THE STEALTH BOAT ADVENTURE
28th Aug - 7th Sept 2008
Thursday 28th August
(Dull all day with a little drizzle)
Friday 29th August
(Cloudy at first, but turning into a hot afternoon)
- The anxious crew met at Alan's house at 8-45am, loading
their belongs into Colin's Galaxy for the journey to Cran's house to collect
the boat keys. Due to a prior commitment Ron waved
goodbye to the other crew, planning to join them by train at Wigan on Monday morning.
After receiving a final safety briefing from Cran, they headed onwards to Tarporley to join the Stealth
Narrowboat, which was waiting in excellent condition, having been positioned
there on the Shropshire Union canal a few
||The crew quickly unloaded their belongings onto the
boat and hurried to take lunch at the nearby Shady Oak canalside pub, which
served a very acceptable pint of Jennings Cumberland Ale. Having spent
a little too long there entertaining Colin, the crew returned the boat to
unpack and familiarise themselves with the narrowboat facilities.
considered that moving onward that day would be unnecessary and anticipated an evening
enjoying a meal and further Cumberland Ale at The Shady Oak. However,
the crew decided
to take the long walk to Tiverton to investigate the locks and visit the
Beeston Castle Hotel. They found the Timothy Taylor's landlord and
Specked Hen ales to their liking and unexpectedly succumbed to the tempting
menu of Pollock and Game Pie, rather than returning to the Shady Oak Inn.
- After further ales the crew attempted the long
return journey to the boat in total darkness, without the benefit of torches
and narrowly avoided the catastrophe of falling in the canal. A
strange and frightening phenomena occurred, during the long dark journey
back along the towpath when, without warning, what little light there was
was suddenly appeared to be switched off leaving the bewildered crew
fumbling in the darkness. Alien forces were suspected. The crew
felt it impossible to pass the Shady Oak Inn again without need of a nerve
settling pint of Cumberland Ale, before rushing back to the safety of the narrowboat
for refreshing coffees. They retired to their bunks in
excited anticipation about the next day's exertions, but they remained
anxious about the unexplained happenings of the evening.
- The crew were up at 7-30 for potent porridge and
after checking oil and water levels set off down the Shropshire Union
towards Nantwich. The narrowboat performed faultlessly and proved highly
responsive. The vigilant crew were privileged to witness the
rare sight of a Kingfisher, busily hunting his next fishy meal. Three locks were swiftly
traversed, including the famous Beeston Iron Lock, constructed due to the
dangerous shifting sands in the area.
||Due to the unknown level of fuel in the tanks,
the wise crew took an opportunity to take onboard 115 Lts of diesel at
the Anglo Welsh boatyard immediately before the Bunbury Staircase Locks
Sure disaster was averted when Alan realised that the
top chamber was not completely full before entering the staircase.
Having refilled it, the narrowboat was able to complete its passage
safely, much to the delight and admiration of the other canal users.
- The sharp turn into the Middlewich Branch, was
accomplished faultlessly, despite another narrowboat appearing under the
bridge without warning and at high speed.
This section of the canal proved very busy with
holidaymakers, who were unaware of the important mission ahead of the
crew. They suffered a delay of almost 1½ hours at the first lock
in a queue with 5 narrowboats ahead.
Neil can be seen here patiently waiting to pass the lock
- With the delays incurred, the crew quickly
recalculated their mission and realised that they would have to overnight at Middlewich. They felt that Lymm would be reachable for Saturday night,
making Wigan for Sunday night a tough target. A night in Manchester
was therefore ruled out.
- Delays continued at the next 2 locks, 45 minutes and
1hr 5min respectively. The town was reached by 7pm and as the crew
wished to make as much progress as possible, they travelled onward through 3 more locks
towards the centre of the town mooring at a pleasant location at 7-30pm. They
showered ready to visit the town in search of suitable eating and drinking establishments.
Surprisingly the crew found Middlewich was not the middle England town
they expected, with numerous take-aways and groups of young people.
However, after consulting with a local care assistant and a lorry driver,
clutching his take away meal, the crew were directed to the Narrowboat Inn,
where they were delighted to find in the excellent surroundings, good London
Pride ale and a fine selection of home cooked food in the adjacent dining
area. The cunning crew wisely chose dinners of Chicken Balti with Naan
Bread, rice with a few chips, which were greatly enjoyed.
- The exhausted crew returned at an early hour to enjoy
coffee without cheese and biscuits, contemplating the busy day ahead of
Saturday 30th August
(Overcast, but still and warm, with some sun breaking through later)
- Conscious that progress was behind schedule, the crew
awoke early and hurriedly consumed their positive porridge before tackling the
only significant lock for the day called "Big Lock" on leaving Middlewich.
Progress through the Shropshire countryside was enjoyed passing the giant
bakery at Higher Shurlach and a huge chemical factory.
- The crew were greatly concerned about the diminishing quantities
of fresh water stored on board and studied the maps to find a suitable
filling place. They were pleased to locate a British Waterways
watering point at Anderton and realised that a possible excursion to
view the famous Anderton Boat Lift, would be possible. Pleased at an
opportunity to improve their knowledge of canal history they quickly and
proficiently moored close to the lift, said to be one of the "Seven Wonders
of the Waterways".
||Alan was in awe of the magnificent Anderton
Neil stood in
amazement at the machinery
Neil took a little time to improve
his boat handling skills
- The progress after Anderton was delayed by two short
dangerous and very winding tunnels, negotiated by the crew in turns, so as
to minimise any distress. A 30 minute wait had to be endured at the
second tunnel due to the northbound passage being restricted to 10 minutes
each hour. The crew took this welcome break to prepare a healthy salad
lunch, with only small portions of Pork Pie.
- To their great distress the crew realised that they
would be passing the Black Prince boatyard at Acton Bridge around 3-30pm and
were disturbed to find themselves behind numerous fresh holidaymakers in
their new hire boats. The boat handling skills of these holidaymakers
did not match those of the skilled and intrepid crew and much time was
wasted causing great frustration. However, with the superior power of
the Stealth narrowboat and great skill of the crew several daring overtaking
manoeuvres were accomplished.
|Further delays were incurred at the third and
final tunnel of the day when the crew had to wait 20 minutes until the
northward passage time for the infamous Preston Brook Tunnel. The
crew wasted no time, using their advanced negotiating skills, with the
other queued boats to ensure that they were first through the tunnel,
because of the great importance of their mission.
After leaving the tunnel and
passing beneath the M56 motorway the narrowboat entered the wide and
relaxed atmosphere of the Bridgewater Canal, where Neil's nerves were
|The Bridgewater Canal shortly passed the
Daresbury Laboratories complex.
- The crew recalculated their journey and felt that all
attempts should be made to reach Lymm for the night in order to stand any
chance of picking up their colleague Ron on Monday morning at Wigan.
Although time and daylight were against them, they continued on their epic
voyage towards their planned destination!!
- With Neil's excellent navigational skills Lymm was
reached by 7pm and a mooring spot found in the centre of activity. The
crew quickly prepared in anticipation of an excellent evening, visiting first The Bulls Head for a pint of Hyde Bitter, followed by a superb pint of
Bombardier at the Golden Fleece opposite. On taking local advice the
crew greatly enjoyed dinner at the Baci Italian Restaurant followed by
further ale at the Spread Eagle, sitting outside in a secluded area, where the local
cliental met with the
crew's approval. The crew agreed that Lymm exceeded their expectations
and they returned to the narrowboat for calming cheese with a little coffee.
- The exhausted crew retired to their bunks to
contemplate the successes of the day, but fearful of the tasks that lay before
Sunday 31st August
(Overcast, but remaining still and warm, but turning cold with much rain in
- The tired and exhausted crew treated themselves to a
well deserved lay-in on a Sunday morning rising at 7-50am, having been
awoken by one particularly noisy duck. Hunger preventing porridge was
prepared by Neil and consumed with gusto, before departing a sleepy Lymm.
- The gentle cruise along the Bridgewater Canal towards
Manchester was sedate, passing numerous houses with little signs of any
activity. Soon the narrowboat slipped out of Cheshire and into Greater
Manchester, where the crew were only too conscious that later that morning
they would have attempt the feared Barton Swing Aqueduct over the Manchester
Ship Canal. The crew remained quiet during morning with this matter
obviously praying heavily on their minds. The only thought that
cheered them was that Manchester might present opportunities to find a Pork
|Progress along the long straight section of the
canal at Sale was hindered by numerous rowing craft travelling at
dangerous speeds in the opposite direction. Only due to the
extreme skill of the narrowboat crew was disaster averted when one
craft, propelled entirely by several female rowers, was accurately
deflected into the bank..
- A stop was made in the centre of Sale, whilst Alan
made a successful expedition to the local Sainsbury's store to obtain
additional supplies of Bacon, Sausages, Eggs and Milk, in readiness for Ron
joining the crew the following day. Neil took the opportunity to
prepare a healthy cooked breakfast which was enjoyed on Alan's return.
Strange buildings were witnessed by the crew when
travelling through Sale, although alien influences were ruled out.
- No difficulties were encountered during the dangerous
turn into the Leigh Arm of the Bridgewater Canal at Waters
Meeting, although the crew knew that they would soon be upon the Barton
Swing Aqueduct Bridge over the Manchester Ship canal.
|Despite Alan calling on Channel 16 on his marine
radio for assistance, no help was available to the crew when crossing
the Barton Swing Aqueduct Bridge. The crew relied upon their own
advanced navigational skills, which again proved more than adequate.
- Although the narrowboat quickly passed through the
leafy town of Worsley, the long sections that followed took the crew through
much desolate countryside, that once formed part of the extensive Lancashire
The crew hurried though the
town of Leigh, slowing only to admire the many large, but now
disused cotton mills
|The crew agreed that a concerted effort should be
made to reach Wigan for the evening although progress was hindered when
the they had to wait for the bridge keeper to stop all the traffic and
raise the Plank Lane Lift Bridge.
Three locks were passed in the heavy rain before the
narrowboat drew into excellent, but deserted moorings in the centre of
- The crew delighted at their excellent progress
rewarded themselves with an evening in the centre of Wigan. Several pints of
Courage Best Bitter were enjoyed at The Berkeley and followed by an
excellent Chinese Buffet, with copious quantities of Crispy Aromatic Duck, in the Royal Dragon at
a mere £5-95 per head. The crew well satisfied with their evening
returned to the narrowboat for coffee without cheese or biscuits, knowing
that they would be able to enjoy a lay-in until Ron arrived by train shortly
Monday 1st September
(Overcast with showers and some sunshine)
- Despite the promise of a lay-in, Neil rose at the
un-earthly hour of 7-40, complaining of excessive dripping and pumping
noises. Alan claimed innocence.
- Neil prepared proficiently produced porridge,
although he warned of a low stocks in the oats department. Neil
studied the charts and cunningly planned a punishing schedule for the crew
including an excursion to Tarleton.
- Ron was contacted by radio telephone and confirmed
his arrival at Wigan Wallgate at 10-04am. It was agreed that Neil
would meet Ron and guide him to the narrowboat, whilst Alan prepared
more healthy nourishment, to sustain the full complement of crew throughout
their testing day.
The crew were pleased to welcome the third intrepid
member of the team onto the narrowboat, who was quick to test the
advanced handling facilities of the Stealth Boat
- Four locks were swiftly traversed by the enhanced
crew, before a stop was made by Dean's Lock, beneath the M6 motorway, to
refill the tanks with fresh drinking water.
The crew were dismayed to find that due to the
position of the tap the hose was not long enough to reach.
However, using Alan's cunning plan of positioning the boat diagonally
across the lock entrance, the crew were saved from a thirsty demise.
The sharp turn into the Rufford arm was undertaken
faultlessly by Ron before an abrupt stop was required prior to a
pedestrian swing bridge and lock.
- Shortly afterwards a British Waterways employee working at the
lock, warned of perilously low water levels after lock 4, but the crew were
unperturbed by this fact.
- In a responsible manner, the crew quickly
teamed up with a single handed narrowboat ahead to save water through the
locks and assist him at the numerous swing bridges encountered on this
section of the canal. This team spirit resulted in major delays to the
progress of the narrowboat, which arrived at Tarleton after 7-30pm.
The narrowboat was turned skilfully in a restricted space, despite a near
encounter with a craft that had been inconsiderately moored in the winding
- After quick showers (except Ron), the crew hurried to
the Cock & Bottle anticipating their evening meals. Orders of Thwaites
Bomber ale were made, but to the crew's horror, they discovered that food
was not available on a Monday night. Enquires were made as to the
alternative eating establishments, but they were advised that none existed
on Monday's!!! The despondent crew considered their options and
chose to visit the Tarleton Take Away and cunningly selected 3 portions of
Fish, with excessive Chips, which were eaten from the paper in traditional
fashion. The quality of their meals was considered so outstanding,
that additional ales were sought afterwards at the Cock & Bottle.
During the walk back to the boat they noted a butchers shop where the crew
considered that Pork Pies might be sold and planned a visit the following
crew further considered that no cheese or biscuits were required back on
board to accompany their coffees, whilst they discussed options for the route
of the remainder of their
mission. The crew decided to sleep on the matter.
Tuesday 2nd September
(Sunny morning with showers later)
- Ron rose at 7am with the other crew following shortly
afterwards. Whilst Neil prepared pulsating porridge, Alan and Ron took
the opportunity to walk down to the sea lock, where they marvelled at the
massive double lock gate arrangements and the fast flowing River Douglas.
Ron later made an early morning dawn raid to the Co-op and obtained further
supplies of salad, tomatoes, bread and other healthy provisions.
However, the butchers shop, located the previous evening, was found not to
be open and much to the crew's dismay no pork pie could be procured.
- The return journey down the Rufford Arm was completed
much quicker than on the previous day, as no delays were encountered as a
result of travelling with another single handed narrowboat. A
particularly heavy shower of rain made the crew take shelter in the safety
of Lock 4 for some time.
Alan later took up his normal position on the roof to
enjoy the periods of sunshine and spot possible Pork Pie shops.
A catastrophe occurred in a particularly badly
designed and maintained lock where the buffeting from the extreme
currents caused Ron's electric razor to fall into the toilet.
- A number of electrically operated swing bridges were
successfully operated by the crew ,causing significant delays to the rush
The crew were in awe of the giant Wigan Athletic JJB
football stadium, which could be seen clearly from the canal.
The historic and famous "Wigan
Pier" buildings were admired by the crew before they moored for the
- Showers and preparations took place before the crew
set off for another evening in the delights of Wigan. They quickly
located "The Moon under Water" where they skilfully located Abbots Ale
(5%ABV) at a mere £1-79 per pint. As the beer met with their full
satisfaction, they felt obliged to have a second pint before visiting the
Golden Dragon for chinese dinners. The crew were greatly dismayed
to find an absence of Crispy Aromatic Duck, but made up for this with extra
Lemon Chicken and Beef in Black Bean Sauce.
On departing the restaurant in very heavy
rain the crew felt need to shelter in The Berkeley, where they were obliged
to drink a pint of Courage Best Bitter. Returning to the narrowboat
for coffee, without need of cheese and biscuits, they later retired to their
bunks, fearful of the 28 giant locks that lay ahead of them the following
Wednesday 3rd September
(Sunny morning with heavy rain later)
- The crew rose early nervous of the long, arduous two
mile long flight of locks that winds its way round Wigan. Enormous benefit was gained from Neil's powerful porridge, which was devoured before
the crew set off to tackle the first of the 22 massive double locks.
The locks wound their way relentlessly up the hill
- Catastrophe struck at lock 7 when the crew
were told of low water levels in the lock pound ahead by an alert
British Waterways engineer, making their further passage impossible.
The crew unperturbed about impending disaster,
moored in the lock cut for a cup of coffee with Hob Nob and quickly
devised a rescue plan.
- After a full analysis of the situation they
calculated that the badly leaking sill in the lower lock must be causing the
problem and that by closing the forward gates of that lock and opening the
rear gates in the lock above, water could be brought into the lock pound via
the sluice gates. The plan was put into action and whilst they enjoyed
their Hob Nobs the situation was quickly remedied.
- The remainder of the flight was completed efficiently
and in record speed by the competent crew. The lock keeper at top lock
was amazed at the progress of the narrowboat and complimented the crew.
With the successes of the day the crew moored just after top lock to fill
with water and prepare a healthy breakfast. During this stop the rain
started and the crew rested while the rain subsided. The crew need to
get to Chorley Top Lock for the evening, a distance of 9½ mls with a further
6 locks. However, after their exhausting day so far, this target may
not be possible.
- After a wait of almost 3 hours the rain failed to
subside and Ron gallantly took to the the tiller in all available
weatherproof clothing. After 1hr 42 mins the rain stopped and Neil
relieved the helmsman who competently took the narrowboat through 6 of the 7
Johnson's Hill Locks just east of Chorley. After establishing all
available mooring, the crew chose to moor the boat just below bridge 58 and
within staggering distance of Top Lock Inn.
- After the traumas of the day the crew felt need for
early refreshment and hurried to the Top Lock Inn for several pints of Black
Sheep ale. Despite the protestations of Neil the crew chose not to
return to the boat for showers and ordered dinners of Braised Steak, Mince
and Mushroom Pie and Oriental Pork, followed by more Black Sheep ale.
The crew returned to the boat for coffee, cheese and biscuits and to listen
to yet more torrential rain reverberating on the roof.
- The crew were apprehensive about the 24 mile planned
journey for the following day and retired to their beds contemplating the
challenges, whilst listening to thunder echoing overhead.
Thursday 4th September
(More rain in the morning, turning with a very pleasant afternoon)
- The crew were awoken during the night with rain beating
on the roof of the narrowboat, although it was not raining in the morning.
After punctual porridge the crew swiftly made their way through the last of
the Johnson's Hill Locks and headed towards Blackburn.
- It was not long before the rain returned and Alan
elected to man the tiller in weatherproofs beneath the umbrella. A
welcome stop was made for breakfast, which due to diminishing stocks was
served without sausage, but with double egg. After breakfast the crew
considered alternative destinations for the mission and established using
the maps and radio telephone that the nearest boat servicing facilities
existed at Hapton for diesel only with a 'do it yourself' pump out available
at Rose Grove nearby, assuming that it is operational and that a token can
- Ascent of the 6 giant Blackburn locks was achieved in
an enviable time, in continuing heavy rain.
- Good News - Alan inspected the central heating
system and after a little knob twiddling enabled hot radiators!!!
Various items of damp clothing were hung to dry.
- A 24 hr Asda store was located adjacent to the canal
shortly after the locks and after quickly mooring, Neil was despatched with
a shopping list. He later returned with 2 bags full of delights,
including half priced Pork Pie, much to the obvious pleasure of the other crew.
The crew immediately felt hungry and devoured the Pork Pie, with Branston
pickle and pickled onions. This was supplemented with ham rolls and
- Alan searched the internet afterwards for weather
reports and found to his horror that although the weather was due to improve
that afternoon, various severe weather warning had been issued for the
remainder of the mission. The crew were overjoyed to hear this news and
agreed to push on at great velocity towards their destination.
The crew spirits were greatly lifted when sunshine
again fell upon the narrowboat
The crew enjoyed the elevated
views over Blackburn, before passing more historic Pier buildings
- It was agreed that because of the fine weather the
narrowboat should proceed with all available power onward with the hopes of
reaching Hapton before nightfall, however this long journey remained fraught
- With Ron at the tiller Hapton was reached before
6-30pm and it was agreed that, as the weather was so favourable, an attempt
should be made to reach Burnley for the evening, which offered superior
dining opportunities. However, whilst approaching the outskirts of
Burnley where a large number of derelict factories were observed, a large
pier building loomed, having an attached hostelry, called "The Inn on the
Wharf". An amazing reversing exercise was performed by Alan that
resulted in mooring directed outside the establishment, much to the surprise
of the other crew. A quick enquiry with the bar staff confirmed
that last food orders were at 9pm and the crew hurried to order several
pints of "Abbots Ale" which was considered the best ale of the week.
- Dinners of Steak & Ale Pies, with mashed potato and
Hunters Chicken with chips, were enjoyed by the crew, who declined desserts
in favour of more Abbots Ale. The crew managed the particularly short
walk back to the narrowboat to sample various cheeses with biscuits.
Neil in an uncharacteristically responsible attitude checked out possible
boatyards in the Burnley area for pump outs and identified the Barden Mill
boatyard as an option. The other crew characteristically showed little
interest in the subject.
- The crew, exhausted after their exertions of the day,
retired at an early hour to consider the successes of their mission to date,
but remained fearful of the forecasted weather over the final days.
Friday 5th September
(Unremitting driving rain all day!!!)
- The crew awoke to heavy rain and their hearts remained
heavy. However as the oats supplies had been exhausted, porridge was
prepared using Cran's Quaker Oats, which produced particularly positive
- The crew set off to quickly turn onto the long
straight elevated Burnley Embankment, which good views of Burnley were
observed through the rain and mist. Telephone contact was made with
the Barden Mill, which confirmed that pump out facilities were available and
the narrowboat was guided onward to just after Bridge 134, where the staff
were awaiting their arrival. One side was quickly pumped out and then
the boat taken a few hundred yards to the newly constructed marina where the
boat was expertly turned. Mooring again at Barden Mill the other tank
was then pumped out.
- The narrowboat then returned along the Burnley
Embankment, where the crew had devised a plan to moor under the canopy of
the old warehouse, where they could shelter whilst they prepared breakfasts.
Content with their satisfying food, the crew planned the remainder of their
day, with an early stop to fill their depleted water tanks at Gannow Bridge
BWB services and then onward to Hapton Boatyard to fill with 95 litres of
diesel and procure Toilet Blue and two fenders.
- As the brave crew had already completed some 6 hour
driving in the pouring rain, the unanimous decision was made to stop
opposite on the 48 hrs moorings for the remainder of the day. Alan
spent time on the internet investigating the nearby pubs and the Hapton Inn
boasting Timothy Taylors Landlord and Fish Pie, was selected for the crew's
evening entertainment. As the pub is over 1 mile away and the crew did
not like the idea of walking this distance in the heavy rain, Alan found
that the Number 23 bus passed the canal and the pub. It was therefore
agreed that crew should catch the 7-02pm with the 9-43pm back.
- The crew arrived at the bus stop far too early and
chose to have one pint of Thwaites Bomber Ale at the Railway Inn, whilst
waiting for the bus to arrive. The bus swiftly conveyed the explorers
to the Hapton Inn where several pints of Timothy Taylors Landlord ales were
enjoyed along with dinners of Fish Pie, Gammon and Steak & Kidney Pudding.
- The satisfied crew left the pub with insufficient
time to catch the bus, which was duly missed and they therefore found it
necessary to walk the considerable distance back to the boat. The fit
and agile crew accomplished the walk without undue effort and they rewarded
themselves cheese and biscuits back on board, with their coffee. The
crew retired to their bunks, at an early hour, praying for good weather for
the final day of their adventure.
Saturday 6th September
(Rain at first, but turning sunny and hot!!!)
- The exhausted crew slept in until 8am and whilst the
crew mopped up various puddles from the torrential rain and gales of the
night, Neil prepared pivotal porridge using his secret formula. The
narrowboat gently slipped away from its quiet moorings at Hapton in heavy
Soon the crew past the half way marker of the Leeds
Liverpool canal with 63¼ miles in either direction. The crew felt
much relief at seeing this encouraging sign.
The crew felt nervous about passing the infamous bent
chimney near "Church", but no disaster occurred.
Superhuman effort was required to manually operate
the numerous swingbridges on this section of the canal.
- During their difficult journey toward Blackburn,
unexpectedly the sun came out and the spirits of the crew were so elated,
that they chose to moor at Rishton, while Ron prepared a splendid breakfast.
After breakfast and in the bright sunshine, Neil took
on the unenviable task of cleaning the grubby grey paintwork of the
narrowboat, whilst Ron helpfully pointed out other areas requiring
- The crew remained acutely aware that the large
Blackburn lock flight lay ahead of them which concentrated their minds.
- The sunshine continued as the narrowboat drew into
Blackburn and Alan was despatched to pick up coffee, more kitchen towels and
cheese biscuits. When he return the narrowboat had already completed
the first of the six feared double locks. At Lock 2 the sunshine
disappeared and the heavens opened, which continued as the weary crew
efficiently completed their locking tasks in a record time. The lock
keeper met the crew at the penultimate lock, but offered no assistance, as
he could see how effective the crew were working as a team.
- Less than an hour took the narrowboat past Blackburn, in
the continuing rain, towards their final destination of the mission at "The
Boat Yard Inn" at Riley Green at 3-45pm. Shortly after arrival the
rain stopped and the sun shone on the successful team. Cleaning of the
narrowboat started and the crew looked forward to a well deserved dinner and
ale that evening. Colin was scheduled to collect them the following
The Intrepid team of the Stealth Narrowboat were
pleased with the outcome of their mission, which had proved to be the
most difficult yet.
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