Time With Friends… Pt 1

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Spending time with friends, especially good friends is always a pleasure. Since we had ‘retired’ from flying, it had been too long since we had managed to spend time with F & R although we did keep in touch by phone and email. They had fancied the idea of a motor home and wanted to give it a try, so a plan was hatched to spend a week at two different locations. We would take the caravan and they would hire a motor home.

As F & R would be hiring a motor home from www.landcruise.uk.com in Chichester, West Sussex we thought it would be best to choose a location not too far away for the first part of the adventure. I chose Morn Hill Caravan Club at Winchester as they accepted non-members and none of us had ever been to Winchester.

Saturday 5th April

It is a well rehearsed and practiced routine for us now loading up the caravan and by 9:30 we were pulling out of the caravan storage facility for the 280 mile trip south. The route for us was fairly well-known as we had travelled it many times down to Southampton. The M6 southbound was fairly quiet and by 11:00 we were pulling into Norton Caines services on the M6 Toll for a leg stretch. There were plenty of caravan parking spaces available and 20 minutes later we were setting off again. We took advantage of the Caravan Club’s member discount at the M6 toll booth and for the car and caravan it only cost us the price of the car. The M40 was as quiet and we made good time to the A34 exit. Just north of Newbury as we approached the M4 junction our Sat-Nav indicated a delay of 5 minutes ahead… then 10 and as we passed the M4 the traffic started to slow. We came to a stop just as the A339 splits away from the A34. We could see standing traffic up the hill in the distance. The Sat-Nav was now telling us the delay was up to 25 minutes, but we were still on the fastest route.

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Stationary in traffic on the A34

Unbelievably cars were now moving from the A34 standing traffic and pulling out into the two lane A339… with quite a few very close calls and a lot of horns being blown as cars were shooting past at a fair turn of speed. As traffic was building up behind more drivers were taking the A339 and whizzing past us on the inside. We turned on the radio just in time to get a traffic update – the A34 was closed to allow the Air Ambulance to land.

The madness started. We could see cars further up the hill turning round and driving back down the carriage way in-between the two lanes of stationary traffic. The Eddie Stobart driver had correctly left himself a gap between himself and the vehicle in front which was now being used by vehicles to cut across lane 1 and the painted hatched area onto lane 2 of the A339.

One of the many cars that turned a drove the wrong way down the A34 to get across to the A339

One of the many cars that turned and drove the wrong way down the A34 to get across to the A339

The driver of a white coach on the A339 must have required a change of underwear when a vehicle pulled out in front of him causing him to swerve from lane 2 across lane one almost collecting a small car in lane 1 in the process. We counted some twenty to thirty cars perform this manoeuvre just to get out of the traffic jam. Yet all the time our Sat-Nav said we were still on the fastest route. As we looked across the traffic on the A339 was now grinding to a halt in its own traffic jam and ironically we could see the cars ahead further up the hill starting to move. The whole delay was only about 30 minutes so not a big deal really. By 15:00 we were pulling into Morn Hill Caravan Club site just east of Winchester.

We were lucky and managed to find two adjacent pitches on the site. By the time we were set up, F & R arrived in their rented motor home. It didn’t take too long to get F reversed in to position in line with the pitch peg and the EHU plugged in. Time for wine.

That evening we decided to go out for a meal and after trying the local pub, The Golden Lion (www.thegoldenlionwinchester.co.uk) which was fully booked, the Landlady recommended The Chestnut Horse (www.thechestnuthorse.com) and phoned ahead to book us a table. We can definitely recommend you try The Chestnut Horse. Directions are on their website.

Sunday 6th April

Not much to report – weather crap, wine stocks severely depleted, lots of ‘nibbles’ nibbled, serious amount of catching up done, tested all the switches in the motor home.

Monday 7th April

Caravan_Chronicals_BeaulieuWeather much improved! We had a number of options for fine weather and a visit to Beaulieu home of the National Motor Museum was one. It was just over forty minutes away in the New Forest. The museum is home to a wonderful collection of vehicles, from the humble Mini to Formula 1 and everything in between. Outside the main museum building is the World of Top Gear telling the stories behind some of the vehicles featured on the TV program. It was surprising to see that in real life just how bad some of the vehicles really were and I wondered how they managed to legally drive them on the road!. Lunch beckoned and The Brabazon Restaurant fuelled us up for part two.  We hopped on the monorail to take us round to see Palace House, the Secret Army Exhibition and the Abbey.

Sue wants a new car to speed up her commute to work!

Sue wants a new car to speed up her commute to work!

The momorail about to pass through the roof of the museum

The momorail about to pass through the roof of the museum

Tuesday 8th April

The sun was shining and Winchester was the target for today. We found the multi-story car park on Sussex Street near the County Council offices and headed off towards Westgate and The Great Hall, the home of “The Round Table”

Looking back from The Great Hall towards Westgate

Looking back from The Great Hall towards Westgate

The Round Table

The Round Table

One of the well preserved stained glass windows

One of the well preserved stained glass windows

Queen Victoria keeping an eye on visitors!

Queen Victoria keeping an eye on visitors!

Craftmanship went into constructing the ceiling of The Great Hall

Craftsmanship went into constructing the ceiling of The Great Hall

While visiting The Great Hall, take time to visit the gallery (up the stairs just to the right of The Round Table) it tells part of the fascinating story of Winchester.

From The Great Hall it is only a couple of minutes walk to the Hussars museum and the Gurkha museum. Although only small there is a huge amount packed into these two museums. Both tell their stories quite well. The Gurkha museum was especially interesting for me as my knowledge was sadly lacking about this proud regiment and people. We left the museums and wandered towards the Cathedral. However, the requirement for a caffeine and calorie infusion took precedence so we turned off towards the High Street with The New Vaudeville’s 1966 hit “Winchester Cathedral” rattling round my grey cells.

High Street busy with shoppers taking advantage of the sunshine

High Street busy with shoppers taking advantage of the sunshine

Suitably refreshed we wandered up High Street window shopping.  Our stocks of wine and nibbles had taken a bashing on Sunday so we headed back to the car park and picked up the car to go in search of a supermarket that  could replenish stocks. That evening “One Hairy Caravanner” donned his apron of disguise and cooked 4 pork steaks on the Cadac accompanied by onions sautéed in Balsamic Vinegar, spicy potato slices and fresh carrots.

Wednesday 9th April

Moving day. Our time at Morn Hill Caravan Club site had quickly come to an end and we were due to move some 80 miles north-west to our favourite site “The Old Oaks” at Glastonbury. By 10:40 we were all packed up and pulling out of the site with F & R following in their motor home.

Morn Hill has just over 100 pitches, all grass. It is a great location for exploring Winchester and the surrounding area. The site is split into two, an upper area where reception is located and a lower area. Although all grass, the pitches were quite firm even though the area had a lot of rainfall in the past few weeks. The facilities are a little dated but clean although the showers seemed very tiny. It was the first time I’d had to use a motor home service point so I can’t really give that a rating, but I will pay more attention in the future!

 

Places to visit:

Beaulieu - Home of the National Motor Museum
Buckler's Hard - 18th Century Village where Nelson's ships were built
Winchester Cathedral
Visit Winchester
Mid Hants Railway - Watercress Line
Military Museums 
The Gurkha Museum - not to be missed!
The King's Royal Hussars - another one not to be missed
Winchester Science Centre

All wrapped up…

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One thing we had noticed using the caravan all year round was the front wall between the caravan interior and gas locker and the window shelf above it always seemed noticeably cooler than the rest of the walls of the caravan. The cupboard under the front draws also was a lot cooler even though it had a blown heating pipe running through it. I’m not sure if it’s just a perceived thing that we think its cooler or if it’s down to the fact that the insulation in the front dividing wall my be a little thinner.

In an effort to try to cure this, I had been on the look out for some sticky backed foam insulation. Searching round the web gave a few results, but it was mainly for sound insulation rather than thermal insulation. However I did eventually discover Foam Solutions UK in Nantwich, Cheshire that offered a whole range of foam for various uses. When I started looking I wanted something that was anti-static and fire-retardant as it was being installed in the gas locker. Foam Solutions UK had just the product, a fire-retardant foam sheet that was designed for use under engine bonnets. I emailed Carole at Foam Solutions UK and she kindly sent out some samples, including a piece of the under bonnet material. A quick measure up and I ordered enough for the front gas locker and to cover the wheel arches inside the wardrobe and under the fixed bed.

First task was to empty the gas locker and give it a bit of a dust out…..

SPB_5D_097647I thought I’d work from both sides into the middle where most cutting would be required. I’d have to make sure non of the gas pipes would be covered so that they could be inspected when it came to the annual service. I also had to make sure that the safety labels and notices were visible, so a bit of careful peeling would be required.

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Measuring the first section, the foam was cut with a straight edge and a scalpel in an Exacto knife. I’d taken a couple of large pieces of cardboard to cut on to make it easier.

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It didn’t take long to get the first few straight cut pieces installed. One thing though, the sticky back is really sticky and it took a bit of manoeuvring to get the pieces into the locker without sticking them to anything they touched.

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I made sure that I left enough gap to inspect the gas pipe or to get to any screw heads that might require checking for tightness in the future. Peeling the labels off in one piece was a bit of a chore… I will probably try to get new ones at some point in the future.

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The completed locker….

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… and the underside of the window shelf….

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After a bit of a sort out and removing some stuff we haven’t used for a while (saving a couple of kilo’s in weight!), everything was replaced back in to the locker.

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The next job will be to do the wheel arches inside the caravan.

Lucky or what!

When I was feeding in the second piece on the right hand side I had to take it out to curve it to get it in position. When I removed it I spotted something stuck to the bottom edge ( I did say it was really sticky!)….. it was my Wedding ring! I thought I’d lost it somewhere between our last stop in France – Camping Risle Seine and reaching home back in October 2012. It could have so easily dropped through one of the various vents in the floor in the couple of thousand miles of towing since then, but there it was, stuck to my piece of insulation.

So another little job crossed off the list. I’m not sure how effective it will be, only time and a bit of cold weather will tell. It might very well be a placebo thing…. but as the supermarket slogan say’s “Every Little Helps”.

Contact Info: Foam Solutions UK, Haymoor Hall, Wybunbury Lane, Nantwich. CW5 7HD or  http://www.foamsolutionsuk.co.uk or telephone 01270 842 228 or email Carole: carole_395@fsmail.net

Don’t forget you can follow Caravan Chronicles on Twitter and Facebook… the link do-hickey things are on the left hand side.

Relay, VSR, SCR… what’s the difference?

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There is a lot of confusion over what the differences are and when to use each one. So what are they?  A relay is just a simple switch that allows a low power electrical circuit to turn on (or off) a high-powered electrical circuit. An SCR or Split Charge Relay is a switch that senses voltage and switches over from one circuit to another at a pre set voltage. Finally a VSR – Voltage Sensing Relay is similar to an SCR but turns on and additional circuit at a pre set voltage. So what do you use each one for?

Split Charge Relay – SCR

These are usually installed in 4 x 4′s that have a lot of accessories fitted especially electrical winches. The general idea is the winch is powered from a second battery so that using the winch should never flatten the main vehicle starter battery. As the winch uses a lot of power, it is necessary to be able to recharge this battery as fast as possible using the output from the vehicle’s alternator, so once the vehicle starter battery is fully charged, the output from the alternator is switched directly over to the second battery. Modern SCR’s are usually all solid state and some times have a bypass switch allowing both batteries to be directly connected for either starting the vehicle if the starter battery is flat or to allow the winch to be powered from the starter battery in emergencies.

SCR's are normally solid state, I have shown it as switches to make it clearer.

SCR’s are normally solid state, I have shown it as switches to make it clearer. Note: I haven’t shown any fuses or earth (neutral) cables. Never use the vehicle body as a conductor, always install correctly sized earth (neutral) cables.

How do SCR’s operate?

If you look at the drawing above, you can see the alternator output goes straight to the split charge relay. In normal operation the relay connects the output of the alternator to the starter battery. Once the engine is running and the relay determines the starter battery is fully charged, it switches the output of the alternator to the vehicle accessory battery. If the voltage on the vehicle starter battery drops, the relay switches back. However, these relays are slightly more sophisticated and have the ability to dual feed – i.e. charge both batteries at the same time or the ability to link both batteries for either vehicle starting or to power accessories under extreme load… heavy and prolonged winching for example. Expect to pay serious money for a good quality SCR with a remote bypass facility and battery monitoring.

A true ‘split charge relay’ is not suitable for charging your caravan leisure battery, but could be used for charging leisure batteries in motorhomes.

Voltage Sensing Relay – VSR

Voltage sensing relays were designed to sense the tow vehicles battery voltage and when the battery is sufficiently charged switch on a second circuit, usually the power to the caravan’s fridge. Some of the more sophisticated VSR’s allow the setting of the voltage the relay will operate at. The biggest draw back with these is if the electrical load with the tow vehicle suddenly increases – turning on the headlights, heated windows, air con etc, they can turn off the circuit to the caravan’s fridge until the electrical load is removed. It is for this reason they should be installed with an indicator light on the dash to confirm that they are actually supplying the fridge. With a caravan, if there isn’t a feed to the fridge, the habitation relay will not operate and therefore the caravan’s leisure battery will not be charged.

VOltsge

VSR’s can be a mix of solid state and mechanical switch or all solid state. Again, I have not shown fuses or earth (neutral) cables for clarity.

VSR’s work on the principle that they monitor the vehicles electrical voltage. The VSR’s sensor detects the voltage change when the vehicle battery is fully or near fully charged, it closes the contacts connecting the leisure battery in circuit and allowing it to be charged. However, if the vehicle voltage drops for some reason, the relay will open disconnecting the leisure battery.

Problems with VSR’s

Most of the time they are installed when the rest of the towing electrics are installed and are usually located behind a panel in the rear load area of the vehicle. Because of this, it is rare to see one that has a dashboard indicator light installed to show when it is ON and charging your leisure battery and consequently switching over the habitation relay allowing your fridge to work. The second problem is when they leave the factory the voltage that they are designed to switch on at is set at the correct level if it was installed near the vehicle battery. As it has been installed some distance away, the length of cable between the battery and VSR has its own voltage drop – dependant on length of cable and current through it. So one fault that is often reported is that the relay ‘vibrates’ or ‘chatters’. This is caused by the voltage drop on the connecting cable increasing below the “trigger voltage” when the leisure battery is connected and the relay is simply turning on and off repeatedly. Like most things you get what you pay for and the more expensive VCR’s have a timer circuit built-in so that they only switch over after a pre-determined time.

But wait…. there’s more!

Modern vehicles are sophisticated bits of engineering, electronics and software. In order to reduce emissions a lot of manufacturers removed things like hydraulic power steering pumps and air conditioning pumps and replaced them with electrical motors. This removed mechanical load from the engine and reduced the weight. The trade-off was the vehicle needed more electrical power, so larger alternators were fitted. As power steering and air conditioning wasn’t needed all the time and in order to prolong the life of the vehicle battery, the alternator is now controlled by the software in the vehicles ECU. So when the ECU detects the vehicle battery is fully charged it reduced the output of the alternator by reducing the voltage and therefore reducing the load on the engine and hence reducing engine emissions. If you have a VSR fitted, this drop in the vehicle voltage will stop the VSR working as it was intended to do. So even if the VCR has a timer circuit, it can still fail to work as intended.

Theres is an interesting letter posted in the September 2013 issue of Land Rover Owner magazine:

Article appeared in Land Rover Owner INternational September 2013. (c) LRO /  Bauermedia

Article appeared in Land Rover Owner International September 2013. (c) LRO / Bauermedia

How can we reliably charge the leisure battery in modern vehicles? Well the clue is in the article above. If we can fool the tow vehicle to ‘see’ the leisure battery as part of the vehicles own electrical system the software in the ECU won’t reduce the voltage until both the leisure battery and vehicle battery are suitably charged.

Ordinary Relay

The most straight forward way of providing the leisure battery with a suitable charging circuit is also the cheapest. A simple 30 Amp 12 volt relay can be bought for a few pounds and it will be a reliable way of charging your caravan’s leisure battery.

Ordinary 30 Amp relay

Ordinary 30 Amp relay. Again, I have not shown fuses or earth (neutral) cables for clarity.

The circuit above shows an ordinary 30 Amp automotive relay being used to switch the leisure battery charing circuit. The relay is controlled by the ignition circuit, so when the engine is running the relay is energised and the leisure battery is being charged. As the leisure battery is in circuit all the time the engine is running, the vehicles software in the ECU ‘sees’ just one big battery and will keep the alternator voltage high enough to charge both batteries fully before reducing the output in energy-saving /emission reducing mode.

Some vehicles including a number of Land Rover’s actually have a connection on the main fuse board specifically to control this relay.

I hope you have found this useful.

Newsflash – NEC Show offer…

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Did you read our “Testing Testing…” post a few days ago?

Right you didn’t hear this from me! I have just heard about a show offer. If you are going to the show this week at the NEC hi tail it over to Hall 1 and see Tamworth Camping. They and OLPRO have teamed up and will be selling the Bottom & Top and the more concentrated Bottom & Top Plus for your loo for a show stopping £5.99 so go and stock up for the season! All the other chemicals will be on offer too. If you have any questions one of the OLPRO guys will be on the Tamworth Camping stand as well, so ask him about the other stuff they do too!

S

PS… Make sure you stop by OLPRO’s main stand (5300, Hall 5) where you might just catch them all lounging about in their new natty pop up beach huts! 

Create accurate POI’s for your Sat-Nav…

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Sometimes postcodes (zip codes) don’t just cut it with sat-nav’s especially when trying to find a caravan site. Often you see the warning “Don’t follow sat nav” on site directions which is a bit of a shame as you have exchanged quite a lot of beer tokens for a device to take the hassle out of navigating!

TomTom installed in our Landrover Freelander

TomTom installed in our Landrover Freelander

In Europe it is common for the location of a site to be given co-ordinates (Lat & Long) but sometimes there is confusion on which format your sat-nav can accept these, in fact not all sat-nav devices allow you to input lat & long co-ordinates.

A lot of people check on the route to a site using Google Maps and this helps a lot, but it only gives you the results in a lat & long format. There are programmes that you can down load to do the conversion to create a POI – (Point Of Interest) and even manage them, but there is great on-line resource called “POI Editor” that I have been using for around four years now that I think is really easy to use and despite trying a number of the downloadable offerings, I keep returning to it.

Getting started…

Go to POIEditor.com and click on the “Register” link in the top right hand corner and create an account, it’s totally free to use…. (Don’t forget you can click on any of the images to see them full size!)

Caravan Chronicles POI-01

Start off by filling in some details….

Caravan Chronicles POI-03

You will be asked to confirm your email address. I have never received spam mail from this company. Follow the link in the email they send you to confirm your account.

Caravan Chronicles POI-04

Once you have confirmed your account you can now log in and you will see a page like this (below)… and you are all set to start creating your POI’s

Caravan Chronicles POI-05

Your first POI…

For this example I’ll go through creating the POI for the Caravan Clubs’ Chatsworth Park site which we recently visited…. First I typed in the name “Chatsworth Park CC Site” and I also added the post code for the site…..

Caravan Chronicles POI-06

Once you have the name and postcode entered, click on “Lookup” and a map pin appears on the map. Use the + and – on the map to zoom in……

Caravan Chronicles POI-07

OK, now you can switch views… click on the “Satellite” button on the map window….

Caravan Chronicles POI-08

You can now see that the map pin is located in the centre of Chatsworth House  Estate grounds… the caravan site is actually north-west of the map pin…. lets zoom in a little closer….Caravan Chronicles POI-09

OK we can now see the caravan site near the zoom slider. Drag the map pin from the centre of Chatsworth House Estate and drop it over the caravan site… you can drag the map around to centre the pin… 

Caravan Chronicles POI-10

Now here is where we can make it really accurate. If we left the pin where it is, there is always the chance that your sat-nav could try to take you into Chatsworth House Estate via the main entrance, through the car park and try to navigate you through the estate… after all it will try navigate you the shortest or quickest route. If we move the pin to the entrance road to the caravan site, your sat-nav should take you there only choosing the main road. So we drag the pin to the entrance to the site….

Caravan Chronicles POI-11

We can zoom in a little more and place the pin right on the main road in front of the entrance…

Caravan Chronicles POI-12

When we are happy with the pins location, simply click on “Save Point”. The map will zoom out and you will see your POI (highlighted in red below) saved to your POI list.

Caravan Chronicles POI-13

If you want to add further POI’s click on ‘Add Point” and just go through the steps above for the next POI you want to create.

If you have finished creating your POI’s we now need to save the file and download it to your computer. Click on the  “Save POI File” tab and you will be asked to input a name for your POI file…..

Caravan Chronicles POI-14

In this case it is called ‘My POI’ and you will need to select what file type you want to save it as from the drop down box. In this case I have selected “TomTom.ov2″.

Caravan Chronicles POI-14aNow click on “Download POI’s” and a file will automatically download to your browser download area.

OK now for a neat trick…

The screen shot below shows my POI for La Tournerie Ferme near Montignac, France. To get to the site there is a very detailed set of directions provided by the owner. So rather than doing a bit of map and instruction reading by the navigator, I created a number of additional POI’s or waypoints. Using the satellite view, I started at the point of the first instruction and for each turn I created a new POI. I now have a set of POI’s – La T App 1, La T App 2….etc and the final one is “La Tournerie Ferme”. (‘App’ is my short hand for ‘Approach’ so I know its not a final destination)

So in my GPS I now create an “Itinerary” starting from my first point “La T App 1″ to my next point “La T App 2″ and so on. Now when I want to go there, I simply program my sat-nav to take me to the the itinerary I created. The sat-nav now takes me to the first point, then the second and so on until I arrive at the site.

Caravan Chronicles POI-16

Next Step…

OK you now have your POI file downloaded onto your computer and you need to upload it to your sat-nav. As each model of sat-nav is slightly different unfortunately you might have to resort to checking out the instruction’s that came with your device.

That’s it… that is all there is to creating simple and accurate POI’s and storing them in a file for your chosen sat-nav device.

One of the reasons I use POI Editor on-line is no matter where I am, I can always log in and update my POI’s and download them. If I’m unlucky and loose my sat-nav, I still have the POI file I created to put back on my new one, even if it is a different make or model. While we have been out in the caravan I have been able to add POI’s… I added the stations for the West & East Somerset railways and the front entrance to the car park at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at RNAS Yoevil while sat having a coffee at our favourite site in Somerset – The Old Oaks.

I hope you found this useful.

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