Newsletter)
I can thank the SKCC for getting me on the air using CW. Since that first QSO with my CW elmer (Ron, AC2C) I continue to enjoy the many activities and awards that SKCC offers. While I try operating many different modes and bands, I keep coming back to manual telegraphy on 40 and 80 meters as my favorite part of ham radio. I'm always looking for new ways to pursue this part of the hobby.
Thankfully, about a year ago I found the "Maryland Slow Net" or MSN. The MSN is a CW traffic and training net sponsored by the Anne Arundel Radio Club in Maryland. To quote from the MSN web site, the "MSN is a section net and is a member of the National Traffic System (NTS). MSN meets daily at 7:30 PM prevailing Eastern Time on 3563 KHZ. All are welcome."
Now I had heard some traffic nets on my local VHF repeaters, and admittedly didn't find them very interesting at first. I don't think I understood the National Traffic System, or how this could help build my CW skills. And CW traffic handling seemed difficult (if not mysterious) to me. I wasn't certain how to get started.
Enter the Maryland Slow Net! The MSN is a great group of CW operators, with net manager Bruce W8CPG. You check into the MSN and are immediately welcomed like an old friend. (By the way, you don't have to live in Maryland to participate. The propagation most nights on 80 meters makes for easy copy along the East Coast). While the MSN handles traffic (messages) just like other NTS nets, the magic of this net is their "Traffic Handling Course".
Each night you check-in, you are paired up with an instructor who will send you a set of 3 "radiogram messages" using the ARRL radiogram format. Each message is a small lesson on the National Traffic System, and how to send/receive CW traffic. This is a great concept - you get to practice receiving CW messages AND participate in a course on CW traffic handling.
If you like SKCC, I think you are going to love the MSN. Most of the instructors use straight keys, and the lessons start at around ten to 12 words per minute. The instructors will match the speed you are comfortable with. I've made some new radio friends on the MSN, and even ran across a fellow SKCC member. I'm well into their traffic handling course, and now have the confidence to send a CW radiogram through this and other slow nets. I hope to participate in my state and regional nets soon. By the way, I've now gotten interested in my local VHF traffic nets; a novel use for my microphone! I'm keeping track of my service on the nets, and hope to make Public Service Honor Roll soon.
You can find information on the Maryland Slow Net at their web site: http://www.bdb.com/~msn
Also, check out my blog for info and resources related to NTS and CW traffic handling on my blog.