Author Archives: Dave

Ready for canvas

IMG_3374We were supposed to be having the canvas fitted for the trailer “soft top” tomorrow, unfortunately they’ve had to postpone due to “production issues” but the frame is ready to go at least.

For the first time today, we had the chance to open the tent out and check that everything works as expected regarding the drop of the living area to the floor etc… It’s a lot bigger than I’d thought, the living area is bigger than I expected and with the addition of the multi room it’s going to be very spacious. Obviously, on the tarmac, we couldn’t extend the two porches out which give a very large covered area.

The batteries have arrived and parts of the mains hookup so plenty to get on with while we wait for the canvas to be ready.

Bars and tent first fit

IMG_2534Dom at Maddison 4×4 managed to convert my CAD drawings into reality and now the Howling Moon trailer tent has finally arrived from South Africa the “first fit” can be started.

It all seems to work and the height measurement matches the recommended height on the HM web site.

We’re booked into the canvas designer/manufacturer for a measure and design session towards the end of February with a fitting date toward the end of March/beginning of April.

The reversing solenoid arrived from the US this week and I need to source some adaptors to allow it to be plumbed into the brake circuit between the master cylinder and T block.

The weather has been bloody awful this winter and, as a result, progress has been slow with what seems like 3-4 months of constant rain. We’ve not opened the tent out, even on the drive, because it will get wet and we’ll have no chance of drying it out afterwards.

Sankey, the big plan !

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CAD design of the support structure and tent on top of the Sankey.

The Sankey should make a really good basis for our overland/camping trailer. The intention is that, after using it last year for extra storage space on a number of UK camping trips, for next year we will turn it into a standalone camping unit.

Rather than mounting our roof tent on top of the Sankey we decided to go for the trailer tent offering from the same manufacturer, Howling Moon. After living in the Roof Top Tent for 5 months without any issues we know it’s a quality product and, unlike RTTs there aren’t anywhere near as many manufacturers making dedicated trailer mounting tents.

The design of the tent means that the sleeping area (our bed) has to be a specific distance above the floor to give a clean drop to the floor. This is significantly higher than the top if the Sankey tub so the first task was to figure out a way of supporting the tent at the correct height. To help figure out how it would go together and help visualise it I started off with a CAD package to come up with a design. The tent needs to be offset to the Offside of the trailer as it drops down vertically to the ground at that side when opened.

The supporting bars will be covered with a custom made canvas to give a large covered area in the trailer with access panels through both sides and the back.

The fridge that used to live in the back of the 90 will now live in the trailer and the trailer will have it’s own 12v batteries. The trailer will also have electric hookup, allowing the batteries to be charged from the mains as well as providing mains sockets for other items when mains is available.

An automatic changeover on the 12v electrics will allow the fridge to be powered from the 90 auxiliary battery when it’s connected and has a suitable voltage level. This will allow us to extend the life of the trailer batteries as the 90 will charge up it’s auxiliary battery during day trips away form the camp site.

Our trips last year showed one failing of the Sankey – the lack of auto reverse brakes. The brakes themselves are so good that when reversing up the slightest incline the trailer stops the 90 in it’s tracks as the overrun brakes engage. The manual override for this works OK as long as you remember to put it in before you start reversing ! To resolve this I’ll be using a solenoid in the brake line, connected to the reversing lights. That should give a really effective auto reverse.

If we can get this completed for the camping season next year we’ll try it out on a few “local” UK trips before starting to make plans for any trips further afield.

The next steps…

Collecting the Sankey trailer October 2014

Collecting the Sankey trailer October 2014

It’s been a while since we’ve updated the blog. Since returning to the UK we’ve been trying to recuperate our finances somewhat and started planning and preparation for some future trips.

The addition to our household of, not one, but two Border Collies has pretty much destroyed the practical aspects of our overland camping setup. The rear of the 90 is now pretty much filled entirely by 2 dogs and their crates and so we’ve had to have a rethink.

To help carry all the “stuff” that we carried in the rear of the 90 on our trip around Australia we ended up purchasing a Sankey trailer. These were designed by the UK armed forces to tow behind Land Rover Defender 90s and, as a result, are designed to go anywhere a Defender can both on road and off. The geometry of the trailer and hitch is such that the trailer wheels follow precisely in the tracks of the two vehicle’s rear wheels, making it a pleasure to tow.

We’ve had a few trips out now with the Sankey, the roof tent and the dogs and all in all it’s been a success but for extended stays especially, the lack of mobility when the roof tent is deployed led us to embark on a new project… turn the Sankey into a self contained camping trailer.

The wanderer returns

Ready to pick upToday marks the end of our Australian adventure proper as we drove down to Suffolk to collect the 90 from the shipping agent.

All was present and correct when we arrived, it felt strange to be reunited with it after all this time. I didn’t completely bolt the roof tent on as it takes a while to do up the rearmost nuts and bolts. To save time we just bolted the front two mounts and used a ratchet strap at the back.

After half an hour of tinkering and checking it over we headed north for the final leg of the journey home. As expected we got home without a hitch, kind of an anti-climax really but it’s nice to have the 90 back home.

Back home and safe in the driveWe can now start planning our next adventure although we’ll need to make some changes to our setup now as we’ve bought a puppy since returning from Australia and now we need to figure out a way of making room in the back for a dog !

The 90 needs some TLC, on the whole it survived the trip well but the front diff is getting noisier and will need rebuilding. I suspect the constant hammering it took in the Simpson Desert has taken it’s toll.

Back on home soil

The container (and hopefully the 90 inside it !) has now arrived back in the UK 🙂

The carnet has gone back to the RAC so we should get some money back and we are going down to the shipping company on Friday to collect it – can’t wait to have it back again.

The Java Sea – Jakarta

We have the tracking info for the container now. It left Sydney on July 13th and has been to Melbourne and then Adelaide and is now well on it’s way to Singapore where it will be transferred to another ship for the journey to the UK. It’s due to arrive in Felixstowe on August 31st.

The Journey Home

Roof tent off, ready to go in the container

Roof tent off, ready to go in the container

This morning pretty much went to plan. Thankfully there wasn’t any dew so the tent was nice and dry when we packed it away for the final time of the trip.
We drove across to the shipping agents at Botany Bay to drop the Land Rover off. Once there I finished off unbolting the roof tent and with the aid of a fork lift the tent was soon off and into the bonded warehouse.
With that done and the Carnet de Passage handed over it was time to say our fond farewells to the Land Rover after making sure that the battery isolator instructions were in place so with any luck the battery will be good to go when we see it again.

Our transport home awaits...

Our transport home awaits…

With everything sorted we grabbed a taxi to the airport to begin the long flight home. The Land Rover will take the slower route in it’s container and while we’ll arrive home on Tuesday morning the Land Rover won’t get back to the UK until the end of August.

Lane Cove – packing day

Emptying the Land Rover prior to packing it ready for shipping.

Emptying the Land Rover prior to packing it ready for shipping.

Our last full day before we fly out and we needed to get everything prepared for us and the Land Rover for our journeys home.
We needed to sort out what we are going to take home ourselves, in hand luggage and hold luggage, and make sure the process of dropping off the Land Rover at the shipping agents goes as smoothly as possible tomorrow.
We started by emptying nearly everything out of the back of the Land Rover and I emptied all the spares and stuff that we’d put inside the spare tyre on the roof. It’s amazing how much stuff you can fit inside a tyre ! The tyre and roof tent both have to be removed and put on a palette when we get to the agent’s tomorrow.
The roof tent is only held on by four nuts and bolts but the back two are a real pain to get to and can take the best part of an hour to undo as they are underneath the tent and roll cage. As a way to save messing around tomorrow I removed the back two nuts today so only the two front ones need to be undone to get the tent off.
We managed to get everything sorted in the end and as I write this now we’re pretty much ready to go barring the bits we need for the morning. Hopefully there won’t be a heavy dew in the morning as we want the tent as dry as possible when we fold it up.
So tomorrow we head to Botany Bay to drop the Land Rover off, get it ready and sort out the paperwork. We’ll then get a taxi to the airport and begin our journey home. The Land Rover should arrive back in the UK sometime around the end of August when we’ll go and collect it and probably spend a night somewhere on our way home.
It has been an amazing adventure and I hope that it won’t be our last visit to Australia. Once we’ve had time to get back to normal for a while we’ll start planning our next trip, probably a bit closer to home – Scandinavia, Southern Europe, North Africa, Eastern Europe, who knows where we’ll end up on our next adventure. If we come to Australia again it’ll probably be for a much shorter visit so we’ll hire or borrow a vehicle and try and fill in some of the gaps we left in our personal map of the country. Having said that, I have nearly 4000 pictures from this trip to sort through first !

Lane Cove

Palm Beach

Palm Beach

Our first destination today was a visit to Palm Beach, somewhere we’ve visited every time we’ve come to Australia since stumbling across it by accident the first time we came.
It’s a beautiful spot with a beach either side of the thin peninsula. It’s probably most widely known as the location of Summer Bay in the Home and Away TV soap opera. Every time we’ve been it seems that it’s been developed a bit more and the free parking seems to have gone now too. I guess that’s a sign of it’s popularity.

Our final camp site of the adventure.

Our final camp site of the adventure.

In one of those strange “small world” coincidences, we got talking to a couple who asked us about the Land Rover when we returned to it. We’ve had many such conversations throughout the trip so that wasn’t unusual. As we related our route around Australia he said his brother had crossed the Simpson Desert recently too. Anyway, to cut a long story short, it turns out he’s Mal’s brother !

A view of the river at Lane Cove

A view of the river at Lane Cove

From Palm Beach we headed south again into North Narrabeen to say our fairwells to Mal before heading across the city to Lane Cove National Park where we’ll spend the last two nights of our trip.
It’s a strange mix of feelings at the moment as we don’t want to leave Australia and end the trip but on the other hand we want to go home. As we set up camp for the last time, that too becomes another nail in the coffin for this particular trip. Another in a long list of things that have been part of our life for the last 4 months that we won’t be doing again.

Kookaburras are always a delight to watch and sometimes to hear... Although they can get a bit loud !

Kookaburras are always a delight to watch and sometimes to hear… Although they can get a bit loud !

We went for a walk down to the river from the camp site along the bush walking trail and that helped a bit. The antics of a Kookaburra kept us amused for a while and that too served as a reminder of something else we’ll miss. It has been an amazing adventure and the reality of it coming to an end and returning to normality is a bit depressing right now.
Tomorrow we’ll probably spend a good part of the day emptying and then repacking the Land Rover. We’ll need to decide what we’re taking home in our bags and what is returning in the container. We’ll probably have time to go for another walk though.