Blue View – Leveling Blue

 Blue on two leveling blocks

Blue on two leveling blocks

On Nine of Cups, we often slept on a heel – sometimes for weeks at a time on some of our really long passages. We had our seaberths set up and could usually find a comfy position for the three hours of sleep we'd get during each off-watch.

In Blue, we prefer to sleep on a bed that is more or less level, however. We can deal with a little slope, but too much slope front to back and we find ourselves sliding off or crunching our heads against the headboard. Too much side-to-side slope, and we both end up sharing the port or starboard quarter of our full sized bed. This is just fine (perhaps even kinda nice) for a short while, but our old bodies need to re-position frequently - which is not easily accomplished when one of us is squished against the cabinet alongside the bed. Thus, we'd like to be able to level Blue when his parking spot is on an incline.

My dad, over the decades, owned every type of camping vehicle in existence, from small trailers and pick-up campers to huge RV's and fifth wheelers. He had elaborate systems for leveling his vehicles, involving levels, large pieces of wood, ramps, chocks and jacks. He also had large storage areas devoted to holding all this stuff. On the other extreme, we've seen lots of RV's with hydraulic or electric arms that level the vehicle with the push of a button. We wanted a solution that was simpler and which didn't require a lot of storage.

 Linx Levelers

Linx Levelers

A little online searching turned up several varieties of lightweight, compact leveling blocks. We opted for a set of leveling blocks called Lynx Levelers. It comes as a kit of ten leveling blocks all stowed in a carrying case. The blocks are 8-1/2” x 8-1/2”, and each lift the vehicle 1”. The most we can drive Blue onto is a stack two high - to raise the vehicle higher than two blocks, a pyramid must be built. It takes five or six blocks to build a pyramid three blocks high and ten blocks to build a pyramid four high. The kit of ten seemed like a lot of blocks, but we can't raise Blue very much if we are trying to lift two wheels.

The process my dad used to level his vehicles was to make a guess as to how much wood he needed under the lower tires, then, using a jack, he raised that side of the vehicle up and placed the necessary number of 1x6's and 2x6's under the wheels. Alternatively, he sometimes used a ramp to drive up onto the stack of wood. His first guess wasn't usually close enough, so he would repeat the process, adjusting the wood pile under the tires until the height was right and the vehicle was level. This was often a time-consuming process.

To level Blue, I borrowed a better idea from Dave Orten's great blog on upfitting a Transit. I start with a block of wood that is 1/16th of Blue's wheelbase and width, and use pennies, which are 1/16th of an inch high to simulate the leveling blocks. For better accuracy, I actually made the block of wood 1/16th of Blue's wheelbase and width plus two times the diameter of the pennies, so that the dimension from the inner edge to inner edge of the stack of pennies is the same as the wheelbase and width of Blue. So the board dimensions are:

Board width is 69"/16 + 1”= 4 3/8" + 1" = 5 3/8"

Board length is (147.6"/16) + 1" = 9.25" + 1" = 9 1/4"

 Our leveling calculator

Our leveling calculator

The process is to park in as level a spot as possible. Then I set the wooden scale model of Blue on top of the fridge and place a small level on the piece of wood. Next, I stack pennies under the low corners of the wood until the piece of wood is level in both directions. The number of pennies under each corner will be the same as the number of leveling blocks we'll need under each wheel to make Blue level.

I stack up the appropriate number of leveling blocks and place them the same distance behind each tire – maybe a foot or two. Then I slowly back up and try to stop exactly on top of each stack. This is tricky and sometimes requires a couple of tries, as I am prone to back up just a little too far. The same company that makes the leveling blocks also sells wheel chocks that can be used to stop the vehicle at the right spot, but so far I've resisted buying them as storage space is tight on Blue, and so far I've eventually managed to get him stopped at the top of the stack.

 Oops - just a little too far

Oops - just a little too far

As of now, we've only camped in national parks, national forests and the occasional parking lot, all of which were reasonably level. When we did need to level Blue, he only required one or two blocks under a couple of the wheels, so the pack of ten blocks has sufficed. I suspect we might want a second kit when we start camping in less developed spots. On the other hand, my frugal, Scottish dad would tell me that not only was that wasteful of good money, but the lazy man's way as well – I could certainly get by with 10 blocks if I wasn't too lazy to dig out the jack and raise Blue up instead of sitting on my duff and driving up on the blocks.