Lake Michigan: June 2011

Mackinac Island to Sault Ste. Marie, USA:

We quietly ease out of our slip on Mackinac Island at first light. No one is yet stirring on any of the other boats.


We are anxious to get through the Mackinac Straits and off Lake Huron before the seas kick up. We find the lake calm but within an hour a line of thunderstorms appear on our radar and begin chasing us. Maybe we should have waited a little later to leave Mackinac. It soon becomes evident that we can’t out run the storms and we will be caught before entering the safety of Detour Passage.


As the storms approach, we bring the boat to idle speed and shut down all of our electronics. The lighting is wicked and we don’t want to be a lightning rod. It is a little eerie operating without any electronics or depth finders. However, within 10 minutes the storms pass and we resume our travels and soon see the lighthouse marking the entrance to Detour Passage.

We spend the next two days at the Harbor Island anchorage just off Drummond Island. We have stopped here several other times and always enjoy this protected cove. For the first time this year we are able to get the inflatable kayaks down and go for several nice paddles.


Although the anchorage was empty when we arrived, it gradually begins to fill with other boats. We are joined our last evening by six other sailboats.

We are up early the next morning for our trip up the St. Mary’s River to Sault Ste. Marie. We find our top deck covered with thousands of willow flies.


Evidently there was a hatching during the night and these harmless insects chose our boat as a nursery. Although they make a mess of our boat, they do serve as an important food source for many fish and are an indication that the lake is healthy. They hitch a ride with us all the way to the Soo.

We have traveled up the St. Mary’s River now several times over the past few years and have an easy 40 mile trip to Sault Ste. Marie.


There are however many Lakers on the river and we pull over several times to get out of their way. We have seen much more freighter traffic this year than in the past. Maybe this is a sign that the economy is improving?


We spend two days in Sault Ste. Marie, USA. Just across the river is Sault Ste. Marie, Canada. Because of the logistics of going into Canada with the birds, we stay on the US side. We spend these two days preparing for our next leg of our cruising season. The boat is washed, water tanks filled, holding tank emptied, along with other boat chores.

We had an interesting experience Saturday night while here at the marina. About 2:30 AM, we are both awakened by loud voices outside. Soon after, we hear people walking on our front deck which is just above our stateroom. With this sound, Jeff shoots out of bed and up to the pilot house where he spots two young girls outside on the finger pier taking pictures and laughing at someone on our top deck. Just as he opens the outside door, two young men are coming down the companionway from our top deck. Jeff yells “what the xxxx are you doing on my boat?” All four kids immediately bolt running lightning fast up through the parking lot. Lucky for them that Jeff had not been a few seconds sooner or someone would have been swimming to shore. It was clear that they were just teenagers out having a good time. They did not expect someone to be spending the night aboard and were probably more frightened than we were. I don’t think they will do that again.


With some apprehension, we are now waiting on a weather window to enter “The Big Lake”, Lake Superior. Last year, we cruised on Canada’s eastern shore. This year we will head west along the US coastline of the Upper Peninsula. Because of her reputation, we approach Lake Superior with a healthy dose of trepidation. We will pay special attention to the weather and choose our travel days carefully.

Total miles traveled Mackinac to Sault Ste. Marie: 96
Total miles traveled year to date: 538

Charlevoix to Mackinac Island:

For this section of our journey, we are happy to have Courtney and Stormy, our niece and nephew, aboard to travel with us.


We always enjoy their company but this year is extra special as Stormy is celebrating his ninth birthday aboard Idyll Time. We have a great birthday celebration complete with banners, presents, and homemade chocolate cake while at the docks in Charlevoix.


After a few days of weather delay in Charlevoix, the seas finally improve and we cast off from the docks. While idling in Round Lake waiting for the 9:00 AM bridge opening, Jeff glances at the generator temperature gage and notices that it is running extremely cold. Oh no!! An immediate trip to the engine room reveals that we have a cooling leak. We quickly head back to the docks. Luckily, it is the same problem that we encountered last year while in Lake Superior and it is a quick fix. One of the hose clamps around the heat exchanger had loosened up and cold lake water was flowing into the engine coolant system. Within two hours, we are back on the water and awaiting the next bridge opening.


Out on Lake Michigan we find the seas flat but the fog soon rolls in and we can see no further than our bow. Once again we are relying entirely on our radar and electronic charts to get us through Grey’s Reef safely.


There is quite a bit of boat traffic, both commercial and private, out today. We are constantly giving position updates on the VHF as we follow a commercial tug towing a barge through Grey’s Reef and under the Mackinac Bridge. Although we have become proficient at traveling in the fog, it still is a little unnerving to travel without being able to see what is in front of us. While out on the lake, we hear a distress call to the Coast Guard from another boater who had “lost his way”. Evidently, he did not have radar or GPS and was disoriented in the fog. I can’t imagine being out here without those two navigational aids. As we reach Mackinac Island Harbor, the fog begins to lift and we can see Mackinac’s premier landmark, The Grand Hotel, perched high on the bluff overlooking Mackinac Straits.


Mackinac Island is one of our favorite stops on the Great Lakes.


With no cars allowed, the horse is truly king on Mackinac Island.


Bicycles are the preferred means of transportation. From our back deck we enjoy a constant parade of horse drawn wagons, carriages, and buggies of all shapes and sizes. During the summer months, there are over 600 horses on the island, most of these being draft horses.


Weaving in and out of the horse traffic are the local tourist either walking or biking. Locals refer to these day trippers as “Fudgies”. With 17 fudge shops on the island, how can one resist not sampling this marvelous confection?


Stormy and Courtney make it a mission to find the best fudge shop and we spend several days sampling many different flavors of fudge from various vendors. It was a tough job but someone had to do it.

We had a special treat this year on Mackinac Island as the 44th Annual National Wheelmen Convention was occurring the week we arrived.


Over 250 antique bicycles were touring around the island. It seemed fitting to watch these high wheeled bicycles from a bygone era parade down the streets alongside the multitude of standard bikes and gawking tourist. The island is a wonderful place for bicycles with no cars and many bike paths. Over 80% of the island belongs to the State Park and this makes for some great bike riding.


As the 4th of July approached, the once empty harbor rapidly begins to fill with boats of all shapes and sizes. Watching these boats dock is always entertaining and there were several near misses with the steel dock pilings. July 4th arrives with the harbor completely full.


We celebrate the holiday by riding our bikes the 8 mile loop around the island four times for a total of 32 miles. Many of the “fudgies” are out on bikes also and we are constantly dodging the wobbling tourist as many have not been on a bike in years. In many ways this is far more dangerous than car traffic. We moderate our speed and just enjoy the day. We have a great 4th dinner at a well know local establishment, The Village Inn. Their signature dish, the cedar plank White Fish, is outstanding.


We end the evening watching the fireworks from our front deck.


After being here for the last 10 days, well beyond our normal stay, tomorrow we will be ready to leave this fabulous island. Sebastian says we have stayed 10 days too long. Unlike us, this is his least favorite place. From the first day we arrived, he remembered his experiences here last year and wanted no part of this place. Fort Mackinac which is located on a hill directly above the marina fires cannons every two hours. Last year Sebastian had just set foot on the docks when the cannon let loose a salvo. Having an incredible long memory, he has not forgotten and prefers to stay aboard IT rather than go for walks. We have to drag him down the docks each time we head to shore even though we try to time our excursions to avoid cannon fire. We make daily trips to the ice cream store in hopes that this will change his opinion. Even the receipt of sweet treats does not lessen his anxiety. Sebastian will be a much happier pup tomorrow.


Total miles traveled Charlevoix to Mackinac: 62
Total miles traveled year to date: 442

Fayette to Charlevoix:

We are disappointed in having to leave the peaceful Snail Shell Harbor and Fayette and could easily stay another few days, but we have a perfect weather window for our crossing east back across Lake Michigan to our next destination of Charlevoix.


The forecast today is for seas less than one foot. Calm days like these are rare on Lake Michigan and we try to take advantage of them every time we can. Out in the center of Lake Michigan, we pass between a group of islands known as North and South Fox Island. Unlike two weeks ago when we crossed the lake completely engulfed in fog, today is a beautiful warm clear day. We are soon entering the Charlevoix breakwater where we have a 15 minute wait on the bridge to open. Once past the bridge, we enter Round Lake and the city of Charlevoix. This perfect little round pond with its multi-million dollar homes lining the shores has been designated by Forbes Magazine as one of the 10 most beautiful harbors. We would have to Agree. Having stopped here several years ago, we bypass the city marina and continue into Lake Charlevoix to Oyster Bay where we find a nice protected anchorage to spend the next few nights.


Our Oyster Bay anchorage is so enjoyable that we end up staying six nights before heading into the docks of the city marina. Our time spent here is very productive. While at anchor, Jeff was able to unclog our holding tank vent. It was very clogged and hopefully our tank problem is now solved. We make daily trips into town for various errands including grocery shopping, hair cuts, and mail pick up. One morning we load the bikes into the dinghy and take them to shore for a bike ride.


There is a great bike path which continues for almost 30 miles north of Charlevoix. We rode to the nearby town of Bay Harbor which was about 32 miles round trip.


Just by luck, we stumbled upon an in water boat show at the marina there. It was interesting looking at all the different boats.


On Saturday, Charlevoix was hosting an art and craft show and we took the dinghy into town for that.

We did take the boat into the docks one day for repair work on our holding tank. The city marina was great to allow us free tie up for the day. We can’t say enough about the municipal marina here. In addition to the free dockage of Idyll Time, they allowed us to tie up our dinghy each day at no charge and also received several mail packages for us. The staff here is very accommodating. . The local boat mechanic was also great to fit us into his busy schedule and installed a new pump on one of our heads and also repaired the fiberglass on our holding tank. During the fiberglass work, we moved the birds outside to the upper deck of the boat.


We were worried about the fumes from the fiberglass bothering them. They seemed to enjoy being outside but we did get some strange looks from the other boaters at the marina when the birds let out a few yells. Speaking of the birds, several people have inquired as to how Nate is doing after his illness. We are happy to report that he is back to 100% and meaner than ever.


Our niece and nephew, Courtney and Stormy, will be joining us for the next 10 days and we are excited about their arrival tomorrow.

Total miles traveled Fayette to Charlevoix: 96
Total miles traveled year to date: 380

Sister Bay to Fayette:

We are up early this morning and out of the marina by 7:00 AM for our 50 mile trip north to Fayette. The forecast is good with winds less than 10 knots and seas 1 foot or less. As we leave the protected Sister Bay into the open water, we soon begin to question this forecast. The winds and seas continue to increase as we motor north. After 30 minutes of pounding into four foot seas and 20 knot winds, we bail and make a u-turn for a protected anchorage, Horseshoe Cove, five miles south.


There are already two other sailboats in the cove and we are barely able to squeeze the fat girl in. After several hours, the winds die to less than five knots and we tentatively poke our nose out into the bay. The conditions are much better and continue to improve the further north we steam. What a difference a few hours make.

The limestone cliffs become more prominent the further north we travel.


We are soon passing by the Porte des Morts or “Deaths Door passage, which connects Green Bay with Lake Michigan. This now well marked navigational channel was in the 1800’s a treacherous passage and many ships were wrecked traveling through these waters. At the northern end of the Green Bay Peninsula, we enter “Big Bay DeNoc”. The high cliffs and sandy shores are undeveloped and we have a beautiful cruise into Snail Shell harbor and the ghost town of Fayette.


Fayette is now a Michigan State Park and there is a 300 foot boat dock available on a first come first serve basis. We are lucky to find only two other boats at the docks and plenty of room for us.


This small snail shell shaped harbor is completely protected with its spectacular limestone bluffs. Payment is done on the honor system and there is no electricity or water at the docks.

Fayette was founded in 1867 by the Jackson Ore Company and was a bustling iron ore town for many years. At its peak, there was a population of 500. Two large furnaces produced pig iron from the locally quarried iron ore and the ore was transported by its own railroad line. The town was abandoned in 1891 when its smelting facilities closed due to low iron prices. The ghost town has now been restored as part of Michigan’s State park system as a living monument to the past.


After spending several hours wandering through the old buildings, we return to our peaceful harbor. We notice a little red squirrel sitting on the dock as we board IT. Sebastian becomes quite animated and wants to give chase. Once back aboard, I hear a commotion and look out our pilot house door surprised to see the same red squirrel squeezing under our outside passageway door and running up our side deck. He is just as surprised as I am and makes a leap to the safety of the dock. Sebastian was in full chase mode. At the time we didn’t think much more of this. But while sitting down at dinner, we notice something strange. One of the apples in our fruit bowl had been partially eaten.


Our first inclination is to suspect Sebastian. He does however have an iron tight alibi. Fruit is not high on his list of favorites and besides, he was with us all afternoon. We quickly put two and two together. While we were out today, the squirrel must have been dining on our fruit and had come back for a second helping when we caught him in the act. We keep a lookout during the evening but never see the fruit thief again. It is a very quiet and pleasant evening in Snail Shell Harbor.


Total miles traveled Sister Bay to Fayette: 47
Total miles traveled year to date: 284

Fish Creek to Sisters Bay, WI:

Today is a short cruising day. We have only 6 miles to travel north to our next destination of Sister Bay. The wind has been blowing here for the past few days 20 plus knots out of the northwest therefore pinning us hard against the dock. Luckily, the winds died to less than 5 knots early this morning and we have an easy departure.

With this weather window, we decide to detour and explore another island, Chambers Island, which is a few miles off the Door County Coast. It is still a cold and dreary day out on the water and we don’t stop at Chambers but mark it on our charts for a future visit this fall. It looks like a nice anchorage area. We are all huddled in the pilot house to stay warm. Sebastian is still asking what happened to our “Bahamas Cruise”?


Our six mile trip ends up being 26 miles total and we are soon at Sister Bay City Marina where we spend the next two days.

Sister Bay was settled in 1857 by Norwegian immigrants and still retains much of its traditional heritage. The main tourist attraction here in Sister Bay is Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant. It is just across from the marina and we make this our first stop into town. The roof of this restaurant is covered in grass sod. Normally, goats graze on the roof daily.


We are disappointed to learn that the goats are not here yet. The roof was just re-sodded and is too slippery for the goat’s hooves. They will not be back for another two weeks. Our disappointment was tempered by one of the best breakfasts we have had in a long time. We both chose the “Al Johnson special” featuring Swedish pancakes and Swedish meatballs accompanied with lingonberries. The waitresses are all dressed in Swedish attire.

While in Sister Bay we enjoy another great bike ride of almost 30 miles riding to the north end of the Door Peninsula to the small hamlet of Gills Rock. From here one could catch the ferry to Washington Island which lies 6 miles to the north. We hope to visit this island in the future aboard IT. Back in town, we watch a local children’s parade featuring Cub Scouts, young bicyclist, and the local high school marching band.


Today is also the annual “Taste of Sister Bay” and we are able to sample food from a variety of local restaurants. The day was capped off with a large bon fire on the beach along with smores and story telling.


Before leaving the marina, we requested a pump out of our holding tank. This should have been a simple routine procedure which we have done many times in the past. However, this time things did not go as planned. As our holding tank is emptied, I begin hearing a very loud banging noise coming from our holding tank area. It sounds as if a big kettle drum is beating down below. We immediately shut down the marinas suction pump. After some investigation, we find a small hair line crack on our holding tank wall. After several phone calls to our mechanic guru, Scotty, we determine that our tank vent must be clogged. This prevents air from entering the tank while suctioning it out and the noise we heard were the walls of the fiberglass tank flexing. We were lucky that our tank did not collapse. We now will need some holding tank repair work done. Our next major port is Cherlevoix and we know a good mechanic there who hopefully can help us with this problem. On a boat you can never expect even the simplest things to be routine.

While on the docks, we have several visitors. A former looper aboard “Superior Dreams” visiting in town sees our boat and stops by to say hello. We had first met them several years ago at the Looper Rendezvous in Joe Wheeler, AL. Another local couple stopped by admiring our Krogen. We learn that they are seriously considering purchasing a Krogen and we spend some time with them answering some of their questions and showing them around our boat. We hope to see them in a Krogen sometime soon.

We spend our last evening in Sister Bay enjoying the great views and sunset of western Green Bay from our marina slip. Tomorrow should be a good day for cruising and we will continue north.


Total miles traveled Fish Creek to Sisters Bay: 26
Total miles traveled year to date: 237

Frankfort to Fish Creek:

Today is our first crossing of Lake Michigan.


It is 50 miles across the lake from Frankfort to the entrance of the Sturgeon Bay Canal which will take us into the Green Bay Peninsula. We are breaking one of our rules today. In the past, we have always refused to go out onto Lake Michigan whenever the forecast is for more than 3 foot seas. We respect this lake as much if not more than the ocean. She can be rough. The forecast for this afternoon is for seas building to 2-4 feet. Right now the lake is calm and we are hoping to get across early before the seas pick up. The weather is detorating for the remainder of the week and if we don’t go today we don’t go any this week. We have “get-there-itis” which is not a good thing.

Once out into the middle of Lake Michigan, we have a few swells but no major seas. It is however very cold and gloomy. The water here is a chilly 45 degrees and incredibly deep. At one point we are showing 850 feet on our depth sounder. We can’t see much as we are engulfed with fog. Besides a few big Lakers, there is no other boat traffic. It is a little eerie out here all by ourselves. The fog thickens as we approach the canal entrance. We trust our radar and GPS to get us inside the breakwater as our visibility is less than 100 yards.


We carefully check as we pass each channel marker to confirm our position. Shortly the Coast Guard station looms out of the fog and we are relieved to be safely inside the canal.

The Sturgeon Bay Ship canal is a shipping canal dug through the Door County Peninsula connecting Green Bay with Lake Michigan. This canal allows both boats and freighters access into Green Bay without having to navigate the Ports Des Morts or “Death’s Door” passage further north. The canal itself is 7200 feet long and 160 feet wide. Once through the canal, we are soon passing by the very busy town of Sturgeon Bay which was at one time the center of the Great Lakes shipbuilding. There are many big ships at port today for repairs.


We opt to continue on and will explore this town some other time. We are now in the Green Bay Peninsula which is a large body of water over 115 miles in length and 20 miles wide. Our stop for the next few days is the town of Fish Creek which is 19 miles north of Sturgeon Bay. We are now in Wisconsin and the farthest west that we have been with the boat. Wisconsin is the 24th state that we have visited aboard IT.

We enjoy several days nestled along the docks in the center of town.


In a few weeks this small summer colony will be overflowing with people, but right now the town is still quiet. We have an exceptional dinner at a local restaurant, Mr. Helsinkis, which is located upstairs in an old building above the local grocery store.


The eclectic/fusion food offered was exquisite. From the Thai spinach soup, Bang Bang Chicken, Oxtail lasagna, and finally banana foster crepes, our meal was truly memorable.

Fish Creek is centrally located along the Door Peninsula and we find some great biking through the country side to the surrounding villages of Egg Harbor, Ephram, and Baileys Harbor. The Peninsula State Park, just a few miles away, was also a great place for biking, with over 40 miles of well groomed bike paths. All totaled, we ended up biking over 60 miles.


One afternoon was spent on a historic walking tour of Fish Creek. It was very interesting to learn about the history and buildings of the town from one of the long time local residents.


Later that evening, we attended our first Fish Boil, which is a Door County tradition. The roots of this boil are traced back to the area’s early Scandinavian settlers. The fishermen would enjoy a form of this meal as they made their way back to port after hauling their catch of whitefish. The basic ingredients of a boil are onions, red potatoes, and chunks of whitefish served with coleslaw and fresh bread along with cherry pie for desert.


The fish, potatoes, and onions are all cooked together outside in a large cast iron pot over hot coals. The highlight of the cooking process is the “Boil Over” which occurs after a small amount of kerosene is added to the fire.


This causes the water and fish oils to boil over leaving only clean water in the pot. During the summer tourist season, these fish boils occur every half hour.


An added perk of our dock location was Malibu Moo’s, the local ice cream shop, which was located within 100 yards of our boat.


This quickly became Sebastian’s favorite destination. Their offerings included various flavors of frozen custard hand mixed on a frozen marble griddle with your choice of yummy ingredients mixed in. Sebastian would have been content to stay here the entire summer, licking our empty custard bowls clean. He is disappointed to learn that we will be moving north tomorrow.


Total miles traveled Frankfort to Fish Creek: 84
Total miles traveled year to date: 211

Pentwater to Frankfort:

We had another easy trip along the sand dune lined shores of Michigan to the town of Frankfort.


We did have to detour once with a 360 degree turn to get out of the way of the big ship Badger which was rapidly approaching from our stern. This ship is a car ferry which crosses Lake Michigan each day from Luddington to Milwaukee.


The seas are calm and we soon see the double breakwater entrance into Frankfort. We have anchored here several times over the last few years and are familiar with the harbor. We are the only boat at anchor right off the town docks.


The small town is very busy on this Sunday as the Laker Express, another fast ferry, is in town offering free tours of the ship today. She is a big catamaran which travels at a speed of 36 knots crossing Lake Michigan in under two hours.


Scotty from Bristol Technologies has traveled from Maryland to Michigan to work on another Krogen, Alizann. Here in the UP of Michigan, there are very few mechanics that are knowledgeable with Krogen boats. We have been experiencing some minor difficulties with our Driect TV system when underway and Scotty has offered to drive over and check out the systems for us. Not knowing when we will be back on the east coast, this works out very well.


After a few minor program changes, Scotty has our satellite system again working perfectly. It was good to see Scotty after several years and we send him away with a plate of brownies and homemade bread.

While in Grand Haven, another boater friend gave us some Amish bread starter. Our first batch was baked this morning after tending to it for the last 10 days.


It turned out really well and we are excited about now having the ability to bake fresh bread every few days while aboard. We freeze several batches of the starter for future use and look forward to trying different variations of this bread.

Tomorrow we hope to cross Lake Michigan for the first time to explore the Green Bay and Door County peninsula.

Total miles traveled Pentwater to Frankfort: 67
Total miles traveled year to date: 127

Grand Haven to Pentwater:

Today is our first day out on the water for 2011.


We are always a little anxious for the initial shakedown cruise of the boat. Even though we have checked and double checked everything, you always wonder if the long winter storage will cause something to malfunction. Before heading into Lake Michigan, our first stop is the fuel dock. We decided to fill the tanks completely before fuel prices get any higher. We take on 600 gallons of diesel. We hold a total of 925 gallons but our center tank was left full for the winter storage. The good news is that we should not have to refuel again this year. The bad news is that diesel is now $3.95 a gallon compared to $2.70 this time last year (ouch).

While we are at the fuel docks, Sandpiper, a 53 ft. Hatteras that was berthed next to us, pulls into the haul out bay. They are leaving this morning also but while undocking, one of their lines fell in the water and became wrapped around their prop. Now they must have a haul out before leaving. The owner is really upset with himself for this mistake. At 86 years of age, Bob still operates the boat by himself and is still mentally sharp. I hope we can do as good of a job when we reach that age.

We have great first day out on the water.


IT is now proudly flying her Gold Looper flag in place of the white one which signifies that we have now completed the Great Loop. It is a cool 65 degrees outside with a north wind but the seas are only 1-2 foot. The water is still a cold 55 degrees. IT runs flawlessly and we have a great trip to Pentwater, MI which is our stop for the next few days. Our heart skips a beat as we enter the breakwater entrance. Our depth sounder alarm suddenly goes off as the depths quickly shoal from 12 feet to 6 feet. We need five feet under the keel. The shoaling is only momentary and we are soon back in 12 feet of water. We later talk with the harbormaster about this and learn that Pentwater has just lost its status as a “Harbor of Refuge” because of the shoaling at the entrance. Due to Michigan’s financial problems, there is no money to dredge the harbor and this shoaling will probably get worse. Many other harbors along the Michigan coast are also facing this problem.

We anchor one mile outside of town in a protected cove named Big Bayou for three nights.


After two days aboard, we decide to take the dinghy into town. Pentwater is a lovely Michigan shore town with one main street paralleling the harbor. After exploring the many shops we make an obligatory ice cream stop. Sebastian is very happy with this decision and eagerly awaits his turn to lick our empty cups.


Before heading back to the boat, we stop at a local restaurant called the Brown Bear. After hearing about their famous one pound burger, Jeff has to try one. I opt for the “cub” which is their ½ pound burger. Back at the boat, we can’t believe the size of this monster when we open the box. Besides being so big that it can barely fit into the take out container, it is also topped with two slices of ham, mushrooms, peppers and cheese.


Even Jeff is unable to complete this challenge. We have plenty of leftovers for another dinner.

Total miles traveled Grand Haven to Pentwater: 60
Total miles traveled year to date: 60

1 thought on “Lake Michigan: June 2011

  1. HI, we were on Superior Dreams on the loop in 2006-07. My son (Tim) saw your boat today is Sister Bay – he may stop by.

    Happy Cruising!!

    Vance Nelson

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