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Old 09-05-2013, 17:23   #1
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Furuno NX300- 200-400 miles offshore

I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to get weather info on my trip down the coast to Mexico.

I bought a Si-Tex SSB receiver but I cant figure out how to use the thing and I don't have the time to get HAM certified.

Looking at the Furuno NX300 it states that it can get weather info 200-400 miles offshore. Does this mean its only good when your at least 200 miles offshore? Why not anything closer? I'd rather need something that worked up to 200 miles offshore.

A short description of the NX300...
"
8-Line, 4.5 Inch Monochrome LCD Display, Paperless NAVTEX Receiver (Non-SOLAS)

Furuno's NX300 paperless Navtex receiver is the most economical way of monitoring navigational warnings, meteorological warnings, search and rescue information and other data for ships sailing within 200-400 N.M.. of shore. Every incoming message is identified and new messages are read from the high-contrast 4.5" LCD display, no paper is required. However, you can print out the message via a PC.
"


Anyways. The project drags out...


-Jared
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Old 09-05-2013, 17:59   #2
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Re: Furuno NX300- 200-400 miles offshore

i have the furuno nx300.

navtex can be received within 200 to 400 miles of the transmitting station. there is a station in san diego which should cover you at least part of the way south along the mexican coast. mexico does not have navtex stations, to the best of my knowledge. so whether or not it's worth it is up to you.

i'm on the right coast. i use the miami station which covers most of the bahamas, where i principally sail. if i get into the southern bahamas i can pick up the navtex station in san juan puerto rico.

from personal experience i've found that if you just get on the vhf and ask for a weather report you may get replies from all those big yachts and ships out there that have all the expensive goodies on board and are happy to share with you.

here's another little known source of high seas weather information - although limited to the serious stuff like hurricane tracks. marine storm warnings for the atlantic are broadcast at 8 and 9 minutes past the hour, and pacific warnings at 10 minutes past the hour, on WWV and WWVH - the 'time tick' people. you can pick them up on 2.5mhz, 5mhz, 10mhz, 15mhz, and 20mhz.
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Old 10-05-2013, 14:18   #3
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Re: Furuno NX300- 200-400 miles offshore

Jared,
I understand your frustration / confusion, and I do believe I can help you sort through this maze!!!
Please go thru item by item, and follow the links, and I think we'll get you on the right track....

{PLEASE forgive my bluntness!!}
There is NO need to "get ham certified" in order to get excellent HF radio reception....but, just about any $200-$300 used ham radio (like an old IC-735, etc.) would work MUCH better than that Si-Tex...
Doing these 3 things will get you all the weather data/forecasts you'd need/desire....and it won't cost you much money, nor take much time!!!
----Getting a decent radio and antenna....
----Spending a few minutes (certainly no more than an hour or two) learning about HF radiowave propagation....
----Getting rid of the probable high amount of RFI on-board and/or surrounding your boat....


First off, directly on your exact points...
A) The SiTex "SSB Receiver" is a piece of crap, as has been discussed here and on the SSCA Disc Boards for many years...

B) The trick in using an HF radio, primarily HF receiver, is two-fold....
---First, understanding the incredibly high amount of interference ("RFI") that is around your boat, marina, yacht club, etc...
AND, reducing/eliminating that interference to allow easy/clear HF radio reception....
Take note that while I have ~ 40 years experience in this area, it is NOT that complicated, and there are many, many threads that are loaded with the details on how-to reduce/eliminate RFI on-board....
The first approach is usually to get away from the dock/marina (at least 1/2 mile away), and disconnect power/switch off breakers (or even the main battery switch), to everything on-board except your radio....and then see how well your radio and antenna work....you'll be amazed at how well even cheap, mediocre-quality radios work without lots of RFI around....
---Secondly, spend a few minutes (or as much as an hour or two) learning a bit about radiowave propagation, and how you'll use different frequencies/channels at different times of the day and over different distances...(here again, there are many threads here and on the SSCA Disc Boards that can be of great help...)


C) In areas where there are NAVTEX transmissions (such as along US/Canada coasts and throughout Europe), NAVTEX is a great source of text-based (written words and abbreviations) weather for coastal and near-offshore waters, from the coast out-to approx. 200-250 miles offshore (w/ maximum ranges to be 300-400 miles, but NOT to be relied on past approx. 250 miles)...BUT...
But, NAVTEX coverage is NOT available, or very unreliable, in many areas (such as the Mexican coast)....and/or sporadic coverage due to atmospheric noise, etc. (such as in the Caribbean, etc.)....SO...
So, for YOUR application, assuming you are in fact in Seattle and are heading down the coast to Mexico, NAVTEX would NOT provide you with decent weather info once you have gotten more than 100 miles or so south of US waters....
(so, while the Furuno NX-300 is a fine piece of gear, and is on my wish list, it would mostly be a waste of $$$ for you, at this time...)

Have a look at these pages, for some info on NAVTEX and coverages for your area....
NAVTEX Maritime Safety Broadcasts
http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/images/marcomms/navtex-p.gif
http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/images/navtexe.jpg
http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/images/marcomms/SAVANNAH.jpg
http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/images/navtarea.jpg
GMDSS | WMO
http://www.icselectronics.co.uk/navt...rea.php?nva=12
http://www.icselectronics.co.uk/navt...area.php?nva=4
NAVTEX Database | ICS Electronics Limited


Quote:
Originally Posted by jared1048 View Post
I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to get weather info on my trip down the coast to Mexico.

I bought a Si-Tex SSB receiver but I cant figure out how to use the thing and I don't have the time to get HAM certified.

Looking at the Furuno NX300 it states that it can get weather info 200-400 miles offshore. Does this mean its only good when your at least 200 miles offshore? Why not anything closer? I'd rather need something that worked up to 200 miles offshore.
1) Not exactly sure where you're planning on sailing/cruising (and this plays a BIG role in determining what you can best use to attain accurate and timely weather forecasts), but assuming you're still in Seattle and are heading to Mexico...here are my thoughts....

2) Along the US west coast, you'll be well served with normal US NOAA weather radio broadcasts on VHF radio....

3) If you venture further offshore than their coverage (> 25 - 50 miles off the US west coast), AND when you leave US waters, you WILL need some other method of receiving marine weather data/forecasts....
a) Typically the most useful offshore / hi-seas weather data/forecasts for recreational sailors (not professionally trained and/or experienced in ocean meteorology), is a surface weather chart and/or a wind and wave chart....
Both of these are broadcast multiple times per day...showing current conditions, as well as 24, 48, 72, 96, and 120 hour forecasts...
These are know by mariners as "WeFax charts", and for the areas you are interested in, are prepared by seasoned professional oceanographic meteorologists, with the US NWS/NOAA Ocean Prediction Centers, updated 4 times per day, and transmitted for FREE by the USCG 4+ times per day on multiple channels/frequencies, from a couple different locations.....
These maritime weather "WeFax charts" from the US NWS/NOAA, are considered (by most offshore mariners, professional and recreational) to be the "Gold Standard" by which other weather forecasts and Met offices are measured against....
And, these can be received (FREE of charge) by anyone with a decent HF radio (and antenna) and minimal experience.....with the radio's audio output connected to the sound-card input of any PC/laptop, etc...

b) These US NWS/NOAA Offshore and Hi-Seas forecasts are also transmitted in an very easy-to-follow format/pattern by voice, from the USCG....multiple times per day, from multiple stations....as well as retransmitted by Hi-Seas Coast Stations WLO (Mobile, AL) and KLB (Seattle, WA)....
And, here again are provided FREE to anyone with a decent HF radio (and antenna) and minimal experience....
The use an easy-to-understand "Iron Mike" synthesized voice....

{Please take note that these above two types of radio transmissions, of offshore and hi-seas weather (as well as those from the UK's Met office), have served me (and 10's of thousands of others) well over the past 35+ years of sailing/voyaging from FL, Bahamas, Caribbean, across the N. Atlantic numerous times, thru the Med, etc. etc...and while dubbed a bit "old fashioned" by some, they ARE currently in 2013 STILL transmitting (and will be for at least another decade or two) and STILL being used daily by many mariners (professional/commercial and recreational) worldwide.....

See the recent survey results from WMO/jcomm Joint WMO-IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology, for surprising results, that show outside of Europe (where NAVTEX is prevalent), HF radio (and especially HF WeFax) is still used by many large commercial vessels, even though many have satellite provided internet access, they still use HF radio and HF-Radio transmitted WeFax daily....}


c) Last year, I wrote a very detailed post about offshore and hi-seas weather, etc. on the SSCA Disc Board....where all of the details of the above summaries are spelled-out, and many direct links are provided...
SSCA Forum • View topic - Offshore / Hi-Seas Weather data / forecasts

Here is just a brief excerpt...
Quote:
-- As for offshore / hi-seas weather data and forecasts, etc...
1) For most of the N. Atlantic, all of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico (including US East Coast, Bermuda, Azores, Bahamas, Caribbean, Central America, etc.), as well as the Eastern and Central Pacific, etc.... you have easy / FREE access, via HF-SSB Radio, to the "gold standard" in offshore marine weather data/forecasts (the US NWS/NOAA Marine Weather, broadcasts in voice, text, and WeFax, from the USCG...)


a) Here is the general Marine Weather page.....with all the links on it...
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/home.htm


b) Here are the pages, showing the WeFax (weather charts / sat images) broadcasts....
Have a look at all these pages to get an idea of what charts are transmitted, etc...
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/radiofax.htm
http://weather.noaa.gov/fax/marine.shtml

c) For the North Atlantic...
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfmarsh_links.htm
http://weather.noaa.gov/fax/marsh.shtml
{I use NMF/Boston...for most of the N. Atl...}

d) For the Tropical Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and Tropical East Pacific...
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfgulf_links.htm
http://weather.noaa.gov/fax/gulf.shtml
{I use NMG/New Orleans...all the time....for SW N. Atl. / Carib / Trop N. Atl....}

e) For the North Pacific and Tropical East Pacific....
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfreyes_links.htm
http://weather.noaa.gov/fax/ptreyes.shtml

f) For the Central, Southeast and North Pacific...
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfhi_links.htm
http://weather.noaa.gov/fax/hawaii.shtml

g) For the rest of the Atlantic, Med, Pacific and Indian Oceans....
Here is a page with worldwide WeFax broadcast schedules...
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/rfax.pdf
{note that I use GYA, from the UK, for eastern N. Atl. WeFax...}


h) Also, for the past 25 years, Herb Hilgenberg provides excellent offshore weather forecasting and routing advice, via Maritime HF-SSB Radio....(for FREE!!), for the whole N. Atl., Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and areas further on request....
http://www3.sympatico.ca/hehilgen/vax498.htm


i) For subscription fee, Chris Parker also provides offshore weather and routing advice via Maritime HF-SSB Radio, for the Caribbean, Bahamas, Gulf of Mexico...
http://www.caribwx.com/



2) For offshore and hi-seas Voice and Text weather broadcasts....
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfvoice.htm
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/hfsitor.htm

{Note: For hi-seas / offshore voice (and/or text) weather broadcasts further along your route, there is Aus, Brunei, NZ, etc... have a look at a thread here..
viewtopic.php?f=12&t=8301
For worldwide offshore/hi-seas text weather data and forecasts, there is always INMARSAT C....
And, for near-offshore broadcasts, don't forget NAVTEX!!!! ]




3) As for how to "get" the above weather data / forecasts...it is all transmitted for FREE over HF radio (i.e. "Marine SSB Radio"), by very powerful (4000watt) transmitters....
You can access all the above by:

a) a Standalone, dedicated HF WeFax receiver/chart printer....such as a Furuno FAX-408...at about $2200 (street-price) it is pricey, but VERY reliable, and used worldwide on many commercial vessels (and some pleasure craft, such as mine)
http://www.furunousa.com/products/produ ... eather+Fax
{ This is what I use, and used an Alden MarineFaxIV for many years before I installed my new Furuno FAX-408 a few years ago....
http://www.c470.jerodisys.com/470pix/47003.htm using a 22' long vertical "random-length" wire antenna, and have excellent reception and crystal-clear charts....}


b) a dedicated WeFax receiver-only networked to a Furuno NavNet display or PC/laptop...(if you already had a Furuno NavNet display, the FAX-30, at about $900 is a good choice...but unless you've got the Furuno NavNet system, this is also a bit pricey, as you can use your SSB radio to do the same thing....)
http://www.furunousa.com/products/Produ ... duct=FAX30


c) a Marine SSB transceiver (such as Icom M-802/AT-140) for voice broadcasts, and for WEFax (and text) broadcasts, connected to a PC/laptop, using FREE software (such as JVComm) allows for WeFax (and text/SITOR) reception....typ. prices are about $2400 for transceiver/tuner/etc....
http://www.docksideradio.com/Icom%20SSB%20Radios.htm
http://www.docksideradio.com/wefax.htm


d) an inexpensive HF/SSB receiver (such as a Sagean 909 or Sony 7600, etc.), using a good antenna, for voice reception....and for WeFax (and text) reception, connected to a PC/laptop (and again using JVComm, etc)
Typical costs here are from $150 to $500, depending on receiver and antenna set-up....
{this is usually considered a "back-up" system, with the vessel's primary Marine SSB Tranceiver being used as the "primary" HF receiver for WeFax, Voice, etc..}



Sorry about my bluntness about the Si-Tex receiver, learning a little bit about radiowave propagation, and about reducing your on-board and surrounding RFI, but if I had a dollar for everyone with the same issues/problems you've mentioned, I'd be sailing a new Hinckley SW-52, instead of a Catalina....
And, don't forget that you needed to learn how to sail once, and you needed to learn navigation, anchoring, docking, etc. so why not spend a few minutes learning about radiowave propagation as well, it's just another piece of knowledge that you can use to enjoy cruising / offshore sailing....



Jared, I know this is a long post with lots of details, but I do hope you find it useful and not overwhelming!!

Fair winds..

John
s/v Annie Laurie
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Old 10-05-2013, 15:28   #4
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Re: Furuno NX300- 200-400 miles offshore

Perfect John!

I have been reading about radio propagation and trying to remember the different bands and what there range is but its a lot and I just need to start with something simple and small and work my way up. Its why I got the si-tex and not a regular ham transceiver.

I will try and mess with the sitex once I'm a couple miles away from land in the Puget Sound and see if I can pick something up. I need to figure out the local frequencies to try and tune into for weather and different nets if I have the right bands.

I don't mind bluntness! I can handle the truth as it is and don't need the sugar. Already enough bs out there to sort through.

I guess i'm kinda glad to see the furuno wouldn't work for Mexico so it means my decision between the two was a crap shoot to begin with.

If anyone is from the seattle area and knows some of the frequencies please feel free to list them and I'll try to pick them up.


Thanks!
-Jared
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Old 10-05-2013, 17:50   #5
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Re: Furuno NX300- 200-400 miles offshore

Jared,
Please confirm that you are in Seattle....and heading down the west coast to Mexico, as your final destination...



Quote:
Originally Posted by jared1048 View Post
I have been reading about radio propagation and trying to remember the different bands and what there range is but its a lot and I just need to start with something simple and small and work my way up. Its why I got the si-tex and not a regular ham transceiver.
1) In general:
a) You should have excellent reception from Shipcom's station KLB (in Seattle) and USCG's NMC (Pt. Reyes, CA)....

HF SSB Radiotelephone, Telex and Email Frequencies and Channels
Hourly traffic lists, at the top of the hour....and weather broadcasts 6 times a day, starting at the top of the hours....

USCG HF Voice
Weather broadcasts 4 times a day....


b) Try the 4, 6, and 8mhz channels (for both KLB and NMC), during the day when you are within 200 - 500 miles from Seattle and San Fran area respectively....and at nighttime, when 500 - 2000 miles away....

c) And, try the 8, 12, and 16mhz channels during the day, when 500 - 4000 miles away....and 8 and 12mhz, in the evening or early morning, when 500-4000 miles away...

d) Please take note that once south of Guadalupe Island, for Voice Broadcasts you're limited to just the Hi-Seas forecasts, which cover large areas and as such as somewhat vague to the coastal cruising sailors, and those in the Sea of Cortez will usually have no use for them...

So, without a transmitter (transceiver) which would allow you to join Mexican cruising nets, etc...you will find yourself at the mercy of vessels around you that you can reach via VHF radio and inquire about weather forecasts, or you may get lucky and be able to listen to weather info being broadcast on some of the Mexican cruising nets, etc....(or you may be more tied to an internet connection than you desire...)

This why having a transmitter, or at the least having a decent receiver and antenna, and equipping with the capability (for FREE) to receive WeFax transmissions, is a almost always a good choice for cruising remote, less traveled areas....

But, without knowing exactly WHERE you are planning on sailing/cruising, nor on what your other communications gear is, it is impossible for anyone to advise you further.....



2) Actually the better the radio, the easier it to use AND the better the reception will be....
(If you can return the Si-Tex for refund, do it!!! and do it now!!!)
For the same price as that Si-Tex receiver, you can get a good condition used ham radio, and/or for a few dollars more a used Icom M-700 or M-710, which are excellent radios....




3) Trying the Si-tex away from the noise of land is a good start, but PLEASE read the threads that detail all the crap on-board our own vessels that can cause HF RFI.....and try the receiver with everything else disconnected (not just "turned off").....
Quote:
Originally Posted by jared1048 View Post
I will try and mess with the sitex once I'm a couple miles away from land in the Puget Sound and see if I can pick something up. I need to figure out the local frequencies to try and tune into for weather and different nets if I have the right bands.
And, please see the links above for times and frequencies to try.....you don't need someone in Seattle to get you the frequencies....they have been common knowledge for decades, and posted/talked about here for years and years.....
Useable signals (even very strong ones) can come from many thousands of miles away....
I, myself, regularly (every afternoon) hear good signals from offshore weather broadcasts from Australia, right here at the dock in south Florida, on 12.362 and 12.365mhz, some 9500 to 11,000 miles away!!!

Here's something I posted last fall:
Quote:
And, right here at my dock (with all the noise of being near civilization, etc.) I typically can copy quite well (over many hours) the offshore weather broadcasts from VMC on 12.365mhz (Charleville, Australia) and VMW on 12.362mhz (Wiluna, Australia), in the afternoons.....(and hear the 8176 broadcasts at night as well!!!)
These stations are 9600 miles and 11,100 miles from me, here in Florida.....making the path a very long, multi, multi-hop path....but the signals are usually better than some of the boats that are 1500 - 4000 miles away....
And, while they are from 1000 watt transmitters, that is only 8db greater than the 150 watt typical transmitter on-board our boats, and these broadcasts come from transmitters hundreds of miles inland, on the dry and very poor soil conductivity of the Australian outback, not from "coast stations" or antennas over salt water!!!!

So, while listening on 4.405mhz at the top of the hour, for Shipcom's KLB transmissions (from the Seattle area), might seem like you'd be guaranteed to get a strong signal....you may find signals from 1000's of miles away to actually be stronger!!! (learning radiowave propagation will allow you to more fully understand this....)


Have a look at these threads as well....
SSCA Forum • View topic - Tips for using an HF-SSB Radio (mostly for newcomers)
SSCA Forum • View topic - HF Radio Freqs, summertime Atlantic crossing, offshore Net..


And again, if you can get your money back for that Si-Tex receiver, do it now!!!



Hope this helps...

Fair winds...

John
s/v Annie Laurie
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Old 10-05-2013, 18:39   #6
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Re: Furuno NX300- 200-400 miles offshore

Lots of info to chew on John. Thanks for all the info.

Yes, I'm currently in Seattle and plan on making my way down the coast into Mexico in late 2014. We are not sure where we will end up going from there. I'd love to hang a right and head off to the south pacific but my boat isn't setup for long blue water passages. Heading to the Caribbean would be a more do-able trip for us but I don't like having to think about passing through Venezuela\Columbia.

And my current equipment is a brand new VHF (Standard Horizon 2150 w/ais), cable and 6 db antenna on masthead. Si-Tex NavFax 200 SSB receiver. I threw away the box and everything that came with the NavFax 200 so I probably cant return it now even though its brand spanking new...

Cheers,
-Jared
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Old 10-05-2013, 21:08   #7
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Re: Furuno NX300- 200-400 miles offshore

For picking up SSB WFAX and voice transmissions, and probably SITOR, you could do worse than one of the new Software Defined Radios. I got one of these radios for $200, plugged it into my computer, downloaded some free (or almost free) software, and was easily receiving WFAX and other radio stuff. Here's a link to where I describe the system: WFAX With a Software Defined Radio -- It Works!
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Old 10-05-2013, 21:13   #8
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Re: Furuno NX300- 200-400 miles offshore

Jared,
Good news!!!
You've got over a year to figure things out (not sure why I had assumed you were heading off right away, but with over a year to go you're doing great!)..
And in the bigger picture a few hundred dollars for the Si-Tex, isn't a big deal....

Give the Si-Tex a try when out at anchor in the sound this summer....and have fun!!

Wherever you decide to go, the info above and the knowledge/experience you gain in the next year will serve you well!!!



BTW, on a completely different note, I hear great things about Columbia....Cartagena has been growing in popularity among cruising sailors....so, if you decide to turn left, you'll be fine...


Fair winds...

John
s/v Annie Laurie
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Old 11-05-2013, 08:51   #9
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Re: Furuno NX300- 200-400 miles offshore

For John, KA4WJA:

I think that you deserve a big gold star for all the above posts -- a great job of summarizing the details of wx reception. I am suggesting to the mods that it become a "sticky", perhaps you will not have to repeat yourself so often!

Well done, mate!

Cheers and 73 de Jim, N9gft/VK4GFT
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Old 11-05-2013, 10:37   #10
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Re: Furuno NX300- 200-400 miles offshore

Jim,
You're welcome..
And, thanks for the kind words...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
I think that you deserve a big gold star for all the above posts -- a great job of summarizing the details of wx reception. I am suggesting to the mods that it become a "sticky", perhaps you will not have to repeat yourself so often!

Well done, mate!

Cheers and 73 de Jim, N9gft/VK4GFT
But, if want to recommend a "sticky", I just started a thread that is much more broad in coverage and even more detailed....and it's a better choice for a "sticky"...

Have a look, and see what you think...
Obtaining Accurate Offshore/Hi-Seas Weather data/forecasts, while at sea



Fair winds...

John
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