Back in to the buggy

For the first time this year, we dragged ourselves to the beach in Les Hemmes, France in the early days of July. It has been a hectic spring, with moving ourselves and friends, going to Finland and such, that we actually did not manage to catch a coef before this July. My dear.

It was such a nice feeling to get a taste of the sea breeze after the hot, suffocating city air. Though the sun had turned some of our friends already into lobsters, as they were making their way into happy tipsiness. Waffle attacked our load, and built the buggies ready for the following day.

Soon enough the hippie feels of the true Les Hemmes lured Waffle too among the rest of us. Guitars were brought out. Some songs with non-printable lyrics were sang until the beer quota for the night had been dealt with. All of us headed to our own abodes to sleep for the night. The wind next day was promised to be steady and mild.

I had not been driving a buggy for 2 years, ever since my wrist broke, by a freak accident caused by unseen moment of stupidity. Partially because of the pain, partially because I am a chicken with things related to getting back to saddle. Calm steady wind was good news to me! (The scared chicken side of me did not agree).

The morning came, Waffle and I made it a late one in our extremely comfy trailer. Everybody else in their tents or cars were up well before us. We ended up exploiting the situation, since the early birds had the coffee and breakfast ready and we just hopped from bed to table. Feel slightly bad about it.

Soon enough I had to face the realities and drag my buggy onto the sand. The beach was as close to perfect as it ever gets. The water had been minding its own business down in the sea for quite a while, so the beach was dry, smooth and firm. Buggy people were understandably very excited and most of them swooshed away with the wind in nanoseconds.

The wind wasn’t too brutal. Quite some of the people were dragging out their absolute biggest sails. To me Waffle dag out the 4 meter, as I was insisting I would definitely, absolutely not drive a 5. I was fairly scared while pulling up the harness and pressing down the helmet. My hands were shaking. At that moment I knew I was not gonna chicken out, I was gonna drive.

I soon had the kite hanging up in the air, and my butt wavering over the seat of the buggy. And surprisingly I was driving. I managed to figure out the direction of the wind and was off. It was such a leap over my barrier of fear, that I broke into tears.

I was heading to the seaside, and at some point I realized there was no recollection in my head of how to turn around.  Which was kind of a problem, since I was approaching the sea at some speed.  Thankfully the nature has given us something called muscle memory, which kicked in and I managed to safe myself from drowning, and headed for the dune again. Then I still had the task to figure out stopping. I managed, I didn’t kill anyone and didn’t hit a dune. I would call that a raging success!

As I had gotten the feels for it, I kept going to do some lines just to have it sinking in, getting myself feeling secure in driving again. And of course enjoying the wind and the smooth beach. Two years it took for me to get back to this point.

It was definitely a great feeling to get back into the buggy. Such a barrier I had built between me and driving. Now the easy wind and good wide beach made me confident enough to climb over it. I was proud of myself. Waffle was proud of me, running and shouting all over the beach like a mad man. Such a happy day!

The wind was dying towards the evening so we got our excuse to leave the beach and hit the roads before traffic jams.  Monday would be a working day again so getting home at a humane hour was a good idea.






Building a Caravan – The Walls and What Goes Within

caravan, DIY, Project

Parts one and two of this project are here: #1#2

So, now we have acquired most of the stuff, so much so, that we have been able to start the actual building of this thing.

In the midway of April, with Waffle’s dad’s determined leadership the walls begun to rise. The walls obviously are the biggest and most visible part of the whole thing, and do require quite some time to get perfectly right.

We started with the outer wood structure at the front and carried on to measure and cut the sides.  The curve was calculated so, that the straight part of the wall would reach 70 cm of height, which would guarantee useful inner space as well as functional aerodynamics. To the sidewalls we got the profile of the curve simply by estimating the length of the straight part of the roof and then pending the flexible plywood between the point of 70 cm of height in the front and the ending point of the straight roof at 250 cm. Waffle had drawn sketches too, to give direction to the desired shape.

The holes for the windows were cut too. The positioning was thoroughly considered in relation to the TV and the sitting position and bed location.

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This is how we ended up with a wobbly structure of a front panel and two side walls. At this point I think it is rather acceptable to fall into despair and tell yourself that you are worthless and your great plans will never become reality.

After the sudden drop of confidence we gathered our minds and pursued our dreams again. Some screws and supporting skeletal structures later the walls stood up in a lot sturdier fashion.

Especially the curving part is well supported, since the bendable plywood is relatively skinny. There we used the skeleton studs as separators, so the space between each stud is 4,4 cm.  They are directly screwed onto the outer walls, from each end.  For the roof part, the studs stand about 25 – 30 cm apart. On top of that structure we placed another plywood, 15 mm in thickness to serve as the roof.

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The walls are studded lengthwise, again each horizontal stud is about 25 – 30 cm from another. In between them there are vertical bars to ensure stability,  the window hole is supported of course too.

At this point we needed to stop and think through the electricity installation. We needed to drill holes for all the cabling in the studs, so that the wires would be nicely hidden behind the insulation and the inner walling. Before putting in the said insulation and inner walls.

First of all there is the charge controller which regulates the power input from the solar panels on the roof to either the battery, or the appliances and lighting. We will install a set of witches for lights, and a few sockets charging batteries and for things like TV and fridge (or well, a cool box). Maybe also a main switch to cut off all the load from the system, just in case.

Followed a mission of drilling, passing wires and re-drilling and passing wires again. After that we had a mess; wires and cables running through the floor and the ceiling into walls and out of them. At that point we learned the importance of labeling, and counting.

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You see, if you don’t check which wire ends where you’ll end up with a total mess once the inner wall comes up and you can’t follow the length of the wire anymore. C’est du caca. Also you want to make sure, that all the wires that leave from the charge controller and switches, come out of the wall in the appropriate place too. Otherwise C’est encore du caca. After all the labeling and follow up on wires was done, we finally got all the mineral wool insulation (4 cm thick wool plates) in place and screwed the inner walls tight.

Getting it all right took about 4 reruns. There was every time something wrong,  wrong cables in wrong places, cables missing etc. We even noticed at the last minute, that the cables from the solar panels to the charge controller were not sufficient. You need cable made especially for solar panels.

Now we have an insulated wooden box in our hands, spewing wires out of its walls. The next steps will be mounting the interior. So structures for bed, cupboards and so on. And of course finishing the outer side of it, caulk the screw holes and seams, get the aluminium, mount the solar panels, make a door, give it a name etc. More on these things later!





Building a Caravan – Where to begin?

You should start from the bottom.

So we were sitting a while at the drawing table. Thinking out the dimensions and what kind of space we would be comfortable to live in and what would be reasonable to drag behind our car. The internal dimensions are 145 cm of height, 300 cm of length and 145 cm of width. There is a curve at the front, for the aerodynamics, so the roof length will be a little less. Pinterest has been a wonderful source of inspiration!

Simply because it is a lot easier to build your cabin to match the bottom, than the other way round, we searched for the bottom first. We looked at the secondhand market, to find a proper sized bottom of a trailer in a reasonable condition. That turned out to be a difficult task. The trailer bottoms are not usually made for home built caravans, so they are often too short, and if they happen to be long enough, they are way too wide.

After a long search we started asking quotes from companies to build a bottom for us from scratch. That was not quite as easy as you might think either. First of all, our budget does have a bottom and most of the prices offered were breaking that bottom heavily. Plus many companies only offer a certain sizes and shapes and are very limited the possibilities of alteration.

Finally we hit a jackpot. Helpo trailers near Lommel in Belgium heard our calls and invited us over to make the plans and calculations. A few weeks later we drove off with a brand new trailer bottom, made to our specific measurements (157 cm wide, inside the wheels, 310 cm long on the outer edges), with some additional bits included; an edge to bolt the walls into and a towing hook at the front, for bicycles or buggies. the whole shebang mounted up to a cost of about 1100 euros.


As we had the price for the bottom, it started to be easier to estimate the size of the complete pile of money for this project. After some research, we made an educated guess, that in the end of this our common wallet would be 3500 euros lighter. At this moment, the expenditure has been 2911 euros. With that we have acquired the following:

The walls first of all. The outer walling will be made out of 1,5 cm water resistant plywood, plus some bendable plywood at the front, to make a cool, aerodynamic curve. For inner walls we have softer 0,8 cm plywood with no water resistance. There is also the wood for the framing the whole thing (4 cm x 4 cm studs). In total the cost of the wood went up to 550 euros. Thanks to some bargains. The big plates of plywood are difficult to find in an affordable price. We also put some pennies (90 euros) to the side for the insulation, so that we can be all warm and cosy during the winter too. There is also a pair of windows (230 euros from Germany), since we kind of like the idea of being able to see outside.


Those are the big things for our project. In addition to this, we have some luxury items. Waffle wanted electricity, so electricity he’s got. We ordered flexible solar panels (2 x 100 w) from China for about 250 euros in total, plus customs over here. Belgium is heavy on import taxation for these things.

Then, to get any use out of the solar panels we needed a few additional bits. A solar cell battery for 100 Ah (180 euros). Inverters (16 + 40 euros), we’ve got two, for things with heavy usage and things that are light on electricity. And a charge controller (120 euros) to make most out of the union of our battery and the solar panels. On top of that we have a pile of lighting, leds of course (35 euros) and sockets for appliances, pile of cabling and switches (80 euros of budgeted money for these).

Again we had difficulties to find a nicely priced battery from Belgium. For that we had to look from Germany. The thing to know here, is that you cannot use acid batteries, because of the gases they produce while charging. Or you can, but then the possibility of suffocation needs to be tended to. And the apparent danger of explosion, too. We solved this issue by going for a gel battery, but there are also lithium ones available. Cabling and the smaller bits and bobs are from Belgium, all the rest from China again, but mainly products that are sold also here, just with a different price tag.

There are also already some nice fluffy things for the inside of the trailer, meaning super comfy mattresses (2 x 70 cm wide, 190 euros, from Jysk) and pillows (35 euros). All nice bargains from the Netherlands!

We are still missing a few bits. The one obvious one is the stuff that is going to make it waterproof, the coating. We have been mainly looking at two options; Titebond and cloth, which seems to be a good and cheap solution, or aluminium.

The aluminium is of course the cooler option, but it is damned difficult to find in the size we need it to be. If any of you guys know where in the area of Benelux + Germany and France you can find Aluminium alloy 3001 in at least 150 cm wide, please shout, loudly!

Next time, I hope, I can write already about the actual building of this thing!