When ARE they coming back?

When ARE they coming back? It’s a question my parents are being asked frequently these days. The short answer is … not yet! We’re still having way too much fun out here. If we could, we would keep sailing around the world indefinitely. Unfortunately we don’t have unlimited funds. However, life in South East Asia is quite cheap so we can afford to stay out here a little longer than originally planned.

And what DO they do all day? The other question. Well, half of the day is taken up with school, then there’s boat maintenance (never stops!) and if we’re not on passage we snorkel, dive or explore the beaches. There never seems enough time in the day.

Indonesia has been a great stop, it has consistently exceeded my expectations on many levels: the friendliness of the people, the beauty of the country, the diving and the snorkelling. If I have one complaint it is the lack of dairy produce and wine! But we can live with that.

At the moment we are in Wakatobi, a national marine park in South East Sulawesi. The name is derived from the four main islands in this archipelago: Wangi Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko. It’s a paradise for snorkelling and diving; Jacques Cousteau referred to it as ‘zee underwater nirvana’. Some of the remote islands are inhabited by Bajau communities, seafaring nomads. There virtually are no tourists around and apart from our buddy boat Rampetamper, we haven’t seen any other yachts for ages!

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Rehua anchored near Hoga Island

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science experiment

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success!

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‘Sunday Fun-Day’, out surfing behind the dinghy early morning

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Hoga Island

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Bajau village, built entirely on a reef

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Wakatobi resort on Tomia Island

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just another desert island

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this one appears to be floating in the sky!

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Rehua anchored in the middle of a reef system

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beautiful underwater world

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colourful corals

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interesting shapes

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vibrant colours

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our buddy boat Rampetamper

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pondering life while munching a carrot and watching the sunset

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Another month, another visa extension

Our visa allows us to stay in Indonesia for six months, but every month we have to find an immigration office to extend our visa and stamp our passports. Not so hard? Well … that depends on the office. Wanci, on Wangi Wangi is not a port of entry but they do have an immigration office and we thought we give it a try. Small towns are better than big cities after all. Only problem was our sponsor (yes, you need a local ‘sponsor’ to write a letter to the immigration office of choice every time you want to extend). We had contacted our sponsor Raymond several times over the last two weeks and not a peep. He wasn’t responding to our emails or phone calls. So no letter. But time was running out and we went to the local immigration office in Wanci to explain our situation. Not a problem, the big boss contacted Raymond and got a response pronto and told us he would have our passports ready and stamped the next day. Result! But … one condition: they had to come and inspect the boat. OK then. Many selfies later and another trip to the immigration office today and everything was sorted. We didn’t have to fill in the usual twenty eight forms, the girls in the office filled everything in for us. They even went to the bank to prepay the charges so we just had to reimburse them the cash (which saved us a lot of time – thank you girls!). The best service we’ve had so far. Now where to next?

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helpful and efficient staff at the immigration office in Wanci


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this beautiful lady is nine months pregnant


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group photo outside the immigration office


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just one more selfie


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visit to the boat


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opportunity to take a few more selfies


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chief of the immigration office


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trying out the helm seat


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inspection done


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the local petrol station


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locals out training early morning


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Wanci sunset


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early morning, the waterfront


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crazy clouds


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local fishing boats in Wanci harbour

Across the Banda Sea

For four days and three nights we sailed across the Banda Sea. We were all happy to set sail again after what had been a delightful stop in the Banda Islands. Even in the best of places we tend to get itchy feet after a while. So we sailed out of Zonnegat bay early morning, past Ai and Run Island and I started reading a book called Nathaniel’s Nutmeg. I love reading about places we just visited and I would highly recommend this book! It’s all about the race to the spice islands between the Dutch and the English and the difference one individual can make to change the course of history.

We managed to sail most of the way and apart from a few hours of uncomfortable swell the crossing was extremely relaxing and enjoyable. The boys kept busy all day playing Lego, reading books, helping with a few chores, doing some schoolwork and after dinner they would watch a movie. Seathan and I soon got into the rhythm of being on watch and only sleeping in blocks of three hours. I wouldn’t say that it gets any easier or that we love that part though – and I did bang my head on the helm a few times as I dozed off! If the bang hadn’t woken me up, the AIS alarm surely would have. We passed through a busy shipping lane with some of the largest tankers we’ve seen, passing us closeby. Most of these were so big they wouldn’t fit through the Panama Canal!

And then we arrived in Wakatobi, just before sunset. We dropped anchor, made some pizza, watched a movie and went off to bed for a good looooooong sleep. Oh, and we also turned our clocks back another hour as we (slowly but surely) move closer to Europe 😉.

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leaving Zonnegat bay Phinisi in background and canoe with net sail!


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sailing past Run Island, fair trade Manhattan?


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busy shipping lane, right through the Banda Sea


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sails at sunset


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Surely a Dutch Empire with all this orange!


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Well, hello Wakatobi!


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Wakatobi National Park, the reef systems are immense.

 

 

Midnight Escape

Ah… boat life. I love it, really. Even when my husband wakes me up in the middle of the night to come and help remove the stern lines and lift the anchor. We were in a bit of a pickle. Strong gusts had dragged us sideways and a one-metre swell on the beam made the anchorage uncomfortable. To make things worse we were surrounded by mooring boys and local boats, making escaping tricky business. Seathan decided it was better to re-anchor while it was still relatively calm and before the stronger gusts arrived (the new swell indicated more weather was on its way).

I was yawning away on the foredeck whilst looking out with a big torch for other boats, fishing devices, mooring buoys and anything else that could be in our way. It was only a few miles to the other side of the bay which was well protected but unfortunately very deep. Only solution was to drop in 35 metres, just 40 metres from the shore and then tie a stern line to the trees. All this in the pitch-black and without the help from our number one crew who was soundly asleep. But we managed and we got some sleep in the end (at least I did; I think Seathan was up and down a few times).

The kids slept through it all didn’t notice anything until the next morning, when they poked their heads outside the cockpit. 😀

Anyway, such is life onboard Rehua!

Apart from the deep anchorages, the Banda Islands are great! Beautiful lush islands with plenty of dive and snorkelling opportunity (even the harbour wall!), many remnants of old colonial days, characterful old buildings and, of course, spices. You can buy heaps of nutmegs, mace, cloves and cinnamon everywhere. Banda Neira, the main island, has a small and picturesque centre with many colonial style buildings, an old Dutch fort, a mosque, a few small restaurants, several dive hotels, guesthouses and a decent fresh produce market.

A couple of days ago we went on a spice tour in nearby Banda Besar; a gorgeous island with huge plantations dating back to the Dutch colonial days. We’ve also climbed the volcano on Banda Api, but of course you’ve read all about that on the kids blog!

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Rehua anchored at Banda Neira


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Midnight escape to the other side of the bay (photo courtesy of our Norwegian friends)


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The mosque and the volcano


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many beautiful colonial style buildings


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outside the museum


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the cruel history of Dutch colonial times


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Fort Belgica


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women in the market


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the view from Banda Besar


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Banda Besar


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Spices drying along the roadside


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mace


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unripe nutmeg


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cloves


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cinnamon trees smell delicious


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local cuties


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huge 600 year-old almond trees shade the nutmeg trees


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a man carrying water


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old coins anyone?


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on the way back from our spice tour


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ruins everywhere


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the mosque on Banda Besar


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meeting the local school children at Banda Neira


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Volcano Api in the background, can’t believe we climbed to the top!


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the view from the top


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that was hard work


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at the top of the volcano, many smoking vents


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ready to descent


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colourful harbour display


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local mooring line


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don’t step on these


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feathery corals


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strange tail


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mandarin fish


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they come out at sunset…


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…and are just gorgeous!

Want to swap?

Want to swap Manhattan for a tiny desert island in the Banda Sea? That’s what the Dutch did in 1667, exactly 350 years ago. They traded the small island of Run, which is less than 3 km long and 1 km wide,  for Manhattan, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania. Really? Central Park alone is larger than Banda Run.

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Want to swap this…


aerial photograph Lower Manhattan, South Ferry, Battery Park, New York City

…for this?

Rehua anchored next to Run island


So what was in it for the Dutch? Spices, of course! At the time, the Banda Islands were the only place in the world where nutmeg could be found. The Dutch, keen to monopolise the spice trade, had colonised all the Banda islands except Run, which belonged to the British. So the deal was done at Breda, in the form of a treaty, and marked the end of the second Anglo-Dutch war.

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nutmegs!

It’s hard to believe this was a good deal for the Dutch but at the time nutmeg was worth its weight in gold, or even more. The rare and precious nutmegs were not only used as herbs for cooking but also believed to be an aphrodisiac and hallucinogen and, most importantly, it was used to ward off the Black plague.

And there is more to this tale. Years later, during the Napoleonic wars, the British  stormed Fort Belgica on Banda Naira at dawn. Without a single gunfire shot they overpowered the Dutch and occupied the Banda Islands. The control of the Spice Islands was eventually returned to the Dutch in 1814 with the Treaty of Paris which marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars. But before leaving, the British took nutmeg seedlings from the Bandas and planted them in other tropical places under British colonial control. Nutmeg plantations sprang up in Singapore, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and later they brought the plants to Zanzibar and Grenada.

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Fort Belgica on Banda Naira


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At the entrance of the Fort


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Old Dutch writing on the wall


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Overlooking Zonnegat Bay

We’re very lucky to be here today as the islands celebrate their remarkable history with a month long festival filled with traditional dances, music, theatre, culinary shows, photographic exhibitions, rare displays of antique drawings, etc.

Rumour has it that the New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio, will also be attending the festivities. This morning we were woken up by the arrival of a big super yacht in the tiny harbour at Banda Naira. Could that be him?

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Special guests arriving at Banda Naira this morning

 

 

 

 

Gone with the wind

A cruising friend once told me she felt safer at sea than at anchor. I must agree. Especially after our last two nights in Misool. Suitable anchorages are scarce in Raja Ampat, especially around Misool. Too deep, no protection, too close to a reef, the bottom to hard to drag the anchor in, … These days we are lucky we have google earth images to navigate with and to find sandy patches to anchor in. But sometimes it looks better on a picture than in reality. Anyway, we did find a gorgeous spot and anchored right next to a tiny desert island with our stern anchor on the beach. In theory it was a good anchorage but nevertheless a few midnight squalls made the stern anchor drag and we decided to up anchor at sunrise. Onwards to the next island group.

The limestone pinnacles, carpeted with luxurious vegetation, provide stunning scenery but because they are so high and steep they come with very deep bays. After much meandering we found somewhere in 40 metres and tied a stern line to the rocks. More nighttime squalls and Seathan tied a second stern line. We didn’t get much sleep as a result and decided to leave the next morning. What’s the point sitting at anchor if you can’t even get a decent night’s sleep? Better to be at a sea…

We headed southwest towards Ambon. After a few hours, the wind changed direction and soon we were beating into it. Not much fun. And why make life hard for ourselves? So we changed course and went with the wind, heading east of Seram instead. Perfect sailing conditions. Flat water, wind from behind, full moon at night. Doesn’t get much better than that. Probably the best two days sailing we’ve had. Just sublime.

And the result? We ended up somewhere we didn’t think we would get to. The Banda Islands, aka the original spice islands, a place soaked in history. And apparently with some great diving spots too. Yay!

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Another gorgeous island group near Misool

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so much greenery growing on these rocks

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turquoise water all around

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stern anchor on the beach

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our next anchorage, stern line to the rocks

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ah, good to be back at sea

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morning squall approaching

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sunsets at sea are the best

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approaching Banda Naira

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with the volcano in the background

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entrance to Zonnegat bay

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the waterfront with Fort Belgica in the background

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the view from our cockpit

Another paradise found

Raja Ampat has been one of our cruising highlights but there was one more area to discover before heading south. Misool… One of the four main islands that make up Raja Ampat and stunning in its own right. We split the roughly 100 miles sail into easy-to-manage day hops, anchoring in the river 30 miles south of Sorong on the first night. A second stop provided great snorkelling and swimming opportunity and finally we arrived on the third day in Balbulol, just off Misool island.

The giant karst cliffs were visible miles away and as we approached they became green and lush, towering over the picture perfect turquoise lagoons surrounding them. What a sight. Unfortunately, tall cliffs usually make for deep bays and, indeed, it was not so easy to find a suitable anchorage. After what ultimately was a very pleasant ticky-tour around several bays, Seathan found somewhere protected with manageable depths and we dropped the anchor in 35 metres and reversed into the cliffs to tie a stern line to a shrubby tree.

Below the water was as spectacular as above. The islands are part of a marine reserve and uninhabited so we had this paradise all to ourselves. Pure bliss. 🌴

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overnight river anchorage

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golden sunrise

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mosque along the river

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second stop near a desert island

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perfect for some snorkelling

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stunning corals

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crazy colours

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approaching Balbulol

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giant karst cliffs and turquoise water

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green and lush rocks

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fringed with reefs

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touring the inlets, searching for a suitable anchorage

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Tyrii off to check the depth before we head in with Rehua

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reef and turquoise water

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beautiful water

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off to get the stern line tied

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found a tree

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tying the stern line

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evening light, view from the cockpit

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stroll along the beach

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building a sandcastle

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rocks close-up

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giant mushroom shapes

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admiring the scenery

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anchored stern-to

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one tree beach

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yay!

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early morning, ready to set sail again