Archive for the ‘Cruising’ Category

Sailing Vessel Halcyon

11/19/2012

This is one story that has been hard to tell.

We left Mexico last June, 2012. We had a mooring made by an individual name Fernando who was “known” for making moorings. He put it in the water and secured it with chain without allowing Michael to inspect it. Michael had mentioned to him many times that he needed to inspect it before splashing it. But Fernando “blew him off”. That should have been our first warning.

We also hired someone to keep watch over the boat while we were gone. Jimmy was a local who agreed to watch over the boat and maintain it if anything went wrong.

Our Mexican Visas were about to expire last May and we had to leave the country. We weren’t allowed to renew the visas since we were at the expiration date and would have to leave Mexico until January 2013. Although Michael was able to pay extra money and obtain a yearly visa.  We had planned to be as far south as El Salvador by the time our visas expired, but that didn’t happen. The motor mounts had needed replacing and the boat was going to have to be hauled before we continued south. We didn’t have the money for the repairs at that time and had to go back to the states. We were aware there were risks but had no choice. Since we had hired Jimmy to watch the boat and an alarm installed, we hoped that would be enough to keep it safe.

On Aug. 13th, 2012, we received a phone call from Jimmy, our boat had broke loose of its mooring one night during a storm from the east. It drifted over a reef and pounded on top of the rocks for some time, putting a large hole the size of a human hand in the side and cracking the keel length wise and the boat sank.

About 8 locals and ponga taxi drivers worked to move the boat, patch the leaks, and made runs to shore for supplies for 3 days. Our helper Jimmy, was on the phone with us daily asking for more money to patch the leaks. After sending off funds by way of Western Union several times, it was evident that Michael was going to have to get down there to assess the damage. We were working hard to get the money together for airfare and more repairs.

We were at the Miami airport the next morning by 5 a.m., for Michael to take the first flight to Mexico City then on to Zihuatanejo. We had understood that we might not see each other for a month or more due to the amount of work that he would have to do to get the boat in order. We hoped that he would have enough money to pay the locals and start repairs.

When Michael arrived he was inundated with people. He began paying people for the work they had done while more and more people on boats approached him demanding $2,000 to $3,000, not pesos. He was told it would cost over $6,000 just to tow the boat to a marina to a nearby town. The leader of the group, requesting the largest amount of money, told Michael to meet the Port Captain the next day at 10 a.m. When Michael asked if he needed to check with the Port Captain to confirm the time, the guy told him the Port Captain worked for him. Michael told me “They think we are just rich Americans, they are demanding money that we don’t have”.

The boat was back on the mooring when Michael got there. He inspected the chain and found saw marks all over the chain. The boat was moored close to shore a few hundred yards from the beach in 40′ of water. The boat was too close to land to “break loose” of the mooring due to wind or waves. The entire situation was suspicious.

After Michael’s call to update me, I was concerned that the Mexican Government would arrest Michael and detain him indefinitely. I called a lawyer friend who was also a cruiser. He consulted with several other individuals that were knowledgeable of International Maritime Law. He highly recommended that Michael leave the country immediately and handle affairs long distance. Claims would be made against the boat. He said “Take a bus out-of-town if you have to, just GET OUT”. The urgency in his voice made me more aware of the potential danger that Michael was in.

Michael’s first phone call to me was at 5p.m. on Friday. At 5:45 p.m., I instructed him to take the next flight out-of-town which was at 6:35pm. He had about an hour to get to the airport.  He was to take a water taxi a mile and half back to shore, hire a street taxi to the airport 20 minutes away and hope there was room on the next flight out to Mexico City.

We worried that he would be detained at the airport. He was able to purchase the last seat on the plane 10 minutes before take off. I made reservations for him out of Mexico City one hour after his arrival, only for him to be detained in customs. The next flight to the United States left at 4 a.m. Saturday morning.

Michael said he sat in the airport in Mexico City, out-of-the-way, hoping not to be noticed. Which I found to be funny, a Gringo in Mexico stands out like a sore thumb. The next 24 hours were hell while trying to arrange last-minute flights back to the U.S.   At 7:30AM Saturday he called to say he had arrived in the United States safely. The following 12 hours were spent calling and texting him to keep him awake for his connecting flights, in order to get him on his next flight home.

I met Michael at the airport at 7:30 pm Saturday night. A little over 24 hours from the time he called me from the boat. It felt  a month had passed by.  As he walked around the corner with all of the other passengers at the arrival gate I noticed that he had my violin across his shoulder. When I grabbed him and hugged him he said “The last thing I grabbed was your violin and my moms ashes”. (His moms ashes were going to be scattered at sea with the rest of the family once the boat was back on the east coast.) Michael looked defeated and exhausted, it was all I could do to fight back the tears.

When we got home, Mike our Son was eagerly waiting to see his Dad walk in the door. The guys hugged each other tight then Michael stepped back, looked at us and said ” I’m sorry, I couldn’t save the boat”. The days following revealed the Zihuatanejo Port Captain paid the locals by dividing up the equipment located on the Sailing Vessel Halcyon. Halcyon had been set up to be self-sufficient. The only thing we needed to cruise was fuel and food (and now we know “deep pockets”) to go where ever we wanted to go. All of our savings, heart and soul had gone into this boat.

What matters most is that we are together and safe. We are thankful that we weren’t on the boat when someone decided that they wanted it. Living without one of our family members would have been the hardest thing to live with. Our hearts are broken due to the loss of our home and sanctuary.

Heading Down the Pacific Coast of Mexico

07/30/2012

 After waiting 3 days for a weather window we left Chamela, our next stop was La Barra De Navidad. It was 137 nautical miles and it took us overnight to arrive in the afternoon.  La Barra De Navidad has a lagoon where boaters anchor and locals fish.  It was very shallow going in at low tide and we ran aground.  First Mate Mike was sent up forward to “watch” as we went forward.  But he was preoccupied checking out all the boats in the anchorage, scanning for familiar boats that might contain friends from La Paz.

  It wasn’t long before a small boat was headed our way.  In the boat was indeed friends we had met in La Paz from the boat Third Day. They had seen us come up the channel and had come to say hello and lend a hand.  We welcomed them aboard while Mike and Jason went up to the bow and caught up on past events. We adults went back in the wheelhouse out of the sun and passed around “cold ones” while waiting for the tide to rise.

This was probably one of Mikes favorite stops.  His friend Jason was taking surfing lessons the following day and invited Mike to come along.  Mike was able to hang out with J and surf with him a good part of the day. The two of them did great and got a real workout.  The seas were a bit rough and the waves were just right for practicing.

We anchored the boat in the lagoon there and the trip back and forth to shore was a long one.  Coming back  to the boat at night was the most exciting with the brightest phosphorus I had ever seen.  A flashlight wasn’t needed due to the light reflecting off of the transom and the outboard.  The sea life was ever so active jumping and darting in all directions. The outline of sea snakes would come to the surface and move their heads back and forth looking around, while everything was a bright flourescent green.  It was down right eerie.

Our friends from Third Day have a boat made by the same designer as ours, a William Garden.  It was nice to see the two boats anchored together.  We had a nice visit and just wished we had more time to play.

La Cruz, Mexico

04/02/2012

March 28th, 2012

Day 4

Last year we bought “Pacific Mexico A Cruiser’s Guidebook.“, by Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer. It was a smart purchase. The information inside contained places to visit, restaurants to eat at, transportation available and other services that boaters would find interesting.

On our cruise south, we planned our stops according to the anchorages listed in the book. Notes were made concerning what side of the anchorage provided better protection from the winds and weather and whether or not the anchorage was exposed to sea swell/rollers. What we didn’t gather from our guidebook was how hard the wind blows DAILY in Banderas Bay along the coast of La Cruz.

Last Sunday we left Punta De Mita, the Northern Tip of Banderas Bay, because of the large rollers that came in the anchorage during the night. We had to wait for daylight to pull up the anchor and head to a better anchorage. We had decided on La Cruz because the guidebook noted that the town was located outside the marina where a dingy dock was provided with security .

After the anchor was set the guys went ashore to check in with the Port Captain. I was invited to go but thought I better stay behind to keep an eye on the anchor. No sooner were they out of sight, the wind began to gust and each time the gusts were stronger. We had white caps and rollers in the bay. The anchor held beautifully, but I was a bit worried as the wind continued to get stronger. I decided to get a beer to calm my nerves and put on some music while I watched the kite boarders and racing sailboats breeze by. When the guys returned, they were surprised to see how quickly the weather had changed. After sunset, the wind calmed down. We later learned that this is a normal weather pattern for this area.

A trip into the small town of La Cruz is a special one. The town has an old charm. Many or most of the streets are cobblestone and red dirt. The buildings are close together with very unique uses of building materials. I had never seen a garage roof made of bricks before and the pattern was rolling and not flat. Ceramic tiles placed in creative patterns that gave you the desire to stop and look at them for awhile. A small park was located in town. It contained large huanacaxtle, pronounced “wah-nah-KAHSH-lay.“ , trees that were seriously huge. Not only tall but bumpy and wide. Black tropical birds with long black tail feathers squawked back and forth with high pitch voices. A concrete center was built in the middle of the park with metal supports in a circle. Beautiful timbers were used to connect the supports to a common place in the center of the circle. Park benches were placed close together around the park. The wood used looked to be shaven from a reddish wood that looked like rosewood. It looked “too nice” to be used for the general public. It was obvious that the community respected their park due to the condition these benches were in. They looked like fine furniture.

Just like other places I had been in Mexico, when you are walking around you best keep your eye on where your next foot is going to land. If you are looking around and walking, you can very easily miss a hole in the sidewalk or street, or a step up onto the next section of sidewalk just happens to change abruptly. Unlike the United States, you are responsible for yourself. If you fall and hurt yourself while walking around, it is up to you to pay attention. Law Suits aren’t as popular here in Mexico.

Day 5

 

Advertised on the VHF this morning was a Jazz concert being held this evening in order to raise money for a film that was made of the locals in the area telling the general public that La Cruz is a safe place to visit. Once again the Media in the United States over exaggerates the crime here. The logic most people live by is that there are bad neighborhoods anywhere in the world you go. That includes in the United States. Unfortunately the news that we all hear is selective and bias. Something we all seem to overlook at times.

We decided to go, sounded like fun. There were four different sets of performers. We learned that many Jazz performers that made a decent living on the west coast of the U.S., retired here to La Cruz. What a treat for the locals to have these musicians that are willing to continue to play for enjoyment of the public.

Day 6

The day is spent running errands and picking up supplies. We had been walking everywhere up till now. We knew we needed to take a cab to the ATM to get pesos but had no idea where to find one. We stopped at the security check point at the marina and asked the guard where we could find a taxi. The guard turned and faced the woods and began screaming at the top of his lungs ‘TAXI! TAXI!”. We started laughing and then a car zips around the corner and a man rolls down his window and says “You need a Taxi?” He drove us maybe 5 miles and charged us 80 pesos.

Day 7

Today was The Cruisers Swap Meet. Actually it was a cruisers Yard Sale. These events are fun to go to. You never know what people are getting off of their boats. Michael bought Night Vision Binocular , A oil change kit, some shackles and a surf board for Mike. Mike was excited to go off to the beach at Punta De Mita to meet a friend of his and do some surfing. It was a wonderful diversion for him. Staying on the boat with his folks drives him insane some days, which is understandable.

Last night we attended a “get together” at the marina. On the way I met two men that were carrying guitars. They asked me if I’d like them to sing me a song and of course I couldn’t refuse. The younger of the two smiled at me and said he had a special song for me. He called it “Kiss Me All Over.” I’m sure I blushed at the title of the song and fortunately it was sung in espanol, so I didn’t understand many of the words. Both of the men’s guitars were chipped and broken in places.  The older man played his guitar in a classical fashion. He was the musician of the two.

The “Get Together” was for cruisers to socialize and meet other cruisers that were traveling in the same direction. Many of the people here were waiting for the perfect weather window to do what they call “The Puddle Jump.”. These people are headed across the Pacific Ocean to the small islands that lead over to Tahiti. There were suppose to be other people heading south, but we didn’t meet any.

We did meet a man, a gringo, at the bar as we first arrived that seemed to be real friendly. But as the night progressed, he ended up coming across as very strange. Alcohol was his issue, I’m sure of it.

My crew ended up going to a nice restaurant for dinner. We had barbecue ribs that were made with pineapple and mango sauce. They were delicious. After our meal the guy from the “cruisers get together” came in “only to have a beer. “ he said. He told the owner he was kicked out of the last place he went to. Then he sat at the bar and chatted up about us and how he had met us previously. He then told the Owner “to sit back and watch, things were about to get strange.” He picked up a pocket knife the owner kept at the bar and was opening it up and waving it around. At that point, he was asked to leave, as he took the knife from him and put it away. I felt uneasy when we left the restaurant to head back to our dingy. Then I remembered that both my guys knew Judo one of which is a brown belt in Judo. In this case the trouble maker wasn’t even Mexican. We had a nice walk back to the dingy dock and safe ride back to our boat.

Day 8

 

Big day for vendors selling goods they have made along the malecon (A walk way that runs along the waters edge) at the marina. I had heard about this market from the locals and wanted to check it out. As we approached this morning we saw people everywhere. My first thought was to turn around and head back to the boat. I wasn’t in the mood for crowds. But since Michael and Mike were with me I didn’t want to change my mind on them.

It was a good thing we went because there were so many nice things that people had made. Things like tiny beads made into designs that had to take a long time to do. Jewelry of all kinds with pretty stones, paintings of local scenery, pottery from the area of Oxaca with gorgeous glazes, ice cream made with coconut and carrots, marlin empanadas, fresh bread., organic coffee and vegetables. Many of the people wore festive garments of bright colors and beautiful embroidery with large sombreros.

What I was looking for was art work done by the Huichol people that live deep in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains. It is said that these people are one of only a few tribes people remaining in North America. Once a year they harvest the peyote cactus. They believe this helps them communicate with their gods. Their artwork is the product of their beliefs. I did find a vendor with many pieces to choose from. We haggled about the price and eventually I was able to purchase a beautiful piece that I liked. It is said that if you don’t haggle over price you are considered weak and are disrespected. I still find it hard to do.

As usual the afternoon wind was blowing hard as we rode back to the boat in the dingy. It was a real challenge to keep my purchase dry. Somehow, we made it. The rest of the day was spent putting away clean laundry and helping Michael with tools while he did maintenance on the boat. For dinner I made a shrimp scampi with white wine, garlic and lime juice. It was a hit. J

Don’t Set Schedules

03/21/2012

We still haven’t learned yet.

Don’t set “Schedules” for yourself when you are “Cruising”. If you want to have an enjoyable trip, you don’t want to be heading out into the sea when the waves are big and coming at you every 3-5 seconds. It will be a rough ride and you will wish you would have waited before “rushing off”.

We look at buoyweather.com for a seven (7) day forecast. It gives us the wind direction in the morning and the sea conditions and then the same for the evening. In the past week we have relied on the forecast and have either taken a boat ride and realized there is no wind, or we rely on the forescast that it’s going to blow out of the north/hard for the next 3 days and we decide to “stay put”. As I am writing, this is one of the evenings we decided to “stay put”. It’s blowing like 20knots out there and it’s dark so it feels like its blowing harder.

It’s not like there is nothing to do while you wait for a weather window. We have issues, just like everyone else. Yesterday was Monday and I like to use Monday’s as an excuse to do nothing. I spent most of the day sitting on the deck reading a book and chatting with the tourists in kayaks as they paddeled by the boat.

The weather looked ominous on the horizon last Sunday. Then today the wind blew and the waves coming into the anchorage grew larger and larger. I didn’t sleep well due to the boat thrashing back and forth from side to side.

A wave so large came thru and almost crested at the bow of my boat. It shook the boat so much that Michael started talking about going into the Old Harbor to anchor for the night. He started the engine and started to head out when he noticed the transmission slipping. After he checked it out, he found it was low on oil and topped it off. It wasn’t until 45 minutes before sunset that he decided to try it again. So we pulled up the anchor, headed out of the anchorage and motored into the channel over to the Old Harbor.

The wind was howling by that point. Once we got the boat into the area, we realized there wasn’t much room in this anchorage. People started coming out of the boats and pointing and yelling over the wind “go over there, not here, don’t anchor here.” We motored passed and attempted to drop the anchor 3 different times and each time the anchor dragged on the bottom, just wouldn’t take a bight. The bottom was mud. With the wind blowing like it was, we couldn’t take a chance on dragging.

Michael turned around and headed back to the Stone Island Anchorage. As he exited the Harbor he announced on the VHF Channel 22 “All the Boaters in the Old Harbor Anchorage can go back to bed now. Halcyon has left the area and is headed back to the Stone Island Anchorage.” One lady with a soft voice responded ” Thank you.”. We had a good laugh.

We returned to our previous spot and dropped the anchor again. Our Bruce anchor likes to hold in the sand, so sand it is! The waves were calm now as the wind blew from the opposit direction flattening them out. I slept real good last night.

Tonight we had visitors over from another sailboat anchored here in the anchorage. It was a nice diversion to have a conversation with someone other than the crew on my boat. This couple was from Washington State. They told us a little about themselves and the places they had visited south of here. I would have loved to have asked them more questions about their trip, but the guys on this boat were trying to get in some “chat” time as well. So the competition was on.

For the last several days Michael has said how he’d like to take the walk up the mountain to the lighthouse. And each day he has something else to do first and then we never go. Today he says “We will go tomorrow.”

Buoyweather.com shows that the seas will be lying down on Thursday. We are talking about heading out then.

Traveling

10/30/2011

We have one week left before flying west to LA and then south to La Paz, Mx.  We got our new studio set up in the states to do our art work and are ready to get on the boat and bring it back to the states.  By the looks of the weather up north Mexico will be the ideal place to be spending some time this winter.  We are excited and anxious to take the boat thru the Panama Canal and then north to the U.S.

Sea Trials

04/19/2011

The day was getting so hot that we were dragging our bodies around as we went about our chores.  The high was predicted to be 95 degrees and I think it was close to it by 11AM.  The deck looked like a bomb hit it. Michael turned to me and said “Let’s clean this all up on the way out of here”.  Those were the best words I had heard all morning.  So he started up the motor and out we went, cleaning up the deck as we motored along. 

The water was Blueberry Blue and the hues changed lighter to white as the water got shallower.  We motored up to the same place as before, a couple of weeks ago. There were people in kayaks, waverunners, and fishing boats. The anchor was dropped in 20′ of water.  The GPS set to announce any dragging of the anchor.

Mike jumped into the inflatable dingy with a 4 stroke 10 hp motor on the back.  Off he flew to go check out the sights.  He was so fun to watch as he bounced off the waves from a nearby waverunner.

As my eyes scanned the water I  saw several schools of fish right on the surface of the water.  Each time a bird flew over it was as tho the bird had a magnetic pull as a soft swosh sound would occur and many of the little fish would pile up in the direction the bird was flying.

Later in the evening the guys were out on the deck, when a kayak with a father and son pulled up next to the boat.

The little boy yelled “HOLA!” As if he were saying “I said Hi!   He spoke some english and asked if he could come on board and have his picture taken.  Up comes Father and Son.  More voices came from behind the boat. Three more people climb on board. It was Mom and two daughters. The children looked to be between the ages of 9-12.  They all wanted their pictures taken on the boat.  So we took their pictures.

As the sun  set and the full moon crossed the mountain, it reflected into the sea.

Michael was  done for the day and goes to bed.  Little Mike says he’s wired and can’t go to sleep.  Says he doesn’t like being on the anchor.  I tell him he’ll have to get use to it because we’ll be anchored out much over the next 3 months. He explains that he should have gone to bed while we were still up so that he could feel that someone was on watch.  So I tell him that I would be up for a while.  He finally settles down and goes to sleep.

If I weren’t so sleepy I’d stay up for hours sitting in the companion way watching the stars and the bright lit up moon. There’s a gentle breeze blowing which carries the sound of the mariachi bands tuba player over from the nearby beach.  Someone must have gotten married today due to the  white tents set up and music being played all afternoon.

By the next morning the guys go over the routine check of the engine and find a leaky transmission seal and a few other issues that need to be addressed.

It is decided that we head back to the marina and address these matters.  Shouldn’t take more than a day or two and hopefully we will be out again for another sea trial.

Planning Provisions

02/14/2011

 

Buying provisions for an extended cruise can be over whelming. Planning meals, snacks, and drinks for as much as three months for three people and two dogs is only the beginning. Putting together a first aid kit should be at the top of my list. Nothing like a small plastic case that carries only band-aids and antiseptics but something more in the way of a doctors bag.  Keeping in mind that if a medical emergency should arise the nearest doctor may be several hundred miles away.

Then there is “The Pack” that needs to be topped off with the absolute bare necessities three people should need to survive should the boat sink and we are stuck at sea. ( I think we are going to need a larger bag.)  The hand-held water maker takes up all the space in our current back pack. As my good Canadian friend told me the other day that her survival bag stays on the bunk during the day and the galley settee at night. A bag that has to be easy to grab in a hurry.

Buying the provisions is just the beginning.  After they are on the boat they have to be repackaged to get rid of any extra garbage.  Dry goods are often put into freezer bags and plastic containers. The cardboard that foods are packaged in can carry insect eggs. Insects are something else not wanted on board while at sea. 

After the provisions are planned, bought, and repackaged, they have to be stored in the best possible space.  Damage control is a must.  Things have to stay dry and won’t crush or break open while underway. Dried beans or rice stuck in the bilge absorbing water and burning up the bilge pump would not be good.

Then an inventory list needs to be made including the location of everything.  A boat isn’t like a house where groceries go into the kitchen cabinets.  Boats have very limited storage space which might include under the bunks, under the floorboards in the bilge, or in the sail locker.  It’s important to know where these items are stashed.

Not only is my head swimming with details all the time, but I’m laying in bed a night wondering “what I have forgotten?”.  My mind wanders over to my husbands set of responsibilities starting with the mechanical end of things.  I’m thinking “do we have a spare alternator, hoses, gaskets, shaft packing, etc”.  See what I mean by over whelming? I have to relax and remember how much fun this trip is going to be.

Finally

10/24/2010

It wasn’t until last week, the middle of October, that there was a noticeable change in the weather.  The evenings began to cool way down into the 60’s while during the day the highs have been  in the 80’s.  A new-found source of energy begins to emerge from each of the crew members.  We are starting our days with a rapid row out to the first set of markers in the channel outside the marina and back to the boat.  An exercise that is aiding in this fight against last winters storage of fat. 

 The rest of the day is spent working on the boat, marking off one item at a time from the list of “Things to Do Before Heading South”. 

Michael has been working on re-wiring the boat ever since we got aboard.  It has been a real “rats nest”.  Not to mention the rigging issues.  Lucky for us this guy can figure almost anything out if it has to do with mechanics or electronics.  After re-wiring the start switch, he started up the engine.  It was the first time I had heard it run.  It was good to hear the Perkins start and run like a new engine.  It was one more thing on the list that was completed and put my mind at ease.

People are starting to filter into La Paz since the weather has been getting cooler up north.  Next week a fleet of boats will be arriving from the San Diego area in a flotilla called the Baja Ha Ha.  Many stories have emerged from this annual event.  One of which includes the history of our boat. 

 Numberous cruisers get together and pay a fee to be a part of this cruise south each year.  Last year was considered a rough journey south.  Apparently “the call” was made to run in rough weather.  Many boaters tucked into safe harbors while others were “shamed” into continuing on, others that weren’t real experienced boaters ran into rough seas and strong winds, taking some hard licks on their vessels along the way.  Our boat in particular had a family of five on board.  Once they got to their destination the decision was made to sell the boat of which they had only owned for maybe 3 or 4 months. 

 It is sad to hear of such stories.  Much time and energy is put into owning a boat, not to mention getting ready for a 1000 mile run.  As history dictates, many boats make it to Cabo San Lucas the southern tip of Baja or even around to La Paz only to be put on the market as soon as they arrive.  Now that the Baja Ha Ha 2010 is now underway, my wish for every cruiser is that they have fair winds and clam seas.

Change of Pace

09/25/2010

One of the main reasons we decided to go cruising was to get  off  of the couch and start moving again.  Our life in the mountains for the last 5 years had become very sedentary.  When you make the decision to go back to cruising, you forget the things that were somewhat of a hassle before.  Things such as hauling supplies to the boat when your docked at a marina.  Or walking your dogs several times a day while docked at a marina.  The trip down the docks and across the parking lot is rarely a short one. But Hey! We’re off the couch and moving.  

A Look Around

07/18/2010

So here are a few shots of  Halcyon.  As you can see, she needs a bit of bright work done and some tlc. But it won’t take long to get her in shape.  I know I said I didn’t want  a boat that I had to do much work to, but I’m learning that in order to have exactly what you want, sometimes you have to work for it.  In the end it will be exactly what we were looking for.


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