KATIE & JESSIE

aboard lovely Louise…


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Hours pass like minutes. Miles pass like years.

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A dry crumbly muffin, fraction of a stale bagel and a brown banana fall apart in my lap. Yum. Not the meal I had been dreaming of, but I am too delighted from a full nights rest to complain about my rockstar breakfast.

The sun this morning is already bright and obnoxious as the one on “Teletubbies” who wears the face of a yapping baby. The air is so chilly that Katie and I both have leggings, hoodies, and slippers on for the first time since I can remember. The bimini is pushed back to feel the warm sun through our clothing simultaneous to the cold air sneaking through layers of cotton and fleece. Bur. I love goose bump weather. We must be reaching higher latitudes. The last time I felt this fabulous dry chill, was at altitude in the rocky mountains.

Speaking of altitude, we seem to be gaining it and loosing it in dozens of feet as we travel through a series of locks. Every couple of miles, large doors open welcoming Louise into a chamber similar to how I imagine prison. Upon entering the large cement box, and connecting to vertical cables, a pool of water elevates the house with ease. For a while, the locks are an entertaining way to break up the day… but once the hours spent become greater than miles traveled, you may or may not catch one of us napping in a lock. Hours seem to pass like minutes. Miles pass like years. Only 12 more locks until reaching the Great Lakes. Just the thought makes the corners up my mouth turn upwards.

Several times a day we wonder why we are the only people around. Where is everybody? We miss the companionship and camaraderie of traveling with boats. We must be too slow. Too late in the season maybe. Just Katie, Reggie, and myself, enjoying places in America I never even knew existed. Places that remind me of nowhere I have ever been, leaving me with a big question mark if you asked me to pinpoint my location. I am oddly okay with never knowing where I am. Having no expectations or previous knowledge of what streets I may wander that day, make it far more interesting. Plus, if I think back to some of my greatest memories, they all happened in places I never even knew were there to begin with.

To see places or to meet people for the first time, without having had anyone paint a picture or leak a bitter opinion prior, is the best way to experience anything new. Having a pre-conceived idea of what you are about to see, makes it a lot more difficult to see it your own way. I think this is why I enjoy, and often prefer not knowing a thing about my whereabouts.

Two deer, a bald eagle, and a fox expose themselves on a rural walk up a winding hill outside a town I can not even pronounce. Lock walls have become our parking lot every night on the Erie Canal, free of charge. The TV series “Friday Night Lights” is a new addiction that pulls us like magnets to the V-berth way before the sun goes down. Fresh water in the canal has Louise’s raw water-cooled engine joyously chugging along. The parts of her engine that had turned green and blue with corrosion from the oceans salt, have faded.  The only woman who misses salt water on this ship is Katie. Fresh water means two things – we are almost always clean, and we are almost home.

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I hid behind a tree and cried.

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Well why didn’t anyone tell me that the Hudson River was going to be like living a scene from “The Sound of music” ?  I could hear Julie Andrews singing from the depths of the hills. Mountians, cliffs, forests, castles, winding through a river and cutting through canyons. Are we in Austria? Where are we? I have never really heard anyone talk about the Hudson River with enthusiasm, were they trying to keep it a secret? Or was I just never listening? I love surprises.

Finally I am beginning to feel like myself again. Like I am living the life of a musical where everyone sings instead of talks. Coming back down several notches after running around the east coast trying to keep up with people that move a lot quicker than me. The last two weeks swept by faster than any of them yet. The speed of life is slowing back to down where I am most pleased – to that of no ones but Katies’ and my own. But lets be honest, Louise sets the pace here not us. A 35 year old woman, who travels at 5 knots in her prime, dictates what can be accomplished in a day. It is safe to say that for us girls to work in harmony with that woman, Katie and I quickly had to tack on ten years of patience and understanding. We must all be on the same page, if we weren’t, at least one of us wouldn’t be in the picture anymore. I am only 25 years old, but in order to operate peacefully my mental state parallels Louise’s’.

A few days up the Hudson and all of the sudden I am hiding behind a tree holding back my tears. “God, I am such a girl” I scream in my head, embarrassed and trying not to let anyone notice. Before I even had the chance to register what we were actually doing at the marina in Catskill, NY, the backbone of Louise was being hoisted up by a large crane, and surgically re-positioned sideways on the deck.  Straps, ropes, stays, spreaders, and a large wooden cradle had completely taken over our home. No longer could we walk anywhere on the deck, it was a confusing mess that interrupted half of our very small living space. A in-penetrable maze. The large wooden cradle embracing the mast, took away any nautical beauty replacing and it with an imaginary sign saying “en route to ‘Burning Man’ “.

If you are confused about that entire paragraph, let me explain. Shortly after Catskill New York, there bridges on the Hudson River, Erie Canal, and Trent-Severn waterway with a vertical clearance of 22 feet. Meaning that the mast on our boat, with a vertical clearance just shy of 40 feet, must come down in order to travel under these bridges. This was a process we also had to go through in the beginning of our trip, to travel the rivers. But that time, we shipped the mast on a truck with all of it’s working parts. Which in return, left us with an empty “patio”… extending our living space with lots more room for activities. Like handstands, cartwheels, guitar playing and fishing.

So yes, I am the first to admit that my emotions got the best of me after our beautiful sailboat transformed into a sad, sad looking trailer park. About a week after, we pulled up to a dock in Oneida Lake. There was a single handed man who had been cruising for 14 years. Without me even touching base on the subject, he mentioned how he teared up when his mast was recently un-stepped. I smiled, and told him I completely understood. I felt like less of a “girl” knowing that a grown man also got emotional over this silly part of life aboard.

After smashing foreheads into the wooden cradle, stubbing toes on newly exposed hardware, and tripping over ratchet straps enough times, we learned our way around the maze. Accurate hand and foot placement was discovered the hard way, via injuries. But then again I am pretty certain there is no other way. It is what it is. Burning man here we come.

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“You have done well girls. But don’t you dare forget about me.”

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The view of New York City I never thought I would see for myself occurred from the cockpit of Louise at sunrise before its population arose. Those who were awake, must have been drinking coffee and quietly preparing for their day just as I was for my own. It was by far the most tranquil morning we had all week. Curious if anyone in their high rise apartments even noticed the unexpected 45 knot wind that almost blew our house into a rock wall the night before. Envious of the walls that protected the city-goers from the squall, yet proud of Louise for handling it with slightly less grace than the powerfully built towers.

It always a nice reminder when mother nature storms in unannounced to remind you that she is boss. I find myself a little jealous of her. I wish I was capable of that.

There is an anchorage just around the corner from the Statue of Liberty, next to Liberty park. We dropped the hook with a generous amount of space in-between us, a break wall, rock pilings, and two other sailboats. Checking the radar several times through out the day, the blob on the screen looked harmless and no different from every other blob we find ourselves in. Honestly, I thought nothing of it. We were safely anchored, with our trusty bruce and plenty of room to swing.  Moments away from falling asleep, Louise became abruptly unsettled. I gave the radar one last check to see that the blob was overhead. Before either of us could even get out of bed, Louise began violently twisting and fighting the anchor. I turned on the VHF WX to listened to current local conditions as if sitting right in the middle of it wasn’t giving me answeres. The voice crackling through the speaker was advising all boaters to seek shelter. Fifty five mile per hour gusts, and hail. Huh? Katie ran to let out more scope.

It was too late to re-locate. It was too late to set up another anchor. Sure, we could have dropped our old, weightless Danforth over the side for cheap insurance. However the velocity of wind made the Danforth seem like a worthless toy.  The squall was on top of us, and we were below in it’s mercy. Whoa. When I say the wind came up quick, I mean quicker than I drive my truck while blasting Taylor Swift. We both scrambled around the cockpit, grabbing any loose items that could soon be abducted. Pushed back the Bimini to prevent it from acting as a sail. Looked to the right, and saw one of the other two sail boats, had drug anchor. It was violently smashing up against a cement wall not far from where we were. No one was aboard. Oh sweet baby jesus, were we next? Whipping back and forth 90 degrees, I had visions of our anchor line snapping at the weight of Louise’s fight. If not that, surely we would drag anchor and end up over yonder with a new next door neighbor. I had a feeling a rock piling, or that boat break dancing on the cement wall would not make for a fun neighbor.  Almost immediately I turned the engine on. If either two options above occurred, it wouldn’t have been more than 30 seconds to blow right into a house sinking situation.

For an hour, I had Louise in forward gear steering towards the anchor in hopes to relieve tension off the anchor, and it’s line. Katie and I sat in the cockpit in our foul weather gear driving Louise in the rain, going nowhere. We held Louise into the wind with just enough throttle to reduce aggressive whip lash. Sweating in my foul weather gear, I was more soggy from nerves than I was rain. We didn’t drag. We stayed right where we dropped the Bruce in the first place. Katie clocked 45 knots on the wind finder. We have a new found faith in our ground tackle. Louise and bruce, my friends… you did well. It was scary. Thats all.

The next morning Katie kayaked Reggie to shore. The sailboat that had been bashing into the wall was still afloat. When she returned she described its’ condition as “lucky.” The bow sprit cracked, remaining attached only by the connection to the forestay. The seam where the deck meets the haul was split open. Abrasions lined the haul. Still no one was on board. It was obvious it’s owner, wherever he or she was…was completely unaware of the situation. Quietly we pulled away from Liberty Park the following morning on just a few hours of rest. The blue, purple, orange and yellow sky seemed to make everything okay again.

Over two months of traveling up the Atlantic coast from Key West, it was by far our most frightening evening. Hiccups have been minor, mostly engine related issues versus weather related. I will take engine issues over squalls any day. We are not far from home now. Besides sections of the Great Lakes, the remainder of our travels will be through narrow, protected waterways. But it doesn’t matter. Anything can happen. You are only in control of the choices you make, but not often in the way in which you are forced to make them. I yeild.

“You have done well girls. But don’t you dare forget about me.” – Mother Nature.

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Before I forget to share my favorite shots of the year, please enjoy Katie, Jessie, Julia, and Olivia on a boat dot com celebrating the greatest day of the year… 4th of July. It’s been fun New York…Cape Cod… Staten Island… East Coast. See you again one day Atlantic Ocean. Hello fresh water…hello Great Lakes….hello Canada….

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Cape Cod…I love you.

A photo series of two ladies, who abducted two ladies, and took them to Cape Cod for a weekend….

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Left: Julia Whalen           Center : Dunkin Doughnuts AKA Sunkin Dognuts               Right : Olivia Gilmore

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Olivia preforms live.

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Olivia gets stuck in bathing suit top.

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Jessie and Katie promote patriotism.

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Carsick in the backseat.

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This is Beth Kelly, one of the most incredible women we’ve met along the way. We met Beth and her husband Jerry on the sea en-route to Key West last winter. When they are not sailing, they live in Cape Cod…. where they opened their doors and took us in for an entire weekend.

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PBR or Budweiser? Both.

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Katie: Ecstatic  Olivia: Over it.

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Where mudslides dictate all decisions

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I don’t know who this woman is. But I liked her pancho.

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“Every one of you is putting on lipstick” – Olivia

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Beth and Jerry’s backyard. She’s was a beaut.

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I could live here.

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Olivia and Julia take me for a walk.

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Woman spot train track. Woman must walk train track.

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Knee deep in soggy leaves.

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Explorer Julia Whalen, bush-wacks a path.

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“Please don’t take a picture right now” – Julia

“Let me call you back, I’m trying to take a damn picture” – Olivia

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Balance.

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“Look. Lay down. I am going to put it on your eye.”  Oliv

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“No you lay down, I will put in on YOUR eye” – me

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“You guys are ridiculous” – Jul

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“Stop smiling.” – Oliv

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“I can’t!”- Me

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“Okay fine.” – Jul

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“I saaaaaid stop laughing and stay still ” – Oliv

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“Girls, I will buy one of your drawings but I can only afford 50 cents”

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Corky and Mayo – Boat dogs

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“I don’t actually believe anything you just said”

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Happy Birthday Beth !!!!

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Beth, her real daughters, and her fake daughters.

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This guy… Jerry…one of the greater men in the world.

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Miss you already.

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“Where’s my mom? Where’s my mom? Where’s my mom? WHERE IS MY MOM?”

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Just because.

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Homeward bound.

Back to Louise…who patiently rode out hurricane Arthur on a mooring ball in Great Kills Harbor, Staten Island.

 

Thank you Julia for driving us all over the East Coast. Thank you Olivia for providing a source of entertainment I never knew possible. I love you girls so much.

Thank you to the entire Kelly family for taking 4 wild women into your home. Katie and I are lucky lucky lucky to know you all. To think that it all started with a “clothing optional” bar in Key West…


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Jungle

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The C & D canal, Delaware Bay, and the entire state of New Jersey passed by without me stepping foot on land. To make up for lolly gagging in the Chesapeake Bay, we traveled 251 nautical miles in less than 3 days. There comes a point in exhaustion that can not be made up for with any kind of sleep or caffeine. Sometimes just powering through seems like the best option when there is no such thing as catching up.  With a goal to reach New York City by the 4th of July, the consensus was to make an overnight trek off the coast of New Jersey… skipping over the state all together. So we did.

Five miles off the coast of Jersey, 50 feet of water underneath Louise, wind blowing us towards the “Big Apple”, and waves shoving us westwards towards Jersey. In 22 hours we traveled 120-ish miles from Cape May, NJ, to Staten Island, NY. Patrick (Simrad auto-tiller) drove us through the entire night off shore. My love for Patrick strengthened to that of a human. Patrick – you are something else, thank you for your help. Katie and I do two hour shifts on overnights. For the most part, we are both awake in the cockpit all night. It’s too hard to fall asleep on overnight passages anyways. The adrenaline of being in the pitch black on open water alone, is plenty enough to keep your mind alert. We were both so tired, but the glow of New York City gave us a compelling focal point. Sometimes the thing that scares me the most, is not being two somewhat in-experienced sailors on the open ocean – but what Katie and I are capable of making happen when we put our heads to something.

Suddenly we are on a series of trains, ferries, and subways trying to get to Brooklyn to surprise one of my best childhood friends on her 25th birthday. Like true rookie tourists, we navigated our way through the sweaty jungle with luggage, an oversized camera, and a 50 pound dog. Reggie found his placement quickly on the subways, appropriately spreading his appendages for balance as if he were on Louise. I lost my balance several times, and had to look to Reg for advice. Fortunately, the subways are so packed with humans that they block your fall when inertia flings you forward. The view consists of armpits, necks, chest hair and the occasional breast in your face. Every single human was either looking down at their smartphone, or at their feet. I am curious as to the possibility of us all becoming robots. When each individual comes with a hand held computer, there is no reason to look any where but at it. The only time I saw people talking, was into their headphones to someone on the other side of the line. The only time I saw someone smiling or laughing, was when they were looking down at their smartphone. I’m not gonna lie, I got really weirded out. Do we even have brains anymore? We are all guilty of staring at these things too much. But holy shit, the world is changing and I am slightly frightened to change with it.

A woman pushing a stroller with a fake baby, pushes her way through the crowded subway station in search of a place to dump an un-used fake diaper. A ravenous drifter with an eyepatch, relentlessly bangs on the telephone pole on the street corner where we wait to cross. A little boy who seems to have lost a parent or two, curiously lingers over my shoulder attempting to take my phone from my hand. Musicians preform on every block. Wait, these people are really talented, why isn’t anyone stopping. Why aren’t I stopping? Because stopping means a good chance of death by stampede. Three hours, and 157 different kind of smells later, we arrive at Olivia Gilmore’s doorstep. SURPRISE! Happy Birthday. I love you. Where’s the vodka?

We spent several days wandering Brooklyn, the neighborhood of a few close friends. It’s fascinating how many people choose to live in a jungle, where nature and silence do not exist. I had to remind myself to walk through the city not as if I had was fresh off a sailboat, but as if I were a little kid who had never seen such a sight. I’ve been to NYC several times in my life. But this time, was different. Not comparable to prior visits, I felt like a true foreigner whose brain didn’t believe her eyes. Friends, incredible cuisine, culture, music, art, and entertainment reminded me of what brings people in, and what keeps them there. The opportunities are seemingly endless, which is what makes New York City – New York City.

The thought of waving goodbye to the Atlantic ocean once we head up the Hudson River, is very, very, VERY bittersweet. Neither of us are in a rush to leave the jungle. New York City, you have marked our journey’s progress. We have both dreamt about the day we would wake up to the cities skyline from the cockpit of Louise for over two years. I am not going to bother explaining how remarkable that was, because honestly I don’t really know how.

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Lots more City photos to come…..  and if your bored …. www.jessietakespictures.com 

 

 

 

 


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I will most likely ship my children off to do this whether they want to or not.

chesapeake-6 Half way up the Chesapeake Bay and today marks the longest day of the year.  Summer Solstice. Katie and I have been living in a summer-like season for a while. This day represents nothing to me besides the fact that us Grandmas will struggle to stay awake for the evenings late sunset. Flipping back in time through my journal to exactly one year ago, I was writing about the bittersweet day we decided to turn around in the Exumas and head back to the states. Ironic because just moments ago we were discussing turning around right now, to head back to the Bahamas. My thoughts a year ago happen to be identical to today’s. Conflicted. There is a wild something pulling us back to Michigan. The completion of America’s Great Loop keeps us moving. It doesn’t have to be the end, just a mission completed. The Chesapeake Bay is marking our northerly progress. Distance between us and home now feels closer than the distance between us and the Bahamas. It’s silly that 365 days prior I was completely torn between wanting to go on forever and wanting to go home. You’d think I’d have it figured out by now. I don’t. Actually there are a lot of things I thought I’d have figured out by now. The weather in the Chesapeake Bay is equally as confused as us gals. Like our moods, constantly changing and unpredictable – it evolves every half hour. Hot, cold, chilly, sweaty, wind, no wind, gusty, glassy surface, choppy, little waves, big waves, clouds, no clouds, sunny, rainy, pouring, etc. It finally feels like we are on the East Coast that I had imagined. Open water, dreary skies and ever-changing weather. Hanging out in my yellow bibs, anticipating the next rain cloud since they come out of nowhere. Within moments a blue sky turns black, and a calm surface becomes aggravated. My bibs are my mothers from the 80’s. I look like a fisherman, not a sailor. Yesterday we ran aground in a narrow channel exiting our anchorage. It was foolish for us to leave when we did. We knew the day before we had entered the channel at high tide, with only a foot under us. In the morning, when we hoisted up the anchor you could tell that the ground was nothing but soft mush. With that knowledge, we figured pretending to be invincible meant we could exit the shallow channel at low tide, driving over/through the mush. Not so much. We gently ran Louise onto the ground, and waited nearly three hours. The local fisherman were perturbed by Louise’s placement in the center of a tiny channel. The Osprey in the nest a boat length away, also made it apparent we were overstaying our welcome. Finally the rising tide spoke, “Okay girls, you can go now.” The East coast’s dense population of family and friends has us zig zagging the Chesapeake. These towns endlessly surprise me with their charm. Annapolis, which neither of us knew a thing about, quickly hurdled to the top of the ongoing “places to potentially live” list.  I think I love the East coast. Who knew? I mean, this side of America is pretty cool. Everyone should travel the Great Loop. I will most likely ship my children off to do this whether they want to or not. This circle holds many lessons I don’t think could be learned any other way. chesapeake-5 chesapeake-4 chesapeake-3 chesapeake-2 chesapeake-10 chesapeake-9 chesapeake-8 chesapeake-7  chesapeake-15 chesapeake-14 chesapeake-13 chesapeake-12 chesapeake-11 chesapeake-20 chesapeake-19 chesapeake-18 chesapeake-17 chesapeake-16 chesapeake-25 chesapeake-24 chesapeake-23 chesapeake-22 chesapeake-21 chesapeake-30 chesapeake-29 chesapeake-28 chesapeake-27 chesapeake-26 chesapeake-35 chesapeake-34 chesapeake-33 chesapeake-32 chesapeake-31 chesapeake chesapeake-39 chesapeake-38 chesapeake-37 chesapeake-36 We want to give an enormous shout out to everyone who took us in and spent time with us as we traveled through the Chesapeake. Haley & John Demyanovich, Bill & Bonnie Sweeney, Martha & Jake Mitchell, Jim & Elizabeth Gamble, Aunt Midge & Uncle Mike, and Merissa Cope. You guys are amazing, thank you for everything.      

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