Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Blaupunkt BP 2.0 FHD Digital Dash Cam.

With the ever increasing threat of becoming a victim of a "crash for cash" insurance scam, I have now installed one of these little units. A sample of the footage taken yesterday, a wet and dismal day in June here in sunny UK is here....

The roundabout seen in this footage is one of the most notorious "crash for cash" insurance fraud sites in the UK. Two vehicles working together position themselves, one in front, one behind your own vehicle. The front car then brakes sharply for no apparent reason, causing a collision, after which a fraudulent and extortionate insurance claim is made against your insurer, with the driver of the other vehicle acting as "witness". At this roundabout the usual MO is this. The lead car sets off with a clear exit, and then just stops dead in the road, causing the target vehicle to hit the back of him. With usually just one occupant, claims are submitted for a car full of people with injuries, as well as other false claims, which is where the evidence from a camera comes in handy.

I bought my camera online from Deemon Tweeks as they were also offering a 16gb micro sd card included in the price. I paid a total of £83 which included premium next day delivery and VAT.

The unit is very easy to install. It is plug and play, with a very easy set-up. It has its own self contained battery, which can be charged from a continuous supply from the vehicle's cigar lighter socket, or from a USB device using the leads supplied.

It can be set to record in various resolutions right up to full HD, with or without sound, and is fitted with an adjustable "G-sensor" which, in the event of a collision would protect the footage from immediately before the event from over recording.

It can also be set to take footage in 30 second, 1 minute, or 2 minute files, storing them on the sd card until it is full, after which it will over record starting from the earliest footage. It can also be set to record permanently until the card is full, so can be used to record scenic journeys for your own pleasure. If the unit is left plugged into the vehicle's power supply, it will start to record every time the ignition is turned on, and then revert to standby at the end of the journey.

Once its own battery is charged up, and the unit is in standby, a motion detector can be set, so the camera starts to record in the event of movement detected in front of it, so also has a use as a CCTV security camera, recording any suspicious activity around the vehicle, before the vehicle alarm is activated.

Finally, the camera can be un-clipped from its mounting and used as a still camera, to perhaps record damage and vehicle positions after a collision.

These cameras have now been widely accepted for use in the UK, and Police now even appeal for footage from them from witnesses to serious incidents. However, mainland Europe has not yet grasped the importance of them, and I believe Spain for example, having now more or less accepted the use of satellite navigation units, have not yet accepted the use of dash cams quoting the possible distraction to the driver from the screen display. This little unit from Blaupunkt has the ability to turn off the screen display, and I have also mounted mine on the passenger side of the windscreen, with the display pointing away from me, the driver, towards the centre of the screen. This is the position the above footage was taken from yesterday.

All in all a high quality piece of equipment, and highly recommended.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

European Tour Planning.

The time for us to go European Touring is fast approaching and planning for that has now started. There is much to consider with an extended trip in any motor camping van, and much of it revolves around weight, with a very limited payload - what to take, what not to take.

Recently my thoughts have been around the spare wheel. Rapido like most manufacturers these days, do not provide a spare wheel as original equipment. Ours happened to come with one, bought as an optional extra when new, and is secured out of the way on the internal wall of the "garage". We also have the original method that is provided to deal with emergency tyre issues - foam sealant and a 12V compressor. My thoughts recently have been whether to obtain the jack and tools to allow a DIY wheel change at the roadside - although I don't think I am capable any more due to age, and they would add even more weight. Next, remove the spare altogether and rely on our roadside recovery service and / or the foam sealant, adding to the available payload as a result for other essential items. Lastly, retain the wheel and tyre as we have in the past, and travel with that to be available to the roadside recovery people to use in the event of a total blowout, (fingers crossed that never happens).

Next, and this is something I have acted on already. Hopefully we will be spending a lot of time in a very warm climate while those at home in the UK will be enduring the British Autumn into Winter. That brought me to thinking about Al-fresco cooking, to make the most of the outdoor life as well as minimising cooking odours from long term living in such a confined space.

Our Rapido is equipped with a remote BBQ gas point which would allow outside cooking to take place without effort, while utilising the on board gas supply of the van. First, I obtained a "Bullfinch" gas connector that would allow whatever cooker we chose to be plugged into the outside of the van.

I then looked at the usual gas BBQ offerings from the likes of Cadac, and although very practical, I discounted a BBQ due to the way they become heavily soiled very quickly, making washing up something of a chore, as well as their limited use for any other cooking method except BBQ.

After much deliberation at our local Go Outdoors Store we chose a two burner portable stove from CampingGaz. We opted for the version without the toaster, as we will be connected to site mains electricity, and have an electric toaster in any case. Used with propane these are much more efficient than if used with the Camping Gaz. They are designed to be used with either, providing the relevant regulator is used in the supply line. This particular model is currently in the "Blue Cross" sale at the store which gives an additional 20% discount off its price.

We discovered that a non stick grill plate accessory was also available that would also provide the BBQ experience while using the stove. This is a clever little plate that sits on one of the stove's burners. It is in two parts - a slightly domed non stick plate that the food is cooked on, allowing the juices to flow into the water filled "moat" within the base which is designed to both minimise cleaning as well as stabilising the flammable liquids from the flame of the burner.

The total weight of this equipment, which we have decided we would like to take with us is 6kg, made much less by the fact we don't need to carry an additional gas bottle to use it.

Our next thoughts lie around food and drink. The first half of our "tour" will be to travel directly to Southern Spain to remain there for the onset of Winter, travelling back the long way round after Easter 2016. The average temperatures in this area remain in the mid to late twenties right until December, with little rainfall. Soft drinks, wine, beer and tinned food all consume significant weight from our payload allowance. I have now decided we will travel light with just the bare essentials to our destination, and once there do a "big shop" locally.

None of this has to be considered when narrowboating.