Johanna Beach

I’m a bit late on this post as we spent the Australia Day weekend at an amazing spot in the Otways called Johanna Beach.

A free camping spot that is very popular in the summer months and long weekends.  It gave us a good go and testing out the recent solar panel addition which worked brilliantly for the whole five days we were there.

The view from our van.

We were lucky enough that we could arrive there on the Thursday before the long weekend to get a spot.  By mid afternoon the place was full to the gills. Standing room only which meant anyone with a tent or caravan had nowhere to stay.  Only backpackers with a desire to camp on the side of the tracks in and out of the camp ground braved the overnight stay and then scurried off early the next morning.

The Girls at the lookout

Johanna beach is a gem.  If you get the chance to go when the crowds are gone on a normal weekend out of the summer months you would most likely have the place to yourself.  It could be wild weather but it’s a beautiful spot.

The beach from the lookout

With only a short stroll to the beach, it may only be your footsteps you see in the sand. There is so much to do and see in the area or it’s a great place to just waste the day away.

The mist rolls in.

If you decide to visit the campsite and your towing a van, make sure you drive in on Red Johanna Rd.  Blue Johanna Rd is not good for vans.

Sunset

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Solar Modification Pt. 2

It’s been incredibly hot this week in Victoria.  We have more days than I’d like to remember above 40 and I’m so glad I was able to complete this job before the heat hit.  In fact the amount of sun we are getting is powering up the battery perfectly.  I just wish I had the van out camping to give the setup a good run. Anyway onto part two of the install.

I did this in two steps.  I mounted the panels to the roof first.  I used a whole tube of Sikaflex 252 to ensure they aren’t going anywhere.  That stuff is amazing and should do the job.

A couple of days later we took the plunge and drilled through the roof into one of the wardrobes.

I drilled a 1 mm pilot hole so we could make sure that it was going to go exactly where we wanted it to go.  The wardrobe has a “channel” that the cable could run down and never been seen or get in the way.  

As always measure twice and cut once.  We confirmed we had the correct spot but I needed to cut away quite a bit of the original silicone in order for the cable entry box to fit snugly. 

Then it was just a matter of drilling the large hole through the roof.  As always it’s a little daunting drilling into your van but we had made sure it was the right spot.

Cable entry

The cables were inserted in the entry box and threaded through the hole in the roof.  We then ran the cables all the way to the battery and connected it to the battery so that we didn’t need to move them any further and we could silicon up the entry box.

I again used another heap of sikaflex to ensure no leaks and no movement of the entry box.  Placing a brick on top of the box also ensured that while the silicon cured it didn’t move.

Brick Weight

The next day the brick was removed and the cables tied and clipped to the roof to make sure it was all neat.

Cabling

The two 50w panels mounted on the roof.

Fitted Panels

All up it cost less than $150 to put our panels on the roof.  Obviously we already had the panels and we had the REDARC BCDC 40A unit which has solar input.  I am very happy with the result and it’s keeping the battery completely full.  Within one day the REDARC unit had gone from Boost, through absorption and is now constantly on float.

Due to the REDARC unit being able to convert a lower voltage to a higher voltage it starts charging the battery a lot earlier in the day and stays charging later in the day.  I really don’t think we will ever need to increase the size of the panels.

Now I want to add another battery to the system. Ssshhhhh….don’t tell the better half. 

Solar Modification Pt. 1

A couple of years ago we purchased an Evakool folding solar panel.  It’s a 100 watt panel with decent cables (connected to anderson plugs) and is very well built.  It has been a great panel and has got us out of a couple of sticky situations in its time.  I liked the fact I could position it in what ever direction i needed to get the battery charged.

I was always a bit concerned about roof mounted panels and how good they work if they were in shade etc but a friend of ours mounted his solar panels on the roof of his van and they are performing much better than I expected.

After recently installing a Redarc 12v BCDC 40 Amp battery charger in the van I’ve decided that it was time to mount a solar panel on the roof.

The combination of both devices would be more than enough to keep us topped up with power as we don’t tend to use heavy power consumption devices in the van.  

I decided to dismantle the folding panel and mount it to the roof as I think 100 watt will still be ample for us.  

The BCDC unit is designed to boost low voltages going into it from the solar panels into decent charging voltages for the battery so we should get more “daylight” hours from the panels.  We also don’t tend to stop for days on end at free camps so we shouldn’t need a huge power station setup on the roof.  We charge from the vehicle as we travel so we usually arrive with a full battery.

So with all these things considered, out with the tools and a new setup is born.

I pulled apart the folding panel removing hinges, latches. legs and handles.  I removed the solar regulator as the BCDC has it’s own built in regulator so no need for the panel mounted one.  The wiring was disconnected and then I was left with two 50 watt panels.

I used Sikaflex 252 to mount the brackets to each side of the panels.  The brackets are made from aluminium angle and I placed a block of wood under each so that I didn’t need to worry about measuring the gap.  Each bracket was glued into place and then three screws to hold it ensure its not going anywhere.

Mounting the Brackets

I then wired and mounted an Anderson plug to each panel so they can be easily plugged into when I run the cables into the van.  This may also give me options down the track to use the panel regulator elsewhere and plug something directly to a panel for an emergency.  It’s an option that may come in handy one day.

The panels ready for mounting on the roof

Ready to go on the roof.

Coming soon.  Solar Modification Pt. 2 – Mounting to the roof and wiring them to the BCDC charger.

Australia Day 2013 – Warrnambool.

We headed off to Warrnambool for the Australia Day weekend with two families of close friends. It was the first outing for one of them with their new Jayco Expanda.

We stayed at the Surfside Caravan Park in Warrnambool. The park is very close to the beach and Lake Pertobe.

When I was very young my family stayed there a couple of years in a row and I have fond memories of Warrnambool.

Matilda

It was a trip down memory lane and I enjoyed taking my family to a place I love visiting.

Grace

The Surfside park was quite busy being the end of the school holidays, a long weekend and the local speedway was being run. Even so it was a very pleasant stay and full of family’s enjoying the park. Our site was literally fifty meters from the beach and we spent a couple of hours enjoying the very clean beaches.

Australia Day

The girls were very excited about Australia Day so we put up some flags and had an Aussie BBQ for dinner.

Darryn and Thomas

Warrnambool has a very well set out park called Lake Pertobe. The park is a year-round family attraction. It’s an adventure playground and a paradise for kids. There are giant slides, flying foxes, a maze and boat rides. There are walking tracks around the lakes, and the park features picnic areas and sheltered BBQ facilities.

The kids had a great time. I also caught up with an old friend at the lake whom I haven’t seen in years and she has a hobby farm not too far out of town. It would be a fantastic place to live.

Thomas and Dad, Anthony - Grace and Matilda

The boats on the lake are the same ones I remember riding in when I was a kid probably 30 years ago. They are still great fun and are well worth trying out.

Lake Pertobe Boats

One of the nights the blokes played a round of Bocce. It’s a fun game that can be played anywhere and we always carry it in the van.

Bocce

Those who haven’t been to Warrnambool before went on a small tour visiting places such as the breakwater, Thunder Point and Tower Hill.

Thunder Point

We all had a relaxing weekend and the drive to Warrnambool from Melbourne is not as long as I imagined. It’s better than traveling the thin winding roads to Apollo Bay and Lorne. It’s a place we will all return to soon.

Me and the girls

Mike, Betty and Darryn

Rose, Janette and Thomas