Curtains for Voyager – Oh heck!

The last time we were away (Churchill weekend) we were pitched very close to the site Reception. This would not usually be a problem but this site has a very bright Security light that was on all night (usually these are movement sensor controlled) and it shone right into my window.

I have noticed before that light shines through the little holes in the window blinds

Blind holes

which can be a little irksome during the summer with dawn arriving about 4.30 – an all-night security light was even worse.

So it kicked me into making curtains that would cover the whole window. Sewing machine out and this is the result.

I still need to sort the tie backs though.


 

Nigel has also been busy. When away on a tour we have found that Laundrette driers are not very efficient (well for the money/time we want to use them for anyway). We have used the Truma heater area beneath the bench seat as our ‘airing cupboard’ which works well but there are a lot of other bits you need to be careful of in there.

So now we have an adaption of four Wilko’s ‘Baking Cooling Rack’s’ fitted so the clothes we put in there can’t get where they shouldn’t.

Airing

Just a few more things to do before we are off again – ‘Hermanfest’ meetup this coming weekend.

 

Goonhilly we Ain’t – Tech Update

It was another rainy windy night at Kilkhampton site but it changed to showery after breakfast.

So as we had decided it would be our chill day we did all the weekly housework stuff and then I got out my cross-stitch stuff while Nigel went out to ‘play’ with his new satellite setup for foreign use.

I tried hard not to laugh (promise) as he mounted his enormous dish on the tri-pod and hammered in pegs to secure it. It looked good until a strong gust of wind came. Time for a re-think.

He decided fixing it on the hardstanding area was the problem – he couldn’t get the pegs in completely. So a quick move to the grass area (very wet waterlogged grass area) and the pegs went in like it was butter.

He set it up with some meter thingy then connected with a wire to the Sky box. Final tuning looking through the window at the Signal screen.

Voy Sat

He tightened things up and came inside to warm up. We watched a few minutes TV. Then it went blank and a quick check showed the dish had moved again.

Oh well it was only a test – maybe we will have to do similar as on the Satellite farm we can see over the field.

Kkhst sats

Voyager Update

Well although we’ve been quiet on the Blog site we have managed to get some upgrade work done on Voyager herself.

You may remember we had issues last year with condensation misting the rear view camera while we were in Northumberland. As well as buying a replacement camera I have applied sealant around its joints – hopefully this will avoid a repeat this year. There is also now a Perspex dome around them both which will provide additional protection – and it looks good too.

Rear Cameras

I’ve been up on the roof again and fitted three 100W solar panels – one rigid one at the back and two flexible ones over the Luton lump at the front.

Solar Panels

The wires go through the existing box – so no more roof holes needed drilling which was a relief. They all appear in the ‘Technical Hub’ or wardrobe which now has another fuse box and controller fitted just above the Snipe satellite dish controller. Conveniently Swift have provided a connection for Solar panels on its distribution panel at the bottom of the wardrobe which made that connection easier.

We are hoping that 300W for Voyager will be enough to enable us to be self-sufficient for wilding (abroad) or Camp sites without paying for hook-up in the UK. We can use the existing 200W in Betty to keep the scooters charged. Well that’s the plan – we will see if it works. We have booked a 3 night weekend in June with no electric which will be the first test.

Tech Hub

With all this charge power it seemed prudent to fit some extra leisure batteries. Now an extra two 75Ah ones are fitted under the forward dinette seat – this was where Swift originally had a dual seatbelt system. I removed it last year and as we would never use it – in fact I doubt we will ever use the extra two travel belts we still have. There was just room in the freed up space for the batteries as well as the two baskets we use for cloths when we are travelling.

You may remember that last year I replaced all the habitation bulb type lights with LED ones – this did however leave 5 fluorescent tubes which totalled 50W or about 4A when all on. I have replaced them all with LED light strip tape which only uses about 0.5A for the same light level. As it came on a 10m reel I had enough left over to add some fancy up lighting above the high cabinets as well (not really necessary but it has the extra advantage of lighting the insides for when hunting for that little something that you always need in the middle of the night).

We also realised that we would need extra tech charging connections when off grid so I added 4 USB points inside the cabinet above the kitchen worktop (so we can shut the door on them to cut off their rather bright glow when in use).

Switches Open 1

As mentioned on our last blog entry we will be venturing across the channel soon. I have been researching satellite reception in France and beyond and found that the Astra footprint will degrade the further we get away from the UK. The little Snipe ‘squareial’  is not going to pull in a good enough signal for us to watch so I have invested in a large 1.1m dish and a good LNB which I will erect when on sites abroad. I have made a copper pipe storage arrangement in Betty for transit. We will see how easy it is to set up and how well it performs on our French trip, although I plan to test it out somewhere in Cornwall pretty soon.

Satellite Dish

Along with that I have fitted our old SKY HD box (left after we upgraded to Sky Q) again in the Technical Hub. It requires mains power so when that’s not available we can use a little invertor – it only needed 45W so I got a small 100W model from Ebay. At the moment it only receives the same channels as the FreeSat TV but we have the option of getting a proper SKY card when we are away for a long trip. Obviously with it being enclosed in the ‘Hub’ I had to fit a remote sensor so we can use the zapper to control it from our comfy seats.

Sky Box wires

TV cushion
Sky Box Remote Sensor and new cushion Handmade by Mary

 

Mary mentioned that I have treated ‘us’ to a drone and upgraded our Blog so we can post video. Well the weather hasn’t been any good for flying lessons yet but I have done a quick time-lapse video of me cleaning Voyagers carpet so I’m using that to see how it looks on here. All I can say really is the next video will be more exciting (probably).

 

The Lean Winter Months

You may have noticed a decided lack of updates on our blog over the colder months. It’s alright we are still in the land of the living it’s just that other things have been uppermost in our priorities.

The time has arrived though to bring you up to date with what’s been going on. There are a few changes to Voyager for which there will be another page very soon but we have also been busy at home doing upgrades of one sort or another.

Nigel has added many new bits of tech around the house. He says it’s now a ‘Smart Home’ – myself I thought we had always kept it smart. We now have two Amazon Echo Dots (one in the lounge the other in the bedroom) and Wi-Fi switches on a lot of the lights along with voice control of the TV (using a Harmony hub apparently) and his own design of Smart Thermometer – he wasn’t prepared to pay for a commercial one like Nest or Hive – too expensive at around £200. So he got a couple of cheaper bits and made what we need for £30.

You might be asking how a couple of poor old pensioners like us can afford to do these things – well we have had a bit of a PPI windfall. Nigel tried a while ago to claim for PPI miss-selling on his Credit Card. This was rejected because it turned out he had selected it when he applied for the card online. They wrote to him in December due to a court ruling about commission rates – they asked if he would like to try claiming due to this. All he had to do was say ‘Yes’. So he did and a few weeks later they sent him a cheque in the post. Totally unexpected but very welcome. It spurred him to make claims on all cards and loans he’s had in the past years. We will see if we get any more!

If you’ve had loans or cards in the past and haven’t had a go yourself it doesn’t cost anything if you do it yourself – just go to the web-site of the provider where most have got a link (usually at the bottom in small print) and a quick process to check if you had PPI and then make a claim if you want.

As the money was such a surprise we wondered what to do with it – no return worth talking about for investing it so we decided it was treat time.

We now have a new TV (a 48inch 4K Panasonic LED) a new Blue Ray player (again Panasonic) and a Sound Bar (not Panasonic because theirs was too long for our cabinet) – it’s like being at the Cinema all the time.

TV sml

We have decorated the bedroom – changed the colour scheme – new mattress’s on the bed (we put two singles together because my side of the bed is electrically adjustable to help with my back and hips). Replaced all the bedding – added co-ordinated curtains, bed valance and headboard. New bedside lamps (remote controlled – by me).

Bedroom sml

My new bedside cabinet has still to be made by Nigel (he says he’s waiting for the weather as he has to do sawing outside and it’s still too wet or cold). Also a new ceiling lamp shade for the Wi-Fi colour changeable bulb. It’s a bit Star Trek but being able to lie in bed and say ’Computer, turn on the bedroom light’ still seems magical to us oldies.  Nigel even had to change the old dimmer switch we used to have back to a normal switch because now we just say ‘Computer set the bedroom light to 20 percent’ and it does it, amazing!

I’ve got plans to do more decorating (hall, reception room and bathroom) replace carpets curtains and blinds – some of the details are still a bit vague but it’s nice to be able to get things done without worrying too much about how we are going to pay for it all.

Nigel keeps asking me if I need anything (new hobby, treat etc.) but I think that is only because he has invested in a new hobby – well he says it’s to take better selfies and views when we  are away on our holidays – but I know he just couldn’t resist a new toy.

What’s he bought I hear you ask – a new DJI Mavic Air drone that he can fly around and take HD video and stills with. He’s shown me some impressive shots on ‘YouTube’ done by other peeps so I expect some from him after he’s mastered the flying bit – and he hasn’t made his maiden flight yet.

You should get to see some as well as our Blog host ‘WordPress’ had a 30% off sale on Valentine’s day so he has upgraded from the free site we have been using that doesn’t allow video to the next level that does – and he saved £25 on the annual charge too.

We have plans for holidays as well. The Spring one is booked from the middle of March. An early tour of Cornwall and Devon keeping our fingers crossed that the weather is OK. We don’t expect to be doing a lot of sun bathing but hopefully there won’t be too much rain. Lap of the Gods though!

We have booked six sites to visit on this tour the first just for one night (near Exeter) to break up the journey. Then four nights a piece on each of the rest.

Route

Then we plan a few weeks in France from late April staying on mostly sites but hope to try a Passion and at least one Aire just to get the hang of them.

Hopefully the weather will be good when we get back – so home for a week or two then off to North Wales and Midlands’s areas – but that requires a bit more planning.

The summer (school holidays) we will spend at home tending the garden and avoiding the kids, although day trips to Weston SM or West Bay are possibilities.

Then something for a few weeks beginning when the school term starts again – not sure where yet – open to suggestions (home or away).

There is even some talk about Spain or Portugal for Christmas and the winter months but that’s just a dream at the moment.

 

A little bit extra for Betty

One thing that happened while we were away on our UK tour was the failure of my wooden construction within Betty for our lounger chairs. For most of our trip we had to put said chairs on top of the scooter seats, holding them in place with bungies. This was OK but a bit of a pain as they had to be removed before we could get the scooters out and then put them back in while we did our thing.

Obviously we needed somewhere they could reside that wouldn’t cause all this bother.  Mary came up with the idea of putting a box on Betty where we could store them.

So I have constructed a box using aluminium extruded angle as the frame and the same Dibond sheet Aluminium Composite that the rest of Betty is made of. It fits over the spare wheel at the front (so provides protection for that as well) with room for the chairs in front of it.

Box Closed

Box Open

Box lsp

It remains to be seen if this is a good idea – but it looks good so far.

Voyager Update

Levelling

We took Voyager to Gliderite in Liphook and left her there with the technicians for a couple of days.  Mary followed behind in Dobby so we could get home afterwards. Our Motorhome now has a hydraulic levelling system fitted so we can level her at the push of a few buttons. I prefer not to think very much about the cost because it was a lot – but worth it. We stopped on the way home in a layby for quick break. Within a minute we were level and getting things from the fridge for our snack.

I have mounted a 2 way level on the dash (see pic) so it’s easy to see we are level while operating the controls.

Level

We now have a forth switch on the facia for the leveller. I can remember what each does at the moment but might have to make some labels for when I start getting forgetful.

4 switch

Underneath we have 4 double pistons and the pump/tank assembly.

Front Pistons

motorpump

WiFi

As we will soon be off for our first big trip I have also been investigating getting online while we are away. There is WiFi available on all the campsites we are stopping at but all have the caveat that it depends on distance from Reception, trees and other units between etc.

At Galmpton we were only 50ft from the WiFi aerial so had no issues with signal strength. What we did find though was that access was charged per device – we paid for 2 while there but actually we have 2 phones 2 Kindles and a laptop that ideally would all connect.

So with this in mind I have invested in an iBoost directional WiFi aerial and micro router. This should help with signal strength as well as only requiring one paid connection we can share between our devices. The only thing I didn’t like is the suggested fixing of the aerial using a suction fitting with the wire through a window. I like a more permanent method of fixing so have utilised the Status 530 TV aerial, which we don’t normally use (preferring our Satellite setup), as a base for the aerial. I dismantled the Status and routed the WiFi aerial wire through it to enter the wardrobe in the same way as the TV coax. It then feeds through the top cupboards to the front cab area where the micro router is located (to keep more than 1 metre between them). The aerial will be horizontal for travel but can be set to vertical and rotated as needed all from the inside of the wardrobe.

Status down

Status Up

I also considered the odd occasions when no WiFi is available. To cover this I got a 4G Huawei E5577 MiFi unit with external aerial (again fitted on the Status TV aerial) and will use this with a 4G data SIM. I have ordered a 12Gb 12month PAYG one on the 3 network. It can be used for up to 2 months abroad during the year so will be good for our Europe trips as well.

Well that should be everything done for the big day on June 20th – except I do have to give her a good wash and maybe a polish if I can find the energy.

Motor Mover Re-visited

Well as I said in the last post it turned out that the small jockey wheel type motor mover we bought did not do the job we wanted. It worked great on tarmac and solid concrete but failed miserably on gravel and grass.

Caravan Mover

So we had to bite the bullet and invest in a larger Caravan Mover. Not wanting to spend over £600 on a new one we went back to Ebay and found the above – a reconditioned one (it had new bearings and a paint job) for £300 plus £47 for delivery.

It was delivered a few days later on a half pallet in the back of a large lorry. I had already downloaded the installation manual from the web but was a bit concerned when I saw the normal fitting was to a standard 209mm chassis. I thought this might be an issue as Betty’s chassis is nothing like that.

C Mover normal

With everything unloaded off the pallet I spent quite a while thinking and test positioning the motor assemblies.

The before under view of Betty.

Betty Before

Then it came to me – why not mount the units the other way up – so that’s what I did. It did require accurate positioning and drilling of 2 holes each side for the U-bolts but when it was all done it worked well.

The underview after fitting.

Betty AfterC Mover Betty

I just had to get the motor wires connected the right way – to match the direction arrows on the controller.

With the drive rollers engaged we can now move Betty using the remote control. It has moved very well on all the terrain we have tried so far and we are confident we now have the right setup ready for our first big trip next month.

First Weekend Follow-up

Well after returning from our first trip I set about sorting the list of jobs to be done. The first was to repair the Motor Mover and make something to get it up higher during transit. I came up with a load of steel as shown here.

Replacing the shredded tyre was easier than I thought (and cheaper – at less than £10) just three screws and the usual multi-screwdriver three hand operation to get it off the rim. I also decided to give it a coat of paint while I had it apart – not really my forte but it should keep the rust at bay for a while longer. Just got to paint the steel work – can’t decide between Black or Silver but I can’t wait too long as the rust has already started to form.

On Voyager herself things were easier (mostly) with the addition of key hooks at the door, coat hooks and a light in the wardrobe plus a towel rail and hooks in the bathroom.

Wardrobe Light

The designated shower area in the bathroom is definitely not big enough for us but we had an idea about using a shower curtain to protect the bits that are best kept dry. It had me wondering for a while but I decided to test the bendability of plastic curtain track. It proved perfect as you can see.

One thing we didn’t mention before was that the 6Kg Calor Gas bottle ran out while we were away (luckily after making breakfast on our last day). The gas locker has room for two bottles so I looked at getting an exchange bottle and a second bottle from Calor. This would have cost £26 for the exchange plus £66 for a new one with an additional £40 for a Cylinder Refill Agreement. A total of £132 with a re-occurring cost of £52 for each 12Kg of gas (£4.33/Kg). My next thought was to get some larger bottles, Voyager’s specification is 2 x 7Kg bottles, but I’ve seen on other Blogs that some people have fitted larger ones. Calor sell a 13Kg bottle and a pair would just fit in the locker. The initial cost would be £216 with recurring costs of £66 for 26Kg of gas (£2.54/Kg). I then looked at Autogas which costs about £1.10 per Kg (you actually pay per litre but that’s roughly what it is per Kg). I found a 2 x 11Kg cylinder kit with all the necessary pipes etc. for £340 which is the option we decided on. A bit more upfront cost but with full refills costing £24 we save every time we fill up. The weather being what it is in the UK I reckon we will save the additional cost of this system within the first year.

Mary has also been busy looking into where we go for our next expedition. She has found and booked a long weekend at Galmpton Touring Park near Paignton, Devon for the first Bank Holiday in May. Hopefully the weather will be better than last time.

Galmpton

We have also booked Voyager in with Glide-rite (at the end of May) for a hydraulic levelling system, see http://www.glide-rite.com/category_s/144.htm – it’s a big scary cost but much easier than using the levelling ramps – more on that nearer the time.

A bit more done

This month has been a bit changeable on the weather front but there have been enough fair days to get some of the outside jobs done.

In the first of these periods I managed to get all the bolts undone on the seat belt unit. It was a bit tricky doing some from underneath with the top locked with a spanner and the rest the other way around. But eventually it’s removed and stowed in Lilly’s garage.

This allowed me to get on with Mary’s bed. I replaced the centre support solid wood battens with shortened bed slats and replaced the upper hinged top with a frame of three slats. That should be more comfortable. With the addition of memory foam toppers we should be able to get a good night’s sleep.

bed-slats

The floor is vinyl covered and not very warm so I have fully carpeted the lounge area and bought a full cab carpet from Ebay. The motorhome did come with carpets (put away under the bed) but they were not good quality and didn’t reach the edges.

We also decided to invest in a SOG unit for the loo. It avoids the need for toilet chemicals by using a fan to suck air out of the cassette when the shutter is open – venting it through a carbon filter to the outside.

We had decided when we bought the Motorhome that we wanted to carry a spare wheel as Fiat only supply a foam puncture repair kit. We got a wheel thrown in as part of the deal, originally intending to carry it in the trailer (Betty). I hadn’t realised how big and heavy Motorhome wheels are but I found a kit on Ebay that would enable it to be carried under the van between the clean and grey water tanks. On one of the wetter days I made a wheel cover from some tarpaulin and on one of the better days I spent a few happy hours fitting the kit and mounting the wheel – great fun.

spare-wheel-before

As the overnight temperatures are not getting too low for too long I decided to flush the water system with sterilising fluid and then flush with clean water a couple of times. It also gave me a chance to check the water heater on both electric and gas operation – all good I’m pleased to report.

Well that about sums up this month which is good as we have our first weekend away in a couple of weeks when we get to test everything for real.

Too Cold Out

Well the weather has not been kind for any outdoor work the last few weeks so I have been concentrating on some inside work.

You may remember my original list –

  • Fit TV mount and TV – we have bought an AVTEX 22″ L218DRS.

Well that’s done and tested on the roof aerial.

tv

  • Fit Satellite system onto roof – we have gone for a SNIPE 2 auto seeker. Up on the roof for that – and a big hole for the wires to go through. Bit scary cutting holes in the roof.

I’ve been up on the roof and fitted the mounting plate with screws and Sikaflex adhesive. I decided to wait until the weather improves before fitting the ‘dish’- although I did test it works OK sat on my Workmate. I was very pleased to see it scanning for Satellites and then homing in on Astra 2. FreeSat worked on the TV too so no need for a Sky Box until we venture abroad.

  • Remove front most seatbelt mounting hardware and adapt seat support to spring slats. There are some really big bolts that will need removing – might need to see Joe to get them loosened.

I’ve had a go and managed to turn a couple of the bolts – but it looks like they have non captive nuts below so it will be a 2 man job to get that done.

  • Fit rear view camera – there is already a reversing camera looking down at the back but we need to be able to see Black Betty and what’s going on behind her. Luckily the display (mounted over the rear view mirror) has a spare V2 option available so won’t need to replace that.

I found that the data cable to the rear camera had a spare lead so was able to use that for the 2nd video feed which made things easier. The original camera turned out to be a bit too large (vintage 2008) so I replaced it with a small one pointing down at the tow bar and a new one to look back over Betty.

  • Transfer Radios between Voyager and Lilly. The current one is only FM/AM with CD player – Lilly’s additionally has DAB & USB support. Also need to fit external DAB aerial (another bit to fit on the roof).

I fitted the aerial to a waterproof box stuck and screwed to the roof. It was the best place that allowed the wiring to be routed through cupboards and within existing cable runs. The radio swap was pretty simple – with just a bit of adjustment to cope with the different fixings.

radio

  • Make changes to the FIAT cab wiring to enable Radio and Power sockets to be turned on without the ignition.
  • Wire up the Satnav with Switch to power on – again independent of ignition.

This is all done – for details see December 2016 post.

 

In addition to this I have fitted out the cupboard above the cooker as the below pics show. I put the shelf above purely so it can hold the wine glasses and espresso cups. I also lined the bottom with ‘Shurtape Stay Put Shelf Liner’ so nothing should move around too much. The toaster is held down by Velcro Tabs.

cupboard-complete