We hadn’t planned to stay in Port Hedland, but with heavy rain it seemed a good idea to stay. We had done a few chores, running too and fro in the rain, and then having to dry out our jackets. At the shopping centre, once we had done our shopping and had lunch, I did some washing at the laundromat before we drove over to the free camping ‘compound’ as Stephen calls it, we are in a fenced area. We had a choice of places to camp and chose a spot next to an enormous 5th wheeler.
By evening the rain had eased and we took a walk to the beach and water tower. We then had a good night’s sleep.
We are still waking up at 6.00 a.m. and I find I often wake up just before the alarm, which shows my body clock is working well. As I was boiling the kettle for our cup of tea our whole electricity system went suddenly dead. Just like that, no power at all, including 12v. We decided to press on and switched on the gas and had kettle washes (no water pump or ability to use our gas heater). There are a couple of lamps in the van (no 12v, no lights of course) and we felt we could probably cope until we got home by always staying in caravan parks. Until we tried to put the step in and realised that it wouldn’t work without 12v and we didn’t know how to manually override the system.
Rescue came in the form of a man from the RAC. He couldn’t work out what the fault was, but our solar system appears to be part of it as the fuse kept tripping out. So, as a last resort to get us moving he took the steps off. He recommended an auto electrician in the town and with our steps inside the house we headed off to a caravan park for the night. The steps sat under the van overnight.
In the morning, rising early, we contact the auto electrian soon after it was open and managed to wring from Christie, the co-ordinator, a promise to have a look and see what she could do. She said she had no spare man power, but we were so grateful that we could get it looked at that we trusted her to find some sort of solution. Turns out, she really knows her stuff. The batteries normally shut themselves down before getting damaged by being totally drained. One battery was still dead after she tried to wake it up, the other is viable. She shifted it over, connected all of our 12v stuff to it, so that we have a normal 12v service for all of the applicances, lighting, etc. We won’t be able to use the inverter, but as that may have been part of the problem we are happy, so happy, that everything else works.
I asked if she knew someone who could reinstall our step. Even if we couldn’t use it we wanted to carry it outside rather than inside. She must have made a call because low and behold a knight in shining armour with a white van came along and reinstalled the step. He also plugged it into the 12v system, so we have a working step again. Our house is fairly high and the little plastic step we were using, both for getting onto the bed, and then getting into the van, was pretty inadequate, though better than nothing.
He wouldn’t allow us to pay and when Stephen went to pay for Christie’s work the bill was only $57.00. Hedland Auto Electrics gets good reviews on Google for helping out travellers, so we’ve added ours as well. We were both very stressed whilst we were having the problem, but tried to remain outwardly calm and supportive of each other. Once we were on our way our stress levels really did go down.
We hadn’t planned to stay in Karratha, but it was a good distance for us to travel after leaving the auto electricians and getting fuel, and a new wrench, in case we need to manually put up the steps in the future. Our knight (or is he Christie’s knight) showed us how to do it, which is different to the manual. Did I say that in the morning we actually found the manual for the steps.
Christie also advised us to stay in a caravan park so that the battery would get a really good charge overnight. We have our DC to DC charging working whilst we drive and that normally maintains the batteries. As our battery bank is now halved it may make it even easier for the DC to DC charger to keep it full. Of course, one 120ahr lithium battery is equivelent to two 100AGM batteries, so we actually still have plenty of power. However, having two batteries works best as that way if one fails it can be disconnected so that you are using the one that is still viable.
We are staying at a former workers camp, now caravan park, in Karratha which still has the dining room attached. For $30 a head you can enjoy a full three course buffet meal, but we opted for one $20 takeaway meal to share, which still defeated us in the end, we couldn’t eat it all. Plus it was heavy, stodgy food, more suited to workers than pensioners.
This morning I took advantage of the free washing machines to wash our towells, etc. plus a little addition clothing in another machine. There is only one dryer, but as I started early I was able to get it into the dryer. After about an hour and twenty the stuff was still damp and we’ve hung it out to do a bit more drying before we leave here.
Our next stop is Nanutarra, we are not sure if we need to plug into shore power again tonight, but we may miss out on a powered site anyway, so will just take our chances. It’s a nice place to stay near the river as you can take a walk on the bridge.