Every year, a few QSO parties fall on the same day, some large ones including 7th Call Area QSO Party and the New England QSO Party, and some individual state ones like the Indiana QSO Party. And then there is Delaware.
I know Delaware for two things: long lines at the toll booth on Interstate 95 (even with EZ Pass these days) and difficulty in getting QSOs confirmed on LOTW. Since I was in New Jersey on Friday and needed to get back home to Maryland on Saturday of this QSO Party weekend, it made sense to me to try to add one more operator to the Delaware roster. Looking at past DEQP results, the number of in-state operators sometimes is in the single digits, so I figured it couldn’t hurt, and aimed for the least populated of the three Delaware counties, Kent.
Within that county, I aimed for Brecknock County Park, a relatively large park with amenities including pavilion shelters, picnic tables, and bathrooms. It was a rainy weekend, so I was thinking of working from a pavilion, and in principle I could have — there are suitable trees to support antennas near some of the pavilions, but there were a lot of people in the park and I thought it would be disruptive, so I headed west, across a large field and beyond the horseshoe tossing pits to some picnic tables at the periphery of the park . Some large trees overhung the tables, which I thought would help if it rained and a large pine tree was nearby to support the antenna.
I might be spoiled from working QRP from mountain tops and having a crowd of eager SOTA chasers looking for me, but conditions seemed dismal operating from my picnic table. I got very few replies to CQs, which is not all that unexpected for QRP operation in a contest, particularly with my limited antenna. Mostly, I focused on folks calling for one of the other QSO Parties, and got a few contacts in each, the 7QP on 20m and the other QSO Parties on 40m. I was surprised how few Indiana stations I reached because I usually do quite well out to Illinois and Indiana from the Washington, DC area. I have the sense that propagation was particularly poor this weekend.
Of note, I heard only one other Delaware station, W3PP, and worked them on 20m and 40m CW. They had a loud signal, not surprising since we were in the same county. I only worked CW, so if there were other Delaware-based stations on SSB, I wouldn’t have heard them.
I like the idea of having multiple QSO Parties on one weekend, and appreciate that the 7QP, NEQP, and INQP are all pretty interoperable with a five letter exchange consisting of state (2 letters) and county (3 letters). New England can be a little odd because they allow the state and county to come in either order; it would be helpful if they standardized to state and then county. Delaware, however, does its own thing, with a three letter exchange, one letter for county and then “DE”, e.g., Kent county is KDE, Newcastle is NDE, and Sussex is SDE. Sending those exchanges mostly confuses folks from the other contests. It would be preferable to make the Delaware exchange five letters long (DEKEN, DENEW, DESUS). A bit more effort at the keyer, but worth it.
I went with logging on paper for this QSO Party, but in the past, I have used N1MM and appreciate their support for an integrated log for 7QP, NEQP, and INQP, and wish that they would add the DEQP for completeness.
Would I do it again? Sure, but not QRP at the bottom of the solar cycle. I had hoped that being in Delaware would make me more sought after, but that did not pan out because I was never spotted while calling CQ. Next time, I’d probably operate from the car, ideally with a better antenna up in the trees. There isn’t really a mobile or expedition category, but I think this would make the most sense in terms of a temporary operating set up.