I have been to both, Michigan QTC twice and Delmarva once. I’m in Pittsburgh so Delmarva is closer (under 7 hours) but a more challenging drive. Michigan is about 11 hours but I have all sorts of kin along the way I can stop overnight with in southern Ohio and mid Michigan so I can break it up in two or three legs.
While I love the Lake Michigan white sand beaches (I spend summers on them as a kid and lived and paddled in west Michigan for several years as an adult), I have to admit I prefer Delmarva because of the facilities.
The level of instruction is excellent at both and the warm and protected shallow lake that is available at Michigan QTC is ideal for rescue and rolling coaching, with the option to paddle out through the inlet to the Big Lake for open water and surf skills training. There were a number of the same coaches at Michigan and Delamarva, including Dubside, and I got great one-on-one training from instructors at both.
But Michigan QTC is at a pretty rough old boy scout camp on a peninsula with no vehicle access. You have to paddle over from the parking lot and have your camping gear ferried on the pontoon boat. Accommodations are a bit rough and for somebody of my age, having to hike quite a distance up soft sandy steep trails several times a night to go to the outhouses from either the tent site area or the bunkhouses (most of which don’t even have power) is a challenge, even for an old wilderness backpacking and mountaineering buff like me. I had badly pulled a muscle in my back before QTC last August and huffing all my camping and paddling gear up the steep paths and stairway of the camp was eventually excruciating. If I go again I will probably opt to paddle across the lake every night and sleep in my camper in the parking lot (where I have my own bathroom handy).
Delmarva, on the other hand, is far more “civilized” at a beautiful camp complex with a huge luxurious central lodge. The available cabins have power, light and some have bathrooms – the shared bath and shower facilities are much larger and nicer than at Michigan. I was able to park my camper a short walk from both the lodge and the beach so there was far less effort involved and I could save energy for paddling skills rather than daily routine.
Also, Delmarva has two large inland swimming pools where we could practice rescue and rolling in a controlled environment. This was pretty handy the second day of camp there when we got some really rough water at the beach and dock site. It calmed by the next day but we were able to move some of the training to the pools for that day. Lower Herring Lake at Michigan QTC seems to stay reliably calm due to being screened from the offshore winds by the steep dunes of the camp peninsula.
The water at Delmarva is, of course, colder being sea coast and in October rather than August. At Michigan QTC I didn’t even use my dry suit both years I attended but did use it at Delamarva. Michigan can require a dry suit in the Big Lake but I did not venture out there during my sessions.
Delmarva is a larger event with more instructors and attendees. There was a lot more “swag” in the way of donations for the ticket drawing giveaways and much more used gear brought to sell directly or in the Saturday night auction.
Where food goes, my first year at Michigan, the local oufitter and regular QTC coach who is also a caterer provided fantastic gourmet fare (like his own smoked meats) but he had a previous commitment last time so we had decent but pretty basic camp food prepped by the regular staff. I don’t know if the catering will be available this year again.
The food at Delmarva was great, prepped by the Lodge’s regular kitchen staff. They do provide vegetarian options at every meal at both events, by the way. You’re fed well at both, but there are more options at Delamarva.
I admit that I like both events, had fun at them and got great coaching – each has its own charms. If I can manage a more workable accommodation set up at Michigan I really want to go back. In my case I can combine the trip with visiting some favorite kin and old friends along the way to and from, so that is a plus.
But I know that Delmarva is an easier option for me because of the more modern and convenient accommodations for my old bones (and bladder).