A Significant Weather Event

March 2, 2022 Peter No comments exist

Between the weather and the caravan batteries, things have been a little unsettled. The batteries should have been a fairly simple matter – take out the old battery and install the two new batteries in parallel. It always sounds easy in my head. We installed the 2 new batteries and while watching TV about 2 days later, we suddenly lost all power to the caravan. Why do these things always happen at night? It made no sense and we called a good friend, Terry, who is an electronic specialist, for some advice. Terry came around and helped us make sense of the wiring. Nothing was marked and the previous owner had installed some new wiring which took some time to trace.

We managed to trace most of the wiring and it appeared that the problem was simply a dirty battery connection. We cleaned the connection and all seemed to be well. Until we lost all power to the caravan again a few days later. Could it be the new batteries? All the measurements with the multi-meter indicated the batteries were fine. So we disconnected the new batteries and connected the old battery. There were 4 leads coming off the battery and because nothing was marked, trying to find out what they were for proved a challenge. The thick black and red cables were clearly the main power supply to the caravan. We traced another set to the inverter but that left 2 unknown.

It was also not clear how the battery charger and solar panel were charging the battery. It appeared that the battery charger and solar panel had been installed when the caravan was built and that these were both charging the battery through the wiring installed when the caravan was built. The two unknown leads would therefore have to be for something that was installed after the caravan was built and rather than wire these items into the caravan wiring, they simply powered them directly off the battery. When the power was working everything in the caravan seemed to be working. We finally traced one set of wires to the fan that had been installed behind the fridge. When the fridge side of the caravan is in direct sunlight the outside of the fridge gets very hot and they install small 12 volt fans to help with the cooling. We replaced the fan and solved one of the problems.

Things seemed to settle down and we again connected the two new batteries. With the electrics in the caravan being unstable, we did not want to venture too far but we also wanted to be off the grid to test all the systems and so we decided to head off back to Bendeela Recreation Area. We like Bendeela and if everything heads south we are not too far away from help. The plan was to spend a week at Bendeela and then head off to Coledale Camping Reserve for a week or two. The Coledale Surf Life Saving Club have a small campground right on Coledale beach and we feel like we need a few weeks at the beach before summer comes to an end. We arrived at Bendeela on Monday 21 February and planned to move to Coledale on Sunday 27 February.

No sooner had we arrived at Bendeela than a nasty weather system moved over the east coast of Australia. We called Coledale on Wednesday to confirm our booking only to be told that they were not accepting any arrivals. They had been lashed with rain and the campsites were waterlogged. They suggested we call again on Friday. In the interim we again lost all power to the caravan – and again at night! After digging around some more we discovered that the solar panel controller was making a funny noise. We took a video of the controller and called in at a caravan repairer in Nowra. He initially thought the controller might be faulty and suggested we run a few more tests.

After running a few more tests and driving the hour back to see him, he thought that our problem was the power supply. If the batteries were fine (we are fairly confident they are), he thought that the remaining set of wires connected directly to the battery (which we had disconnected) were for the solar panel and the controller was making the funny noise due to low voltage but that our problem was either a blown fuse or a faulty switch controlling the power to the caravan. That would tend to indicate that the solar panel and controller were installed after the caravan had been manufactured. We can now account for all the wires coming directly off the battery. We are not convinced that having 4 direct leads off the battery is ideal and will have someone have a look at it when things settle down.

The switch or fuse could be anywhere and he suggested we dig in every nook and cranny to see if we could find a switch or a fuse. And so we did. We searched everywhere and checked everything. There was a switch at the bottom of the seats that we could not account for and as we turned this switch all the power suddenly came back on. It could well be that we moved this switch as we moved in and out of the seating area and this was the problem.

We reconnected the wires to the battery and the funny noise from the controller stopped. It has now been a few days and we have had no further trouble with the power. The switch is clearly a main switch of some kind and will need to be examined in greater detail when we are back on the grid.

As agreed we called Coledale on Friday and they are still not accepting arrivals and suggested we call back on Sunday. It is not looking promising, the rain is relentless and the ground waterlogged. Fortunately we are in a dry spot in Bendeela and we will wait it out.

We plan to spend the next few months in NSW. There is a family wedding at the end of May and we are reluctant to move out of NSW in case Covid-19 flares up again and they close borders and we cannot get back for the wedding. We took the opportunity to have a look at a few possible campsites. We first looked at Moss Vale Showgrounds but were unimpressed. We also took a drive to Cambells Rest Campground in Morton National Park. There are a few unpowered sites but, with the exception of 1 site, they all looked to be too small for our caravan. We called in at Nowra Showgrounds and liked the look of the place but not the price – at $31 per night it is over-priced for what it is.

While having dinner one evening we accidentally bumped the switch at the bottom of the seating and all the electrics to the caravan started playing up. We again fiddled with the switch and managed to get everything working. I think we have identified the problem. The switch appears to be faulty and the slightest movement interrupts the power supply to the caravan. We will replace the switch when next we are hooked up to power and water.

The weather front over the east coast of Australia is moving south slowly and so far the flooding is in Queensland and northern NSW. The low pressure system causing the front is expected to move out to sea in a few days. We had planned to ride this weather event out in Bendeela. But it was not to be.

Early in the morning on Tuesday 1 March we noticed a few of the NSW Water staff at Bendeela and somehow suspected that we were about to be evicted. The weather event over the Australian east coast is far worse than anticipated and it is now expected to be a 1 in 1 000 year event. There is widespread flooding in Queensland and the system is moving south slowly. Sure enough, about an hour later there was a knock at the caravan door and we were given an hour to pack up and leave. Fortunately it was only raining lightly and it was a mad scramble to pack everything up and get out of Bendeela. That was the easy part.

We had planned to spend another week at Bendeela and then move slowly to Coledale and it was now another mad scramble to find somewhere to stay and ride out the weather event. It got worse. We thought we would head south to Nowra and then figure out where to from there. We where told that there had been some rockfalls on the B73 from Kangaroo Valley to Nowra and that the road was closed. That left only the B73 to Moss Vale. We decided to head off to Moss Vale to see if we could camp at the Moss Vale Showground. Not ideal – but any port in a storm.

It was an interesting drive from Bendeela to Moss Vale. The road has multiple hairpin bends and switchbacks and it rained constantly making the drive a difficult one. The weather forecast was getting worse by the hour and we needed to get off the road. Moss Vale Showgrounds proved to be of no use; no-one answered the phone and there was no-one at the Showgrounds to talk to.

That left only Wollongong. We called Windang Beach Tourist Park and they could accommodate us for 2 nights. It did however mean a fairly long drive in lousy weather crossing Macquarie Pass. The Pass too has multiple hairpin bends and switchbacks and there is a small section where two cars can barely pass each other. It was a long slow drive to Windang and by the time we arrived it was pouring with rain and we had to set up in the rain.

The weather event is moving slower than expected and it rained lightly on Tuesday night. We are however expecting heavy rain all day on Wednesday. It is now mid-morning on Wednesday and the heavy rain has arrived. The next 24 hours could be difficult.

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