Operation Overload – A Caravan Catastrophe!

06:00 in torrential rain. Our EVENTUAL departure for Normandy.

A Caravan Catastrophe, a Delayed Departure & some Emergency Extinguishing!

We were on the way out of the door because we had just received a phone call; “Your caravan is ready to collect from its service.”

The second phone call, ten minutes later, informed us “Your caravan is unfit to drive.”

The word ‘axle’ was mentioned, as were the words “it is your fault and not covered under warranty.”

That was the bad news. Along with “And so we are homeless!” of course!

The caravan had flooded twice, which the dealer had put down to “A One Off”!

The good news was that at least the water ingress problem had been solved.

The caravan had flooded twice when towed in the rain. The Dealer put this down to ‘A one off’ – even though it had happened twice!

It turned out that the source of the leak was a huge hole in the offside wheel box. A huge hole that Mark had spotted while lying on his back in a field but the Dealer didn’t find when they “had it up on the ramp and went over it with a fine toothcomb” at the end of last year. A huge hole caused by the tyre rubbing against the wheel box due to the axle collapsing. A problem which the Dealer told us they had never heard of before, but was nevertheless convinced was our fault as they accused us of overloading the caravan. We, who had even weighed our teaspoons!

A brief internet search highlighted a widespread axle problem that was anything but unknown. I am not going to dwell on the axle issue, since I have covered it in detail already. (See Bailey ALKO Axle Problem and Caravan Kismet – Bailey Unicorn Vigo S3 Review, Warts & All!However, as you do in these situations, we braced for the worst; a long time to fix and lots of zeros.

Never mind Europe. We had a Festival to get to!

We agreed to pay for the repair and argue about the accusations and warranty afterwards. We have heard of warranty cases dragging on for months with Bailey. Our arguments were pretty compelling, it seems. Bailey did, eventually, grudgingly agree to refund us for the parts and labour.

How far would you go to prove your innocence? Our dealer was delighted to host us for half a day as we weighed the entire contents of the caravan to prove that it was NOT overloaded!

Even so, we had to postpone our trip to Europe and lost deposits on sites that we had booked. We are also volunteers who had promised faithfully to help out at the National Watersports Festival in Rutland and were not about to go back on our word.


We had promised to help out at the National Watersports Festival. Ruby for one was not going back on her word. Here, she helps out at the Registration Desk.

Since we have let out our house to fund our travels, another consequence was a sudden plague which spread across the whole of England. A homeless couple with four dogs began buzzing around the countryside like a swarm of wasps, descending on the floors, sofas and spare rooms of unsuspecting friends and family to make their nests!

Who needs a caravan when you have a van and a two-man tent?!

We cheered ourselves up by booking another 3 months skiing in Monte Rosa and camping in the back of our van for the National Watersports Festival. Who needs a caravan when you have a van and a two-man tent?!

Rosie and Lani take homelessness in their stride!

We dined alfresco. There was only one thing missing – “Mark, where are the matches?”

Dining Al-Fresco with only one thing missing. Matches!

A Second Slice of Lancashire Life

Top Windsurf Coach Simon Bornhoft takes crowd surfing to the extreme at the NWF! (Photo credit – Daz Bristow of Rockerline Clothing)

We spread the burden of our homelessness around a bit and after the National Watersports Festival, we headed back up north to see my Dad. We took Dad out to a local café for a nice, quiet bacon butty and a brew. Dad is a very laid back man who objects to only two things in life; dogs and having his photo taken.

I do test my beloved parent. As an experiment, I once sent him a Christmas card featuring a festive picture of Rosie, wondering how he would strike a balance between dog and daughter. I visited to find the rear of the card displayed in pride of place on his mantelpiece. He had turned the picture towards the wall because it had a dog on it! Suffice to say that he was not at all chuffed at being served his coffee in a doggie mug, especially with me shoving a lens in his face as I tried to get a shot of him drinking from it!

Parental persecution – my attempts to photograph Dad drinking from a doggie mug proved futile!

No sooner had we been served our bacon butts than there was a shout of ‘FIRE!’ A Land Rover, which had just pulled up outside, was ablaze. You always think you will be cool in a crisis but everyone immediately launched into a flap – apart from the Land Rover’s lady owner, who simply went and got herself a cup of tea!


Pyrotechnics at the National Watersports Festival was not the only fun and flames that we had to deal with! This is AeroSPARX. They performed for the Queen’s 90th, you know!

I made my first ever 999 call, since nobody else had a phone and were, in any case, involved in a frenzied search for fire extinguishers. We had one in the back of the van – it is compulsory in France. We acted quickly; after we auspiciously moved our van well away from the flaming Land Rover…

“Don’t put yourselves in danger” I cried ineffectually as someone tried to extinguish the flames with a dog bowl. “Come away – she might blow…” I shouted dramatically. She didn’t. And we found an extinguisher. Then we joined the lady owner for a brew. “We’ve just come back from Coniston.” She said. “We were doing a swim tomorrow but it was cancelled. The campsite was like a river. And now this. Well, it can only get better…”

That’s the spirit! A bit of Northern optimism!

Luck is an attitude!

We soon needed to summon all my Northern optimism. We called the Dealer, who had by now had the caravan in for repairs for a month. We were expecting to collect it on Friday, so we thought that we would check to see how things were progressing. Although the work was scheduled, they told us that they didn’t even have the part! No-one had thought to chase it up. “It won’t be ready on Friday.” they told us confidently. They also told us confidently that they couldn’t tell us where the part was, when they were going to get it or when the caravan would be ready.

We had already had to delay our early June departure to the end of the month. We had left a margin as we are ‘ye of little faith’ (with good reason, it seems) but it looked like we wouldn’t be going then either.

Delighted didn’t even come close!

One is not amused! “What do you mean my caravan won’t be ready on Friday?”

G Day – GO DAY! Our Invasion of Normandy.

Sometimes a well-timed tantrum can pay dividends. The axle was found; it was couriered over; it was fitted – and we DID get Kismet back on Friday, in good time to catch our ferry to France.

And so we departed the fair shores of Blighty from Poole to Cherbourg; nearly a month late; in torrential rain; with both a new axle and a new sense of optimism that the caravan would no longer flood – and an earnest hope that in the next four months, it wouldn’t just fall apart like a clown car, somewhere in the middle of Europe…!

We were hoping earnestly that in the next four months, the caravan would not simply fall apart like a clown car, somewhere in the middle of Europe!

To read about my first ever windsurf race and other tales of the NWF, see the Windsurf section of my blog. 

Please join us next time for our Fandangles in France. We start with High Drama on the High Seas and follow up by nearly getting into a punch up with a bunch of octogenarians in Brittany!

Published by Jacqueline Lambert @WorldWideWalkies

AD (After Dogs) - We retired early to tour Europe in a caravan with four dogs. "To boldly go where no van has gone before". Since 2021, we've been at large in a 24.5-tonne self-converted ex-army truck called The Beast. BC (Before Canines) - we had adventures on every continent other than Antarctica!

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