Water Torture

Guillaume is up to his old tricks. He developed a case of incontinence in France last year which we finally tracked to water trickling back out through his inlet. This led to a drop in water pressure which activated the pump every 20 minutes or so. Clearly something had broken but, in the absence of any other symptoms, early this year we had a non-return valve fitted prior to travelling to the New Forest. There we discovered that the non-return valve did not non-return; water was still trickling back out through the inlet. The pump kicked in every 20 minutes or so. We returned from the New Forest to much scratching of heads by the caravan repair men who eventually found a different type of non-return valve which did appear to non-return. Guillaume looked continent once again and appeared to be ready for France.

Having arrived at Neufchâtel-en-Bray in Normandy, it soon became apparent that all was not quite as fixed as we hoped. Though Guillaume’s inlet seemed to remain dry, his on-board water pump chattered occasionally, now about every hour, indicating that he still suffered from a drop in pressure, albeit slower. Much head scratching by Franco since the original symptom seemed to have been fixed. We lived with it.

Now in the Marais Poitevin, making up the bed one night revealed a particularly unwelcome damp sleeping bag. Somewhere under one of Guillaume’s seats, which also houses the guts of his water system, something was leaking and appeared rather more serious than the original problem. We drained down the water system, mopped up as well as we could and slept (as well as we could). In the morning, I phoned the caravan repair men and booked naughty Guillaume in for more investigation work upon our return.

I honestly didn’t fancy playing with Guillaume’s water system. The hot water tank, which was close to the problem, is a dual power system with both electrical and gas connections. I wasn’t about to attempt to take that out. However, I’m essentially an inveterate fiddler and problems irritate me. I spotted a way to bypass the hot water tank which I implemented with only one minor injury to one finger (stabbed by a screwdriver). We connected up and tried again. Damp – it obviously wasn’t the expensive, complex, dual-power hot water tank leaking. I reconnected the hot water tank and removed the non-return valve without further injury. We filled up again. Damp – it wasn’t the non-return valve or its joints leaking though water now seemed to be flowing much faster back out through the inlet. Hmm? I replaced the non-return valve and spread out various strategic bits of indicator kitchen towel as I once again refilled the water system. Eureka! The Whale Smartflo UV0814 pump itself appeared to be the source of the dampness and the problem appeared to be more serious now.

We think the working non-return valve, in maintaining the pressure in the system, put further stress on a weakness in the pump, probably as a result of frost damage from the last severe winter or two. I always suspected that a non-return device had failed in the pump since the manufacturers did not see fit to fit one upstream of it, but it now looked as though other aspects had failed.

After much thought – being on organized campsites, a lack of water system is merely inconvenient rather than a disaster – we decided to play our Caravan Club “get out of jail free” card. One of our expenses on such a trip is their Red Pennant insurance, which covers car and caravan breakdowns, and the nice folks there are attempting to ship a replacement Whale Smartflo UV0814 pump (£105 – the shipping is covered by the insurance) to our only known future location, Fanjeaux. In two weeks time, when we are due to arrive at Fanjeaux, a new pump should await us. We’ll see firstly if that arrangement works and secondly if I can fit it. If I have difficulty, the insurance should also cover fitting charges by a certified caravan repair man who, being French, would doubtless scratch his head a lot while staring at this crazy British caravan. 🙂

Ah, and to cap it all, after having jumped through relative hoops to fit four puncture proof bands to each wheel of each of our bikes during our last trip to the New Forest in March, what else did I have to do today? Quite – fix a puncture in Francine’s bike’s rear tyre.

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