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Travel trailer power inverter setup for boondocking and dispersed RV camping

All over the internet you will find articles, and reviews about RV’s and power inverters. If you are searching for an inverter it can become quite confusing, and very expensive depending on your setup. To determine what size inverter you will need in watts is a simple multiplication formula, amps times volts. Our Keystone is a 30 amp, so 30 amps x 120 volts = 3,600 watts. Plugged into a 30 amp power outlet we can run all normal AC appliances such as the TV, refrigerator, hot water heater, dehumidifier, lap top, and a few plug in air fresheners. If the air conditioner is running we have to turn off the hot water to run the microwave, toaster oven, or coffee pot otherwise if the hot water kicks on it may, and has tripped the main breaker.

We chose a 3000 watt inverter manufactured by SUNGOLDPOWER. We excluded the air conditioner, obviously we don’t have enough batteries, or solar to run it. We also excluded the electric hot water, and refrigerator, anytime we are running off our inverter these are switched over to run on propane. We sized our inverter based on a normal small appliance load, plus being able to run the microwave and coffee pot (sometimes you forget your not in a house and try to run multiple appliances with no second though). We settled on a 3000 watt inverter, playing with the amps times volts formula to figure that’s a 25 amp output on the 120 volt side of the inverter, slightly under what our Passports AC electrical system is designed for. We could have gotten a smaller inverter but many installations with smaller inverters also require, separate transfer switches, battery chargers, MPPT solar controllers, multiple wiring connections, switches, and circuit protectors. We went with a fully self contained grid tie inverter capable of 25 amps AC output, 90 amps of DC battery charging, 60 amps of MPPT solar charging, and switching from grid to invert mode automatically with no disruption to the power supply. This thing is a beast, it weighs 79 pounds and pulls 12 amps DC with no load other than the internal electronics. If it was loaded to the 3000 watt rating it would pull roughly 250 DC amps, and that’s what we fused it for on the battery terminal, although we may step up to a 300 amp terminal fuse to give a little wiggle room and not blow the fuse now that we have replace the deep cycle lead acid batteries with battle born LiFePO4 lithium deep cycle batteries.

This is not a boondocking friendly inverter if you are just looking at the amp draw without a load, to reduce our DC power usage when large AC appliances are not in use we installed a Wagan 400 watt pure sine wave power inverter, and a (DPDT) double pole double throw relay. This inverter powers the small appliances like the TV, dehumidifier, and plug in air fresheners with no problem and only uses about 7 DC amps to do it.

The circuitry goes like this, 120 volts is supplied to the factory 30 amp shore plug, either by an electrical grid power source, or our 3100 watt champion generator. This wire was disconnected from the factory WFCO converter main breaker, it was ran up to the underbay where our inverter is mounted and terminated to the input breaker of the inverter. The 120 volts then comes through the inverters transfer switch either as line voltage or inverter voltage, goes out the output breaker to the DPDT relay, activates the 120 volt coil closing the normally open contacts and sending the 120 volts back to the WFCO converter panels main breaker and powers all outlets in our travel trailer. If we are boondocking then the big inverter stays in standby mode, the DPDT relay is in the normally closed position and the smaller 400 watt inverter supplies 120 volts to the WFCO main breaker. From the factory the WFCO power converter charger was sharing a breaker with the TV, we installed it on a separate breaker and keep it turned off. You do not want the converter powered from the batteries, this causes a loop loss and will drain your batteries for no reason.

We purchased the Renogy 200 watt solar kit with the standard wanderer controller. The panels were great but the controller not so much so we knew we would probably want to upgrade it in the future. The MPPT charge controller built into our inverter allows us to expand up to 1200 watts worth of solar panels, we have added a plug so we can hook our 100 watt Renogy suitcase panel up to provide a total of 300 watts of solar power. In full sun conditions we will get 15 amps charge from our three panels, during the day when we are out and about not using much power this will recharge our batteries no problem. With the 90 amp charger that is built into our inverter we can fully recharge dead batteries in about two hours, that greatly reduces generator usage in the event we use a lot of power due to cloudy days or just using more power for things. With the WFCO converter from the factory we had to run the generator for about eight hours and still did not get a full recharge on our lead acid batteries.

We wired our inverter with 0000 gauge welding cable, the reason we used such a large wire was voltage drop. 12 volt DC is prone to voltage loss, with our wiring being so large and under five feet we have less than one volt of voltage drop. This is important with recharging the batteries quickly and the inverter getting the power output from the batteries it needs running large loads like the microwave.

Our set up does have one minor quirk, and we have not yet decided on an action plan yet. if we are plugged in, such as when we stay in a campground with hook ups with the air conditioner running, if the pedestal looses power the inverter will swap over to invert mode and the 250 amp DC fuse will blow. This is good otherwise the air conditioner would drain our batteries dead in minutes. Right now when using full hook ups we keep the 3000 watt inverter on standby, line voltage priority, it shuts down when shore power is not available and our camper loses the 120 volts. We keep the 400 watt inverter manually turned off when hooked up. We have considered installing another breaker panel just for items like the air conditioner, and hot water to only have power when shore power is available. We feel this would be going overboard, it would be fairly simple to do but the need considering it’s a rarity does not justify the time or the cost. We keep the refrigerator on auto so if 120 volts is lost it will swap to propane, everything else loosing power for awhile if we are away is not a big deal, we can always reset the microwave clock when the power is back on.

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Lighthouse Pier

It’s been a topsy turvey year. So many things going to and many places were closed. Since hubs went on the Appalachian Trail in April, I’ve been busy working on his videos on our YouTube channel (Southeastern RV Living and Appalachian Trail Hiking), and haven’t been writing as much for the blog. Forgive me for that. I’m hoping now that we’re in Phase 3 of reopening here in Florida that I can venture out a little more between videos and write about it.

Today’s little excursion is directly across from my favorite lighthouse in St. Augustine. I never noticed it before this day of riding around. I had seen the beautiful water oaks across from the lighthouse parking lot, but without driving (or walking/biking) over there, you’d never notice the pier.

Across from the lighthouse parking lot, among the trees, are picnic tables spaced far enough apart to not even hear other’s lunch conversations. On this day, one family hung their hammocks up in the large branches of one of the trees.

Behind these beautiful trees is a small parking lot next to the Yacht Club that appears to have been closed awhile. Directly in from if the Club is the Lighthouse Pier and Intracoastal waterway (and smallboat ramp). It’s not a very large pier, and at high tide, there’s no sand spot to walk on. But, it’s a public fishing spot and at low tide, you can see oyster shells galore and hermit crabs all over the place.

It may not be a large spot, but it’s tucked away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. It’s a beautiful place to picnic and gaze across the water at lots of water fowl. If you’re in St Augustine and just want a quiet place to read or relax after climbing the lighthouse, this is a great place.

Intracoastal Waterway

The Intracostal Waterway is unique to Florida, traveling for some 430+ miles from Key West to the Georgia border. It’s a man made canal that allows travel between fresh water rivers and the ocean. The water level fluctuates with the tides. It’s home to an array of species, including such birds as herons and pelicans, and many kinds of fresh and saltwater mixed aquatic animals and fish.

Here on Anastasia Island, the Intracoastal forms a border for the island, along with the  Atlantic Ocean and the Matanzas (some call it Matanzas River, some call it the Inlet; Inlet is a good description, as it intermingles with the Intracoastal). There are several Parks along the Intracoastal, each one providing a different view and different water depths. Most parks are split by Highway A1A, so you get the best of both the beach on one side, and the Intracoastal on the other side. Some are county parks that a free, and some are state parks with a small fee per vehicle. Some also have places to came, either on the Intracoastal side or beachside, or both. No matter where you are on the Intracoastal, you will not be disappointed at the beauty of it and its surroundings,

20200301_141133We have been to several Intracoastal Parks, but this one in particular is actually named Intracoastal Park. We went to the beach side and the Intracoastal side. It was low tide and we could see Fort Mantazas across the marsh grass. Some people have attempted to walk through the marsh to the Fort, but the Rangers frown upon this and it’s not a very good idea. The wet sand in the marsh, although it looks dry, can be like quicksand. Also, if you’re out there when the tide starts coming in, depending on the weather, the tide may come in faster than expected. There is a free ferry that will take you to the fort from the river side. (Covid has affected this, so check out their schedule before going).

20200301_164622We spotted lots of wildlife, including the famous egret and gopher tortoise. When you visit either side of these parks, please be sure you throw all your trash in the proper trash bins or take it back out with you. These animals depend on the environment to keep them safe and trash can harm these gentle creatures. Many of you may have seen gopher holes on the beach and not known what critter made its’ home there. A little tip to tell the difference in the holes is the larger ones are usual the tortoise, and the smaller ones are probable for either rabbits or mice.

20200301_14573320200518_19411320200518_19564920200518_19440320200301_16452520200301_151335 I’m sorry that it’s been a while since I’ve been able to post to the blog, due to hubs being on the AT, it’s been hard to do his videos on YouTube and post things to our blog too. For those following both, we greatly appreciate it. I am going to try to post more to our blog coming up when I’m able to venture out to some of the more open spaces without too many people. Everyone stay safe during this pandemic and we’ll all be traveling RVers again very soon!

We recommend checking out the Intracoastal and its many parks along the way. It’s an experience worth repeating too!

Betty Steflik Preserve/Black Creek

When we think of Jacksonville, we usually think of 2 things. We either picture thee beaches, or we think about the horrible traffic downtown on I-95. But, Jacksonville has another side. Tucked away from the hustle of town or the crowds at the beach, are hidden gems. State and county parks are among these.

One in particular is a quaint little preserve on a small island just outside the city. When you drive out there, you forget all about town. There’s a small parking area and some picnic tables as you enter this park. It’s full of biking and walking trails. It’s a nice shady place to ride your bike or take a stroll.

The best part is Black Creek. You walk down one of the trails and it opens up to a nice sturdy bench with a front row seat of this beautiful body of water.

The trails are suitable for walking and bike riding.

Some trails are trails are listed as mountain bike trails. Go ahead and chuckle, but they are narrow with hills and berms, just like mountain bike trails you would see elsewhere.

A narrow mountain bike trail
Natural or not?
Black Creek

So, the next you’re on vacation and you want a break from the interstate, look up this little place. Go by a good drive thru or pack a picnic and bring it to enjoy at the picnic tables. Grab your bikes and enjoy nature while burning off those lunch calories.

Go down the trail to the creek and sit and enjoy the view.

Bird Island Park and Rookery and Mickler’s Landing

A little north of Valano and Mickler’s Landing, and of all places, behind a library, is a little place called Bird Island Park. There’s a shrubbery maze shaped like a giant turtle. There’s a path around the park with a mosaic of beautiful tiles, a colorful turtle statue, and a fountain.

Beautiful tiles
Turtle maze

There’s a playground and a boardwalk around a pond. There are fish, turtles of all kinds, and ducks in the pond. On the side closest to the library is the tree “rookery”. It was full of adult and juvenile Anhingas. There are benches behind the library to sit and read and enjoy watching the birds.

Egret
Small heron
Geese
Anhinga next to the water
One of many Anhingas in the trees
More Anhingas
One of the resting benches
Another bench
Fountain
Outside the library
Soft shell turtle

This is a quiet place right behind a busy street. Just driving by, you might not notice unless you watch for the signs. It is well worth a visit and it’s free. It’s a wonderful place for peaceful reflection and bird and turtle watching. We highly recommend checking it out. Before leaving the area, if you like seashells, you should stop by Mickler’s Landing Beach. They have nice restrooms and showers there as well.

Mickler’s Landing has plenty of shells.

Days 3, 4, and 5 of AT hike

We’d like to thank all of you for virtually following along on the flip flop hike along the AT on our YouTube channel. So far, it’s been agreeable weather and decent terrain.

Maryland in 5 days may not be a big feat for some, but for us, it’s a dream come true. We hope you will enjoy this pictorial of these 3 days. Stay tuned for Pennsylvania coming up next.

The gear is holding up nicely, including the hammock and tarp, sleeping bag and shoes (chacos). We’ll post a gear review when he reaches Maine so everyone will know how it’s held up to that point.

Enjoy the pictures and thank you for following along on this epic journey across the Appalachian Trail.

DAY 3:

Rocky Cliffs View
7 trees, 1 base
Why they call me The Butterfly Whisperer
Home for the night, behind the shelter in the hammock
Trail meals. Ramen and chicken
Trail magic provided by a trail angel to a thirty hiker.

DAY 4:

Reno Monument
Deer, part of the abundant wildlife
Washington Monument
View atop the monument

DAY 5:

Trail magic left by a fellow hiker

Thanks so much for following along. Since I’m in the Sunshine State while hubby is on the trail, I’ll be have some mini adventures of my own to report. Stay tuned for those and more updates from the AT.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see the trail up close and personal. We appreciate all of our blog followers and I’ll post a sandy adventure very soon.

Days 1 and 2 on the Appalachian Trail Flip Flop

Those of you that follow us on Facebook and Instagram have seen a couple of pictures from hubby’s first 2 days in Maryland as he hikes northward on his flip flop hike. For those who are wondering what a flip flop hike is, he starts at the halfway point of the trail (Harper’s Ferry, WV) and hikes north to Katadin, Maine. Then, he will drive from Maine back to WV and hike south to the approach trail on GA.

If it works out as planned, he will arrive in GA in November or December. This route seems ideal for the times of year he’ll be in each place. He had to change his original plans of GA to ME when everything shut down.

We want to encourage you to check us out on YouTube, where we will be posting videos as often as he has the cell service or wifi to do so. So far, days 1 and 2 are up. Look for Southeastern RV Living and watch them. Subscribe so you don’t miss any in the future. I will be posting blogs as he goes along too, so we can share some pictures with you. I will be posting other blogs about other adventures as well.

Day 1: Harper’s Ferry. A sort walk from WV into Maryland. Some beautiful scenery leading to the Ed Garvey shelter.

The Potomac
Cliffs view

Day 2: Gathland State Park

Gath’s empty tomb
Athens, Ga in Maryland?

We hope you enjoy virtually walking the Appalachian Trail and it’s pictorial history. Thank you so much for following along.

Waterfalls in Florida?

It’s true; there really are waterfalls in the Sunshine State. Some are man made, like the Japanese gardens close to Jupiter Beach. Others are naturally occurring waterfalls. With things shut down for awhile, we haven’t been able to visit Devils Millhopper State Park, a geological marvel created by a large sinkhole. It should be open by July. We were able to visit a county park, a little hidden gem near Lake City, in Columbia County. It’s called Falling Creek Falls. The waterfall is about 10 feet tall, but it’s still a beautiful site. The water here is the color of tea due to tannins from things like acorns. The path to waterfall overlook is a short quarter mile (seemed like less) over a wooden boardwalk. The park has restrooms and picnic tables. There’s a historic church there was well. It’s boarded up, so only the outside is available for photo ops. The surrounding area has several state parks including Big Shoals, the only class III rapids in Florida on the Suwannee River. It hadn’t been raining much, so we’ll save that long trek for another day. We certainly encourage a stop in Lake City to explore this unique waterfall at Falling Creek.

Falling Creek Falls
Boardwalk to Falls
Old church. Picnic shelter in background

More to come

Thank you to all our readers and followers. We are trying our best to get back out there and explore after the recent events. We hope everyone is staying safe and doing well. We know it has been frustrating for most of us that enjoying traveling. We will be making some updates to our website in the coming weeks and getting out to the Florida State parks to hike and bike. We will be keeping up social distancing practices while trying to explore nature and sharing it with you. If we see any good camping opportunities, we will be sure to pass that along. Anyone else out there venturing out safely, please feel free to share what you find fun to explore. Be safe while continuing to find adventure. Keep your eyes peeled for exciting things to come. 20200507_205456

Nombre De Dios (Our Lady of La Leche) Mission

During this trying time for everyone, come along with us on a short little day trip. We are traveling less these days, and our plans have changed. The AT hike is on hold, and our weekend trips to parks have been shut down. To all who are full-timers, we sincerely hope that you are lucky like us and have some friends who will let you stay in their yard.

Diesel is cheap at the moment, so we just decided to take a Sunday drive to see the historic downtown St. Augustine in all its historic beauty with no crowds or cars. While driving around, we noticed that the gates to the mission were open. We had wanted to walk around this historic place anyway, so we jumped at the chance to do it with very few people.

The Nombre de Dios Mission, also known locally as Our Lady of La Leche, is the oldest mission here. If you’ve ever been to St. Augustine, or driven over the bridge from Vilano, you’ve seen a giant cross looming at the horizon. This marks the spot (general) claimed by Pedro Menendez for Spain and the church in 1565. The main building (the new mission) was closed and so was the gift shop, but the grounds were what we came to explore anyway.

There are several statues erected to Spanish/Catholic Saints, including Francisco Lopez, (whose monument is registered under historic places), and Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226). We’d like to encourage you to click on the pictures individually so you can read the rich history of this place.

Throughout the grounds, there are large monuments dedicated to different people and there are tombstones dating back through the 1800’s, including Union soldiers from the Civil War. There are also some sisters of the original mission buried on the premises.

For those who are not familiar with the Spanish Catholics, they give special devotion to the Mother Mary. There is a beautiful Shrine to her in the middle of the property. It’s the 4th one erected. The first 3 were destroyed by war, fire, or hurricanes. The “newest” was built in 1918. It is open when the gates are, and anyone can go in a sit down or kneel at the front altar. There are also candles that can be lit by appointment. There is also a couple of very pretty fountains throughout.

Whether you’re Catholic, Protestant, Agnostic, or anything in between, this is a nice place to just sit at one of the many benches and reflect on blessings or happy thoughts. It’s right next to the bay (Matanzas), as seen the the above pictures, making it a perfect setting for peaceful tranquility. It was a nice thing to experience during this tough time that we are all having.

If you’d like to visit, they are closed to the public right now, but they have an online store for tokens and rosaries; or you can buy a candle for them to light with a request for prayer. They will also be holing Easter Mass online. Of you’re not interested in the gift shop or sanctuary, go on by and just walk the grounds. We enjoy looking at the ancient tombstones and sitting by the bay.

We hope you and yours will have a Happy Easter and a great spring. We’ll all get back out there soon and begin exploring again. Thank you to all our readers for sticking with us.

Pirate Museum in St Augustine, FL

As “locals”, we get the luxury of using the Local Flavor app for deals on tickets to get into different places. Most of the time, it’s 2 for 1 deals. This was the case for the pirate museum. We enjoy a lot of things pirate, hence our travel trailer. We named it the “Satisfaction” after a ship that belonged to Captain Morgan. We are contemplating naming our next travel trailer (hopefully one that we will have for many years to come) “Davy Jones’ Locker”. The museum is loaded with factual and fictional pirates, a lot of which have a significant tie to St. Augustine.

As you enter the museum, you will see examples of navigation tools used by the pirate (and others’) ships in the 1500’s and 1600’s. You’ll learn about cartographers, who were very talented individuals who made maps of the land and waterways. You’ll see examples of pirate weapons and surgical tools like those used to cauterize wounds.

Rogue’s Tavern, a popular pirate hangout, made some interesting mixed drinks, like Blackbeard’s favorite, the “Kill Devil”, consisting of rum and gunpowder. Sir Francis Drake and Robert Searles never met in real life, but they both did horrible raiding to St. Augustine that left marks on its history. Drake burned everything to the ground in St. Augustine in 1586. He was sanctioned by Queen Elizabeth to raid Spanish ships. Drake was known as “El Draque”, or, “The Dragon”, one of St. Augustine’s most hated pirates.

Robert Searles is the reason the fort Castillo San Marco is built out of coquina after his 1668 raid, where he kidnapped and killed every St. Augustinian that wasn’t “pure blood”.

Andrew Ranson made a unique name for himself after he survived the garrote rope broke at his execution. He was protected the rest of his days by friars who said the rope breaking was an “act of God”. He ended up helping Castillo defeat the English.

Thomas Bell died before they could hang him at the gallows at Castillo, where he would’ve been put on display. They would hang pirates and put them on display outside the fort for other ships to see they did not take kindly to acts of piracy.

Henry Jennings captured a St. Augustine fort and took the largest Spanish treasure, making him the richest pirate in history.

Nicholas De Grammont may be the reason the Castillo was finished in 1690 without interruption, but his fate was doomed after he raided the city when his ships got caught in a hurricane.

Louis Aury captures Amelia Island and made himself governor.

Each captain had a set of rules known as the “Articles of Piracy”. If the contract was broken, it usually meant death. There are examples of different sailor knots and a replica of a cannon that you can test fire. There is also an example of how pirates told time, the hourglass. There are examples of several pirate flags, but there only 2 still in existence. The most popular is the Jolly Roger. In French, it was “Jolie Rouge”, which means “Pretty Red”, which is the color the flag used to be. Now, it’s black with the skull and crossbones, likely from what gravestones had on them.

There is a replica of a chest belonging to Captain William Kidd. You can see an example of the classic book “Bucaniers of America” by Alexander Esquemelin, read by Blackbeard himself. There are replicas of different types of gallows that the pirates would be “hanged by the neck until dead, dead, dead”

Democracy was a big part of the life on a pirate ship. They voted on the captain. Treasure was divided up equally among the crew except the Quarter Master and the Captain’s shares that were higher. They took up donations and gave money to crew members and their families who were disabled.

The oldest wanted poster dates back to 1696, and you can see it framed in the museum. Henry Every is another pirate that is historically represented. Charles Gibbs came up with the famous phrase, “Dead mean tell no tales”.

Most people have heard of Calico Jack, since his flag in particular is the one most widely recognized. When we fly ours, we are reminded of his 2 shipmates, the pirate women that were saved by proclaiming their bellies so they wouldn’t go to the gallows. These 2 women are Mary Read and Anne Bonny. They held their own out on the high seas as pirates. Anne Bonnie was Calico Jack’s girlfriend, but she was not pleased with him getting caught. Her last words to him were, “Had you fought like a man, you need not be hanged like a dog”.

Other pirates and/or flags represented are John Dalton, Edward Low, Black Bart, and Samuel Tully. There are examples and historic research listed about different forms of torture and punishment from the pirate era. There are skull and crossbones stickers on drawers that you can pull out and mark what’s in them on a treasure map. When you have filled it out, give it to the personnel at the end of your tour for your very own piece of pirate treasure.

Take 5 minutes to sit in a room to listen to an interactive ship ride with some famous pirates close to Port Royal, Jamaica. Touch a 400 year old chest. Read about Henry Morgan and Blackbeard as you look at many types of pirate treasure. See for yourself, the only remaining real pirate treasure chest that belonged to Thomas Tew.

After strolling through history, check out the displays of movie and TV pirates. They have memorabilia from Peter Blood, Long John Silver, Morgan the Pirate, and the Goonies. They have Captain Hook’s hook on display. (You can see the alligator Tik-Tok that swallowed Captain Hook’s hand on display at the Alligator Farm). Take a gander at Captain Jack Sparrow’s sword and Captain Balbosa’s guns from Pirates of the Caribbean.

This little gem of a museum is the perfect way to spend a couple hours of your trip in downtown St. Augustine. It’s in the perfect location, directly across from the Castillo San Marcos fort, the city gates, and the Colonial Quarter (the latter of which we still have to visit). If you’re interested in history or pirates, or even St. Augustine, this is worth a look-see while you’re here.