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Old 21-12-2011, 01:19   #61
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Exclamation Safety of Life at Sea - Life and death matters at sea.

I just read about the loss of Jan Anderson, of Triple Stars was washed overboard on 185 miles northwest of Bermuda last month, during a rough NARC and it gives me pause:

Latitude 38 - 'Lectronic Latitude

First, I feel deeply for her husband, and her family and friends. The loss of any sailor reminds all of us of the deep bond we share as sailors - no matter our age, craft or circumstances.

We are all equals before the sea.

Second, each time something like this happens, I think we all are shocked - and think...

"What if?":

What if it had been my wife?

My son?

My daughter?

My best friend?

....and when we are alone out there:

What if it were me?

Then there follows a series of questions:

Could this have been prevented?

How?

Did the skipper do everything he was able to do to recover the victim?

...and these questions give us pause.

Often, I hear fatalism:

"When it's your time, its your time"

"The sea can overpower the most well found craft"

Or blame:

"She should have had a harness on"

"What about a PLB?"

But like any death, there always seems to be a certain absurdity to it - a senselessness, mocking rational inquiries, making them irrelevant.

Still, rational solutions beckon:

Early in my singlehanded preparations, an experienced singlehanded transpac veteran was lost out on Santa Monica Bay right where I was training:

Irell & Manella LLP: Thomas A. Kirschbaum, In Memoriam

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4057/...b00b43b1ab.jpg

I remember the day well - I'd decided to stay in port - a spring gale was raging, with 45 knot winds. I certainly didn't have the proper sails or experience to challenge such conditions at the time, and so I marveled at the show of power nature put on.

I visited the wreckage of Tom Kirchbaum's boat the day after the gale.

And it was a fine boat - meticulously kept and prepared.

Nothing out of place: Jacklines rigged, mainsl reefed, everything shipshape.

...and he was returning from Catalina Island - a passage of about 35 miles that I'd completed the previous summer in calm weather.

and he'd died on that same, familiar passage.

Then, a few months later, another solo sailor died in the same area:

Easy Reader News – Unmanned sailboat washes up by RB pier - Easy Reader News

I was trained as a creative problem solver.

I was an Architect, and for the past 12 years, I've taught a variety of architectural design and technical courses to college students.

I'm now retired.

The basic premise of all design is that you must research, and then abandon baseless preconceptions and formulate good questions if you are to develop appropriate solutions to a given problem.

When I encountered the sailing culture I was taken aback by its conservatism and traditionalism.

This was a dangerous undertaking - hidebound in its traditions, with old salts set in thier ways and unwilling to question tradition, much less embrace new thinking, especially regarding safety.

...and witnessing the deaths of these sailors on the shores of my "tame" bay made me both cautious and angry - I was determined to question everything relating to safety at sea, once I felt I had a grasp of the basic problem - which took a year or so of frequent solo and crewed forays, both day and night, onto the bay.

Slowly, after several thousand miles of inshore day-sailing, certain things became apparent:

A sailbag blew overboard at night in calm weather - 10 knots perhaps - and my crew and I had great difficulty recovering it - even though it was yellow, even though I had a 1 million candle power spot light, even though I SAW it go overboard.

I was broadsided by a large (15 foot) breaking wave over a shoal that was essentially unmarked, right next to a 1500 foot deep undersea canyon - a "freak wave" that nearly rolled me.

Later, as a drill, I threw a cockpit cushion overboard, at night, with a strobe attached. Again and again I marked the MOB on GPS and deliberately disoriented myself, and marveled at how difficult it was to spot and recover that well lit and marked cushion solo, in calm conditions at night - and most couples will be "singlehanding" if either goes overboard, so they'd better practice such drills "single handed."

Then, an overweight woman who'd been drinking fell into the water near my boat earlier this year. Her panicked, drunken companion awakened me at 1:00am - banging on my coach roof:

"Bill!!!! There's an EMERGENCY!!!"

"What???

"My friend is in the water, and I cant get her out"

"SHE'S IN THE WATER???"

...and I immediately jumped out of my berth, and deployed my lifesling, after tossing her a PDF.

...To no avail.

He and I both were unable to lift her out of the water, and the sling just slid over her shoulders. The docks have no ladders. She was unable to climb a transom ladder I deployed on adjacent boat.

The water was in the 50ies. She only had to climb 18", but she was unable, and two fit, grown men, with all their might, and with 4:1 purchase were unable to rescue her.

I donned my wetsuit swimfins, and PFD, and cautiously entered the water, to see if I could help.

She was to big - no way I would be able to rescue her

(Dont try this unless you are trained in lifesaving and out of options - I trained as a rescue swimmer as teenager and held a Red Cross advanced lifesaving card for a time, and have extensive ocean surf swimming experience)

So it came to this:

Turn on the Chartplotter.

Turn on the VHF

Wait for signal acquisition.

Press the red DSC button.

"MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY:

This is SV Nomad hailing Mayday on Channel one-six, I have a person in the water and I need immediate assistance"

LA Harbor patrol, 20 miles away, was first to respond -

"What is your location?"

etc, etc, etc....

15 minutes later, Santa Monica Baywatch responded with their surf rescue boat.

This boat has a swim / rescue platform 6" above the water.

The rescue swimmer was a petite female in a grey neoprene fullsuit

I jumped out of the water and waddled up to her in my swimfins and springsuit, shivering:

"Look - she's obese - there is no way you will be able to rescue her alone. We need that boat"

Her (assessing the situation) "Right - can you help me? There are only two of us, and my partner has to drive the boat - don't worry - he's good"

....and as the pilot backed the boat down the finger, I gave strict instructions to my friend after litterally cleating her to the dock with the line from the lifesling:

"don't let her move away from the dock!"

She kept trying to swim away anyway - she was drunk, and didnt realize the danger she was in.

....and as Baywatch backed their boat up to her, the rescue swimmer and I used a yellow plastic backboard to lever this now delirious, hypothermia, drunk woman out of the still, cold water.

...and it was HARD. It took all of my strength and hers to accomplish the rescue.

This woman had been in the water for perhaps 30 minutes, and I'm convinced she would have died without the immediate intervention of myself and 3 other persons - it took four of us to rescue her in flat water, complicated by the darkness - and three of us were trained in advanced ocean rescue, two were LA County Baywatch lifeguards, regarded as some of the very best in the world at ocean rescue - and if you doubt this, look up how many swimmers drown each year in Santa Monica Bay...

Out of millions of swimmers, its generally "0" deaths out of hundreds of rescues.

The lesson?

DON'T GO OVERBOARD.

NEVER NEVER NEVER!!!!

There are three rules on my ship:

1) Stay on the boat

2) Stay on the boat

3) Stay on the boat

So I developed this prototype to insure that this rule is followed:

Boom Brake - YouTube

It's a simple, cheap, and effective friction brake for the boom, rigged with a climbing figure 8 descender.

and these:

Lifeshorts PFD:

Hogan Boat US PFD Competition Final Cut .wmv - YouTube

Everyone wears pants, right? well, integrate a climbing harness with some sailing shorts, rig some jacklines. get a double tether, and stay attached to the boat at all times. Bonus points:

Rig a waist PFD that allows you to SWIM.

Throw a DSC HHVHF in your pocket, along with a PLB. Now you can broad cast your POSITION along with you MOB MAYDAY. HHVHF gives you verbal contact with rescuers.

But DONT GO OVERBOARD, remember?

So I installed a bunch of cabin top handholds to my coachroof, after analysing where I needed them in rough conditions:

http://s3.amazonaws.com/data.tumblr....tys7udiR2lA%3D

Much to the mockery of my dockmates.

....and my latest thought?

if someone goes overboard on my boat, the LIFE RAFT gets deployed immediately.

Think about it:

What's easier to find: A big yellow life raft, or a coconut floating on the ocean?

A life raft is easier to board than a sailing vessel, it doesnt sail away from the victim (sea anchor and ballast bags, right) and it offers respite, flotation, a rescue platform, and a much greater chance of survival.

...and that's not all:

I've noticed a disturbing thing in several life threatening storm emergencies:

HEAD INJURIES.

A well tamed boom (see above) and a bicycle helmet would prevent most of these, and hey - I carry a folding mountain bike, so why not?

Winds over 20 knots?

Put on that brain bucket sailor - just like the CG and AC sailors do.

So what are your thoughts on this?

I think most of these tragedies are preventable.

Not all - but most.



What are others experiences and thoughts regarding MOB emergencies, and especially, their prevention?
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Old 21-12-2011, 02:12   #62
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Re: Safety of Life at Sea - Life and death matters at sea.

good post...love a boom brake idea (and helmet)

for any new sailor like me...it is wise to listen when guys like you care to share hard earned experience...Thank you very much sir!!

rgds

“In the end, it is not the words of our enemies we will remember, but the silence of our freinds”
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Old 21-12-2011, 05:21   #63
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Re: Safety of Life at Sea - Life and death matters at sea.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hogan View Post
I just read about the loss of Jan Anderson, of Triple Stars was washed overboard on 185 miles northwest of Bermuda last month, during a rough NARC and it gives me pause:

Latitude 38 - 'Lectronic Latitude

First, I feel deeply for her husband, and her family and friends. The loss of any sailor reminds all of us of the deep bond we share as sailors - no matter our age, craft or circumstances.

We are all equals before the sea.
Today I found out that the (long term) Partner of an ex-colleague died suddenly last week - at 38 . they have 3 kids.............I didn't really know the bloke, but his Missus is a nice person........Nothing directly boat related (he was fixing his Microwave - and electrocuted himself , found next morning).......the specifics fairly easy to avoid by others .......but the wider lesson being he fell into the age old trap of: "knowing what he was doing" (His trade was Electrickery in the Telecoms industry)......that lesson applicable afloat as well as onshore.

Quote:
A sailbag blew overboard at night in calm weather - 10 knots perhaps - and my crew and I had great difficulty recovering it - even though it was yellow, even though I had a 1 million candle power spot light, even though I SAW it go overboard.
One thing I picked up on an Australian Dive Boat for a MOB is (if spare crew available) that one person (anyone) has the sole job of pointing at the MOB (arm outstretched) and never taking eyes off them, not even for a second. It may involve moving around the boat as it turns / manoeuvres and everyone else gives them room to do so...............The idea being that the Helmsman can always tell where the MOB is at a glance (and can ask for approx distance) and that the MOB doesn't dissapear into the waves - as Hogan says, easy to lose track off something small (head size) in the water, even in good conditions. Especially from the boat changing orientation to the MOB.


Quote:
The lesson?

DON'T GO OVERBOARD.

NEVER NEVER NEVER!!!!

There are three rules on my ship:

1) Stay on the boat

2) Stay on the boat

3) Stay on the boat
+1


Quote:
Lifeshorts PFD:

Hogan Boat US PFD Competition Final Cut .wmv - YouTube

Everyone wears pants, right? well, integrate a climbing harness with some sailing shorts, rig some jacklines. get a double tether, and stay attached to the boat at all times. Bonus points:

Rig a waist PFD that allows you to SWIM.

Throw a DSC HHVHF in your pocket, along with a PLB. Now you can broad cast your POSITION along with you MOB MAYDAY. HHVHF gives you verbal contact with rescuers.
My first reaction was that a lot of clobber to get snagged around the boat (even if everything would be nice to have once in the drink!)........and that the PFD end of things less than ideal if MOB not in a position to self rescue, i.e from exhaustion (happens to everyone, just a matter of how long).....albeit IMO a lot more useful than a conventional PFD if they are able to self rescue (or climb into a liferaft) from the greater mobility it allows.

But I do like your self rescuing (hauling self aboard) system .

FWIW I use a conventional PFD with both a built in harness and a crotch strap - it simply hooks onto my Foul Weather Jacket so putting them on is never a tangle, and only requires two clasps.



Admittedly I don't wear it as often as I should (?) - especially for the Harness side of things (am still thinking through changes to the jacklines side - and am tied to the dock anyway )........in warmer climes would probably fit it (or another one) onto a lighter coat / jacket.....keep meaning to add a sprayhood, but as I mostly singlehand (or with folk not of any great use) that as an MOB I will be pretty much f#cked no matter what I do / wear.....apart from maybe a handheld VHF radio, in which case going for something that would keep me afloat long enough to be rescued with little or no input from me would (for me) be a worthwhile trade off against loss of mobility.


Quote:
But DONT GO OVERBOARD, remember?

So I installed a bunch of cabin top handholds to my coachroof, after analysing where I needed them in rough conditions:

http://s3.amazonaws.com/data.tumblr....tys7udiR2lA%3D

Much to the mockery of my dockmates.
Decent handholds - not so "sexy" as most "safety" gear, use not so much for holding on when hit by a Tsunami style wave (probably won't be able to) but principally to keep balance.

My No.2 after handholds is a decent toerail and ideally bulwarks of at least a few inches to stop feet sliding overboard - followed by self

My No.3 is replacing the top lifelines with s/s tube (for me that is still on the "to do" list - might even add an inch or 2 on the stanchions)......losing that few inches of give (vs wire) means that less risk of overbalancing and the solid tube makes both a decent grabrail and something to lean against - both at sea and when docking.

Am still mulling over Granny Bars at the mast - will depend on what I leave to do there........might also see if I can design them so can also be used for (on mooring / in port) mountings for some Solar.


Quote:
....and my latest thought?

if someone goes overboard on my boat, the LIFE RAFT gets deployed immediately.

Think about it:

What's easier to find: A big yellow life raft, or a coconut floating on the ocean?

A life raft is easier to board than a sailing vessel, it doesnt sail away from the victim (sea anchor and ballast bags, right) and it offers respite, flotation, a rescue platform, and a much greater chance of survival.
I disagree with that approach - the Liferaft will be easier to find, but unless deployed instantly (it won't be) the MOB will need to be able to swim to it - and then climb in unaided (not easy).....the MOB will have a different drift rate even without currents.


Quote:
HEAD INJURIES.
I've suffered lots of head injuries over the years - never did me any harm
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Old 21-12-2011, 07:37   #64
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Re: Safety of Life at Sea - Life and death matters at sea.

Terrible news when someone dies, especially when it seems like some basic safety measures (that are often ignored) might have prevented it.

I find the 30' wave thing a little hard to believe. Sure, they happen and so do rogue waves. However sailors overestimating sea conditions and using terms incorrectly are a hell of a lot more common than 30' waves and once-in-thirty-years rogue waves that every guy with ten minutes on the water seems positive that they have personally experienced.

Terrible that the lady died, probably preventable, but saying you're going to spend your entire sailing career clipped in to a jackline is bogus. Accidents happen, but if (and that's a huge if) they really had waves three stories high and weren't clipped in that's crazy.
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Old 21-12-2011, 07:37   #65
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Re: Safety of Life at Sea - Life and death matters at sea.

Hogan--

That woman likely only survived because she was obese. Unkind as it may sound, blubber floats. And insulates. We had a similar situation with a 400+# guy at our yacht club a few years ago. He could not be gotten out of the water so he was finally floated around the edge of the breakwater and to a nearby beach where the kids launch their Opti's.

In re: MOB situations and life-rafts, have a look at MOM 600 RESCUE PLATFORM

We have a somewhat earlier version of this device. It works.

FWIW...
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Old 21-12-2011, 07:44   #66
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Re: Safety of Life at Sea - Life and death matters at sea.

Quote:
Originally Posted by svHyLyte View Post
a 400+# guy at our yacht club a few years ago.
Don't get me started on the irony of people a flight of stairs away from having a heart attack that are concerned with lightning strikes and hitting submerged containers.
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Old 21-12-2011, 07:49   #67
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Re: Safety of Life at Sea - Life and death matters at sea.

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Don't get me started on the irony of people a flight of stairs away from having a heart attack that are concerned with lightning strikes and hitting submerged containers.
Reb--See my earlier post. Blubber is an insulator. No?
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Old 21-12-2011, 08:01   #68
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Re: Safety of Life at Sea - Life and death matters at sea.

Quote:
Originally Posted by svHyLyte View Post
Reb--See my earlier post. Blubber is an insulator. No?
It is but I remember reading somewhere where they broke down that overall the improved cardiovascular system of fitness is still better than the fat insulation. Muscles run hot and then there's the whole deal about being able to get yourself back onto a boat, into a life raft, swim to shore, etc.

I forget where I read it but it was citing studies and I remember believing it. At best it said it was a wash and that the improved cardiovascular system advantages were just as important as a lot of blubber.

Carrying around 350 pounds of fat is giving the guy diabetes, busted up joints, smashed vertebrae, high blood pressure, acid reflux, etc. People rarely fall into the water but they frequently suffer health problems from being in terrible shape.

Sort of rambling I guess.
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Old 21-12-2011, 08:05   #69
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Re: Safety of Life at Sea - Life and death matters at sea.

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...Sort of rambling I guess.
Yep. But it's still early in SoCal
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Old 21-12-2011, 08:23   #70
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pirate Re: Safety of Life at Sea - Life and death matters at sea.

Further to Life Rafts... a much overhyped performer.. better than nothing yes but not the vaunted product you may imagine...
They've been know to capsize with people in them... the ballast bags are not brilliant and they flip easily.... as for sea anchor...
A Jester Challenge competiter (former/future) died a couple of months back 80m W of Porto when his boat sank enroute from the Azores to the UK...
He made it into his liferaft ok but when found 3days later he'd died of secondary drowning...
and he was of the non-fatalist branch..
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Old 21-12-2011, 08:31   #71
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Re: Safety of Life at Sea - Life and death matters at sea.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rebel heart View Post
...I find the 30' wave thing a little hard to believe. Sure, they happen and so do rogue waves. However sailors overestimating sea conditions and using terms incorrectly are a hell of a lot more common than 30' waves and once-in-thirty-years rogue waves that every guy with ten minutes on the water seems positive that they have personally experienced...
I'd agree that Rob Anderson might have had a hard time estimating the height of the wave that hit them, given the sudden nature of the event, but I don't question the fact that it could easily have been that big. They were hove to in what turned out to be the path of TS Sean, a storm that was generating sustained winds in the 45-50 knot range. If you look at a wave spectrum chart (sea height as a function of wind speed), you'll see that a 45 knot wind with a duration of 19 hours will generate 33' waves, given at least 200 nm of fetch. And that's the "significant wave height', which is the average of the highest 1/3 of the waves. NOAA says that individual waves can reach two times the significant wave height.

I read that Jan was in the companionway on her way into the cockpit, and hadn't clipped in yet when the boat was knocked down by the wave.
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Old 21-12-2011, 08:40   #72
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Re: Safety of Life at Sea - Life and death matters at sea.

At least she was unlikely to die of starvation......
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Old 21-12-2011, 08:52   #73
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Re: Safety of Life at Sea - Life and death matters at sea.

Hogan,
I find merit to your "lifeshorts PFD" idea. But I think it also has major disadvantages:
- If the MOB loses consciousness (before falling or in the water), buoyancy around the hips will not keep his face above water. Instead, he will float face down and drown.

- If the MOB falls head first in the water, he might leave the shorts behind him on the surface. This is the same problem as with climbing harnesses: the belt must be very tight, to prevent the hip bones from passing through. This is adequate for climbers / mountaineers, who are fit by necessity. But so many yachtspeople are middleaged and carry some excess volume at mid height. It's unpleasant for them to have a tight belt above the hips. A possible solution could be to add a pair of light suspenders, to prevent the PFD from escaping.

- In the area where I sail (W Europe), the weather is frequently very windy and very wet. Then, I have to put on foulies (bib & jacket) often, and remove them as often. This changes my girth by some inches. I don't see how I could fit into your lifeshorts PFD with all those added layers. By contrast, a regular inflatable PFD with belt and crotch strap isn't too difficult to adjust quickly, and is safe even when not perfectly adjusted.

So, keep searching and improving !

Alain
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Old 21-12-2011, 08:54   #74
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Re: Safety of Life at Sea - Life and death matters at sea.

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Originally Posted by Hud3 View Post
... I read that Jan was in the companionway on her way into the cockpit, and hadn't clipped in yet when the boat was knocked down by the wave.
Further to this, on our boat at sea our tethers remained clipped onto the jack-lines when one goes below and are only released from one's harness and left draped over the top of the drop boards when one is inside the boat. When going on deck, the tether is snapped back onto the harness before one lowers the drop-board and steps through the companionway. The girls dislike this convention but it works and one becomes accustomed to the practice after awhile. The 3-leg tethers are all the same so one takes whichever is convenient.

FWIW...
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Old 21-12-2011, 09:02   #75
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Re: Safety of Life at Sea - Life and death matters at sea.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hud3 View Post
I'd agree that Rob Anderson might have had a hard time estimating the height of the wave that hit them, given the sudden nature of the event, but I don't question the fact that it could easily have been that big. They were hove to in what turned out to be the path of TS Sean, a storm that was generating sustained winds in the 45-50 knot range. If you look at a wave spectrum chart (sea height as a function of wind speed), you'll see that a 45 knot wind with a duration of 19 hours will generate 33' waves, given at least 200 nm of fetch. And that's the "significant wave height', which is the average of the highest 1/3 of the waves. NOAA says that individual waves can reach two times the significant wave height.

I read that Jan was in the companionway on her way into the cockpit, and hadn't clipped in yet when the boat was knocked down by the wave.
For the record I have no idea what the waters are like out there; I just roll my eyes whenever I hear people talking about waves that are spreader-or-better in height. I know it happens and I know people see it, but it's well documented that people are terrible at guessing wave heights and almost always shoot way too high.

Regarding staying clipped in, we have a simple loop on a very secure handhold in the companion way ladder (near the hatch). So we clip into that to get into the cockpit and then get over to the jackline. Fortunately it's never been tested.
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