Monday 18th August – Sunday 24th August
Have I mentioned that it never seems to stop raining in this place !! I thought Summers in ‘England’ were wet but the West Coast of Scotland beats England for rainfall by a mile and it just adds to our desire to get back on the road, and the ferry, to sunnier climes at the earliest opportunity.
I am not one for believing in superstitions, premonitions, or anything of that ilk but perhaps I should be ! On our journey up here, way back in April, we stayed over at the ‘Strathclyde Caravan Club’ site, one evening whilst there we decided to go to the cinema. We had not got any idea of what may have been showing and just decided to take ‘pot luck’ when we got there. Although a large multi-screen cinema complex there was little that actually took our fancy with the exception of one, a newly released version of that biblical epic ‘Noah’ !! What on earth made us decide to go to the cinema on that particular evening ? Was it purely coincidental that there was no ‘other‘ film showing that we wanted to watch ? So, if some ‘dark force’ were trying to pre-warn us of the ‘deluge’ we were to face up here then why oh why couldn’t they have just sent us the ‘Build Your Own Ark‘ self assembly kit. Mind you, being the all-knowing ‘dark force’ they would have already have been aware of my lack of DIY skills !! But had I have had some pre-warning I would have at least made sure that I would have paid less attention to my ‘extra-large bucket of salted popcorn‘ and ‘mega cup of Coca Cola‘ and more to the bits where Noah (Russell Crowe) was building his rather large boat !!
Sharon had noticed that the laminated wall below the headboard of our bed, near the bottom, was wet !! I should have viewed this as a positive, had the wetness have been in the other direction then my concern may have been more in line with “Has one of us reached that point in our lives” !! At first I thought it may have been a build up of condensation as it is getting colder and we are now having to put the heating on at night, that, and using the gas cooker, are both creating a light film of dampness on the windows. Anyway, ‘we‘ (Shazza), dried it all out and initially it seemed okay, until it rained again that was, so it seems certain that water is finding its way in from somewhere, the question is where ? The other problem is that it is difficult to do anything outside on the van in this consistently bad weather, so we are caught in a ‘catch 22‘ situation, I need to find the source of the water ingress and resolve it before it does extensive internal damage and leve us with what could potentially become a very expensive repair. However, finding the source will mean removing and inspecting externally sealed panels, or external fittings, leaving exposed cavities which is not best done when it is pouring with rain. I was silently praying for a break in the weather, unfortunately, the usual ‘BBC work of fiction‘ was for once getting the forecast right, it now appears to only be accurate when it forecasts ‘bad’ weather !
I thought that I had got a lucky break as we commenced our one and a half days off, although it had been raining most of the morning, late in the afternoon it dried up. Shazza went into ‘Kyle’ to do some shopping and I remained behind to start looking for the point at which the water was making its ingress. Now for the regular followers of my blog, and I mean those that have been following since the very beginning, you will already know that I am not exactly the worlds best at this DIY stuff, but I am learning, I have only just discovered that there is no such thing as a left-handed screwdriver !! Not that I would ever need one of course as I am right-handed, but it’s all good stuff to know……..isn’t it ? Perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, since being ‘on the road’ I have had some notable DIY success, I of course refer to my prowess in fitting a new water pump whilst in Spain during the return leg of our first winter trip. I may be somewhat of a slow learner but that is because I am methodical and spend a great deal of time contemplating the job ahead before taking any physical action, although to be brutally honest it may actually be more in the hope that by the time I actually have to get around to trying to fix these problems that they might just have somehow magically remedied themselves !!
This was not going to be the case this time though, so after much thought I had worked out that there were ‘three‘ potential areas where the water was coming in. The first was the spare wheel, this was mounted on the rear wall of ‘Big Momma’ and perhaps water was getting in behind the spare wheel cover and then running along the large retaining bolt and somehow getting into and behind the wall panel behind the bed. Second was the mountings from the rear cycle carrier, there were four separate mounting points with eight mounting bolts, each of which came in through the rear panelling behind the bed. The third and last possibility was the roof, there was a seam on the roof towards the back of the van, water could be getting in somewhere along this seam and running down the back wall and gathering in the lowest point behind the panelling behind the bed. I was hoping it would be the first option as this would be the easiest place to access and the easiest problem to rectify.
I had just unlocked and removed the wheel cover, unbolted the retaining lever which hold the spare wheel in place and removed the rather large spare wheel when the heavens opened again, and boy did they open and I was left scurrying to get stuff under cover. Dripping wet, head to toe, I took refuge inside ‘Big Momma’ and consoled myself with a hot mug of coffee until this latest deluge had ceased. Returning to the job in hand I discovered that whilst I cleaned the outside of the van, I had never actually ever taken off the rear wheel cover before, you can imagine the dirt I discovered !! Okay, I admit that at this point I got a little sidetracked and spent the next twenty minutes, ‘or so‘, cleaning it. However, sometimes little distractions like this can turn out to be a useful exercise, not only was it now nice and clean but whilst washing and drying it I realised that the large mounting bolt, which I had thought may have been where the water was running along and into the van, only went into the ‘garage’ and did actually permeate through to the inner wall of the bedroom panelling. I had just finished putting it all back together when the next deluge of water arrived, so yet another hasty retreat inside the van. At the next opportunity I returned outside and focused my attention on the four mounting brackets that concealed the bolts that held the cycle carrier onto the rear wall of ‘Big Momma’. Now all four mounting points were drilled above the garage and these did permeate the inner panelling of the van, the bottom two being at the same height as the wet inner back wall, it was one of those ‘lightbulb coming on‘ moments !! The plastic outer covers that concealed the bolts appeared, upon first inspection, to be firmly affixed, however, I could see no evidence of their being any type of rubber seal or any ‘silicone’ filler to form a seal between them and the van wall, furthermore, where the aluminium frame of the bicycle rack fitted into these plastic mounting covers, there appeared to be a slight gap, enough perhaps to allow water to seep in, run down the bolts to the inner panelling. So my logical thought process was that either water was seeping in through a small gap where there was no seal between the plastic cover and the van wall or that water was running down the aluminium bars and in through the gap. I needed to slacken off the bolts from the inside of the van, behind the bed headboards, in order to allow some movement on the rear covers which would enable me to insert some sticky mastic strip and fill the gap, then I could re-tighten all the bolts to form a water tight seal. It was a time-consuming exercise but eventually I succeeded, just prior to the next deluge, this was becoming tiresome. The rain had ‘stopped play‘ and so I had not been able to fill the gaps where the aluminium frame entered the covers.
By this time Shazza had returned from her shopping trip and gave me the news that there had been no rain whatsoever in ‘Kyle’ !! But here, it just continued to rain and rain and rain so that ended any further work or exploratory missions up on the roof, at least for today. Shazza dried off more excess water and I hoped and prayed that I had found the problem but more importantly that I had resolved it and that in the morning we would not awaken to another wet wall or an unwanted luxury accessory, namely a water-bed !!
We awoke to rain yet again, Shazza felt behind the bed and declared……………..’It’s wet again‘ !! Fortunately the rain had ceased and so I took the opportunity of the break in the weather to get on the roof and check out that ‘seam’. All of the screws holding the two panels together were tight and the sealant, although dis-coloured, didn’t look cracked or show any evidence of where water could be permeating it. However, after drying off the excess water from the mornings deluge, I used a new roll of mastic to fit flush against the seam, and the existing mastic, then covered it with ‘clear webbed Duck Tape’, if water had been seeping in from this area then this should temporarily prevent any further ingress. It was only a temporary solution, or at least I had hoped that one of these ‘temporary’ repairs was the solution as I was still unsure of where the actual water ingress was coming from, however, now only time, and the next rainfall, would tell. I needed to purchase some ‘silicone’ and re-seal the whole lot but I also needed an extended period of dry weather to allow me the time to remove the old sealant, apply the new sealant, smooth it off so that it was a tidy finish, but that particular job may have to wait until we got to some extended warmer climes !!
We both now needed to get off site, after today our next period of time off would not be for another four days and then that would be just a half day, and if the weather was still bad then we probably would be reluctant to leave the van, so with a dry spell now upon us we needed to make the most of it. Our first stop would be at the ‘Marine Store’ in ‘Kyle’ to pick up some ‘flexible silicone sealant’. I had never actually done any re-sealing before so had no knowledge of what to do, fortunately, when I explained what I needed the Silicone for, the nice helpful chap in the store showed me what he had in stock and suggested ‘Plumbers Gold’. Not only was this flexible when applied and waterproof, but it could even be applied under water, which if this weather continued may actually be a distinct possibility, thank goodness I have still got my wet suit, flippers and snorkel !! Reading the instructions on the container I saw that I needed a plastic spatula for the smoothing down process, after it had been applied. Fortunately, the store also sold such spatulas and whilst adding that to my shopping basket I also saw a handy tool for removing old sealant, that went into the basket as well !! I may not have a great deal of DIY knowledge or experience but armed with the right materials I am prepared to give things a go, if I get it wrong then I will do it again until I get it right, which is fine when it is your own property, as there is no pressure, but quite a different story when you are dealing with someone else’s property, unless you are of course one of those ‘rogue traders‘ that we see all to often these days on the TV, these people have no morals or conscience and are generally making a fortune out of ‘botching’ things up !! Mmmmm ! On the other hand, perhaps it is me that has been making the wrong career path choices, I may just have the required level of DIY ‘skill sets’ !!
We had no real plan of what to do or where to go next so we just decided to drive towards Loch Carron and then up to Loch Torridon to take in the views and then before returning to the site, find a nice place to stop and eat. As is normal the scenery here in the Highlands is both stunning and even breathtaking so here are a few of the views we experienced………………
It had been a long day, Shazza’s benevolent side came out, yet again ! She saw two hitch-hikers, a young female and elderly male, both were carrying rather large rucksacks, we assumed Father and Daughter, so she decided to stop and offer them a lift if they were headed in our direction of travel, which of course they were. We travelled for about ten miles before dropping them off at some small village, all we discovered about them during the journey was that they were from Germany and were on a two-week walking holiday, although, as I reminded Shazza, they could of course have been blood thirsty killers or escapees from a mental institution !!
We were both beginning to feel tired and hungry, we had been hoping to find a country pub or similar where we could stop and get a nice meal but we were not coming across anything and just as it was looking as if it would be another Fish & Chip supper, as we were heading along the Southern shore of Loch Carron, we saw a sign that advertised the ‘Carron Restaurant‘, there it was, out in the middle of nowhere, so we decided to stop and take a look at what was on the menu. I did just happen to mention to Shazza that if the place was full of Hitch Hiking Germans with steely eyed glares that we would probably be best giving it a miss !! However, upon entering the premises it looked quite homely, there were two other couples already seated but they didn’t look like Hitch Hiking Germans with steely eyed glares and although the menu was not extensive, all the produce was advertised as being obtained locally, both the Fish and Meat. We sat down at a table near the window, the early evening sunshine was warming and we had a wonderful view over Loch Carron. Shazza ordered a ‘platter of Salmon’ as a starter whilst being the carnivore that I am, I settled on a local mixed ‘Meat Platter’ of Beef, Venison and Duck. We both decided on a ‘Angus Highland Beef’ Sirloin Steak for our Main Course and ordered it Medium Rare. Oh my goodness ! I can honestly say that in the fifteen weeks that we have been here that this has to be the best meal that we have eaten out, not just because we were so hungry or the service was excellent or that our steaks were cooked to perfection or that there were no steely eyed German Hitch Hikers, but the flavour of all of the fresh locally sourced produce we had eaten was magnificent, we shall certainly be recommending this establishment to our campsite ‘guests’.
We finished Week Sixteen the way it had started, Wet ! Outside the van and inside !! I have sealed all the obvious areas and during the periods when it is not raining the laminated panelling feels damp but not wet, however, when it rains again the panelling feels wet so it is still getting in somewhere, but the question is where ? There is little else that I can do except pray for an extended period of dry warm weather.
My prayers seem to have been answered as on Saturday evening the sun made an appearance ! We had a rare dry night and when we awoke on Sunday morning it was still dry, there was a bit of a ‘bite’ in the air and it certainly was feeling ‘Autumnal’ albeit that it is still only August, but we are in the Highlands of Scotland I guess and this far North they are already talking about frosts on the way !! The sun was just peeping its face over the top of the mountain that sits behind us and its early morning rays were pleasantly warming. The BBC ‘work of fiction’ has forecast that we are in for a short period of dry sunny weather, let’s hope they finally get it right. I note that the rather inclement weather has drifted South of the border and I was tempted to offer on eBay a part-built ‘Ark’ at a bargain price !! However, it would appear that it will only be short respite for us so I have decided not to ‘Float’ ‘Eric’s Ark’ on the open markets just yet !!
Well, days to do are getting few, as they say, just Twelve to be precise, and only Eight and a half of them are working days so I guess this part of ‘Big Mommas Great Adventure’ is coming to its conclusion………………….