February in Amsterdam

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In February we took advantage of unseasonably warm, calm and sunny weather for Amsterdam to make day trips to NDSM Wharf, Zaanse Schans, and Rotterdam. We also started stocking up for the summer trip to the Baltic; completed several boat maintance items and projects, such as replacing our unsatisfactory Jabsco 34600-0010 bilge pump; and did some administrative work, including registring for a Netherlands citizen service number (BSN) and getting a Netherlands pet passport for Spitfire.

Below are trip highlights from Februrary, 2019 in Amsterdam, NL. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at mvdirona.com/maps

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Nordhavn Charter
While we were in Southampton UK last winter, we met Mika Naatula and Katri Rosenberg of Nordhavn 64 Sweet Hope. They are great people who have boated in Finland, Sweden, and the Baltic Sea area for many years. We have heard so many great things about Finland and Sweden that we intend to spend next summer cruising the area and have been getting advice from Mika and Katri.

If you are also interested in the area, end up getting interested, or if you just want to spend some time learning about a Nordhavn, Sweet Hope is available for charter. It’s a great boat and it’s hard to get more knowledgeable hosts than Mika and Katri. More information at https://sweethope.fi/.

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Amsterdam has a number of on-line food delivery services supporting dozens of restaurants. We’ve been particularly enjoying the roast chicken from Rotisserie Amsterdam and find the Deliveroo app rather entertaining. Once an order is placed, an animated skillet tossing food indicates the order is being prepared. When the rider is underway, the animation changes to a peddling cyclist and we can watch their progress on a map in the app. As the rider approaches, the animation changes to an impatient diner banging their fist-held knife and fork.
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High Winds
A major storm system passed through the area, bringing gusts to nearly 40 knots and knocking over parked bicycles throughout Amsterdam.
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Johan Cruijff ArenA
Passing Johan Cruijff ArenA, home of the Dutch professional football (soccer) club Ajax, en route to an appointment.
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Stadsloket Zuidoost
Waiting at Amsterdam Stadsloket Zuidoost (City Desk Southeast) to register as a temporary resident to obtain a BSN (burgerservicenummer), a Citizen Service Number similar to a Social Security Number in the US. It turned out that we needed one to keep our local Bunq bank account active.
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Amsterdam Bijlmer ArenA
At the Amsterdam Bijlmer ArenA station, about 15 minutes from Central Station, to return into the city after obtaining our BSN.
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The high winds blew our large forward inflatable fender from the water up and onto the boat. We’ve since secured it with a line to a dock cleat. Our heavy Polyform F8 fenders didn’t budge.
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Replacing Line
The line supporting our Nordhavn pennant had frayed to barely a thread, so we replaced it today.
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New Parts
A common problem determination technique is to replace a suspected bad component and, if the problem is corrected, then you know that component was at fault. But this technique is not perfect—sometimes new parts are bad. Six months back water was leaking out of our hot water heater so we replaced the Temperature and Pressure (T&P) valve. It continued to leak so “obviously” it wasn’t a T&P Valve problem. Many recommended that we add an accumultator tank to the system. This seemed quite logical to us, so we got to work on adding this component.

We spent a bit of time choosing an appropriate accumulator, figured what fittings we would need to install it, and found a location in the boat where we would just barely be able to fit the fairly large tank. We were very near to installing the new equipment but just kept thinking that the fault mode sure looked like a failing T&P valve. Because it was easy and cheap, we replaced the T&P Valve valve a second time and the problem was completely solved. The original problem was a failed T&P valve, the new one was also faulty, and the second new one solved the problem. We wasted some time on this one and it’s an example that “try a new part”, although often a good quick diagnosis technique, is not perfect. The new part could be bad as well.

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N62 Gray Matter
We first met Mark Mohler and Christine Guo of Nordhavn 62 Gray Matter just north of Seattle in the San Juan Islands. We celebrated New Year’s Eve with them that year in Victoria, Canada, later spent some with them on the Columbia River, and moored at the same marina in San Francisco. We frequently shared anchorages with them throughout the South Pacific and moored with them again for several months in Brisbane.

And now they are in exactly the same slip we moored at three years ago in Boston. Here’s you can see it’s cold enough that ice is starting for form around Gray Matter in Charleston Marina.

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Amazon Prime
Amazon doesn’t have a Netherlends site, but the UK and German sites will deliver many products here. And quickly too—we ordered these two 400V plugs from Amazon Germany and they arrived in two days with standard shipping.
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16A 400V
To give us more flexibility in shorepower sources, we built a pigtail that will produce two single-phase 16A connections from a single 3-phase 16-amp 400V source.
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32A 400V
This second pigtail produces a single-phase 32-amp 200V connection from a three-phase 32-amp 400V source.
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Daniel, Deb and Jan
Daniel Boekel of ShipCraft Engineering, and Deb Richardson and Jan Pieterse came by for a visit. We had a great time discussing topics ranging control systems to Brexit, first over drinks on Dirona and later at dinner in a nearby restaurant.
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NDSM Wharf
The NDSM wharf district in Amsterdam Noord was once home of the NDSM (Nederlandsche Dok en Scheepsbouw Maatschappij) shipyard until the 1980s. The area is in the process of revitalization, with a particular emphasis on companies in the creative sector, and is full of distinctive architecture and artwork. We took taking advantage of a warm and sunny Valentine’s Day for a ferry trip across the IJ River and a walking tour through NDSM wharf and Amsterdam Noord. Read more …
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Zaanse Schans
Zaanse Schans, north of Amsterdam, is one of the oldest industrial areas in the world and was particularly important in the 18th and 19th centuries. Over 1,000 windmills were built in the area to help produce linseed oil, paint, snuff, mustard, paper and other products. Today many of Zaanse Schans’ remaining windmills are operating and open to the public as part of a large, outdoor museum.

On another beautiful February day, we took a train to Zaandam for lunch, continued by train to Zaanse Schans, then returned to Amsterdam by ferry. Read more …

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Rob Higgins
Rob Higgins, president of Robinson helicopter leasing company Higgins Leasing, was in town and came by for a visit. We last saw him in Seattle in the summer of 2017. We had a great time talking boats and helicopters, first on Dirona and later over dinner at Bickers aan de Werf.
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Bridge Lifting
We rarely see the bridge to our marina up to allow a boat to enter. There aren’t that many boats in the marina to start with, and most either rarely move or can fit under.
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Unlike historic Amsterdam, most of Rotterdam’s buildings were constructed after World War II German bombers destroyed the central core. The city was rebuilt in a very modern style and although the traditional buildings visible through much of the Netherlands are beautiful, Rotterdam’s contemporary and unusual architecture is quite appealing. Rotterdam also is full of statues and sculptures—over 150 are in the city center alone.

We took advantage of another sunny, warm February day to do a walking tour through the city, taking in the many unique buildings and sculptures. Read more …

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Stocking Up
We’re still a few weeks away from departing Amsterdam, but are starting to stock up on staples with a delivery from Albert Heijn this morning.
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Via Ferrata
In doing a couple of Via Ferrata climbs this summer, we learned that our standard climbing equipment wasn’t ideal for short-distance falls where the rapid decelaration can exceed the rating of normal climbing gear (in mountaineering terms this is called a high fall factor). So we purchased energy-absrobing lanyards to replace the standard climbing equipment we use for safety gear when clipped on to the stack. Besides being safer in a fall, the dual-lanyards means we never have to unclip entirely to reclip, and the automatic-locking carabiners are quick and easy to snap on.
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Jabsco Pump
We’ve never been thrilled with our Jabsco 34600-0010 bilge pump. These pumps have a few weak points, the most annoying of which is the inlet and outlet valves have ferrous metal rivets that hold the rubber flapper in place. Unsurprisingly, these valves fail and testing annually really isn’t sufficiently frequent. But, even if you test them daily, they can still fail an hour later. The only way to trust these pumps is to change the valves frequently. Another problem is the Bakelite pump base can crack if over tightened or if tightened unevenly.

The one feature we like about this pump is that it can self-prime even when the pickup is several feet below. But after the pump failed during our 2017 North Atlantic crossing, we became even less happy with it and decided to replace it. Here’s the pump removed from its install point in the starboard engine room alcove.

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Whale Gulper
We replaced the Jabsco 34600-0010 bilge pump with Whale Gulper 320 High Capacity bilge pump. The Gulper is a nice, simple design and looks well-engineered. In testing, it will pull water from several feet below, even into a dry pump. And output volume is quite good.
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Finished Job
We had to cut and move some hoses to install the new Whale Gulper pump, which resulted in having to modify the floorboard slightly, but the job now is complete and we’re happy to see that Jabsco 34600-0010 bilge pump off the boat.
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Hold the Boston
Spitfire is a big fan of Boston Creme donuts, “hold the Boston”.
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HVAC Dust Screen
We have five Dometic HVAC systems installed on Dirona and each has a dust screen that needs cleaning regularly. Here James is vacuuming off the dust that accumulates surprisingly frequently when they’re in heavy use.
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The guest stateroom HVAC system wasn’t producing heat and on investigation we found it was covered in ice. Some ice is normal for operation, but not this much. The water temperature is 49F which is close to where they struggle. We put the system to 65F and put blew hot air onto it to warm the thermostat to cause the AC to run. We let it run for a minute or so and this de-iced the system after which the heat produced was up over 100F. It appears the system was close to its minimum operating temperature and just froze at startup.
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Radio Position Data
Our new radio on the tender now receives position data from our new Vesper Marine AIS XB-8000. The radio accepted a different baud rate than the AIS transmitted by default, but we were able to change the transmission speed using Vesper’s mobile app.
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Testing Battery
Performing the at-least annual battery condition check on the tender main and spare batteries. We’ve made it much easier to test the batteries, and, because we can now can test them without taking the covers off we tend to do it more frequently.
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Bilge Pump Power
We moved all loads, including the bilge pump, to the switched side of the tender battery switch. This will prevent the bilge pump from clearing the bilge when not in use but we mostly keep it out of the water with the transom plug out. This ensures that the batteries only have to deal with self-discharge.

A flat battery in a remote location could be a really big problem so we carry an entire spare battery everywhere we go. And if we’re leaving the tender for an extended period of time, we’re also careful to shut off the electrical system so the batteries don’t discharge.

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Corroded Padlock
One of the padlocks that we use to secure our scuba tanks to the transom had corroded to the point where the key no longer worked. We had to cut it off with a Dremel cut-off saw.
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Cat Food Delivery
Jennifer returning with an order of cat food that was just delivered. Spitfire has developed kidney problems and now needs to be on a special diet, so we’re stocking up on enough food to get us to Stockholm.
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Greasing Windlass
Every year, we dissemble and grease the windlass top end.
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Replacing Windlass Switch
The windlass “up” foot control switch has been failing recently, so we replaced it with a spare.
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Cat Food Stowed
The eleven cases of cat food we had delivered fit nicely under the guest stateroom desk. We placed each stack on a non-skid base and secured each case to the one below with packing tape so they won’t slide around. The desk chair locked in place will also help secure the stacks.
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Wolf Atelier
Wolf restaurant, just across the road from our marina, is a beautiful facility built on an old railway bridge with 360-degree views. We’ve walked past many times and keep meaning to make a dinner reservation, so we jumped at the chance when Ken and Allison Wittamore of Integrel Marine invited us to join them and their son-in-law Kevin Wittamore there for dinner. The meal was exceptional and the Wittamores are always interesting and enjoyable company.
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Vacuum Bag
Dirona has a built-in vacuum cleaner installed in the lazarette. The bags are large and usually take at least a year before they need replacing.
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Hotel Room
We noticed what were obviously tourists in the bridge control tower. Ton, the marina manager at IJDok, saw us looking up at the tower and explained: all these bridges are now remotely managed, and the control rooms have been converted into hotel rooms.
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De Hus Asian Tapas Bar
A delicious meal at De Hus Asian Tapas Bar on Haarlemmerdijk, about a ten minute walk from the boat.
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Albert Heijn
Another big grocery order from Albert Heijn as we stock up for the summer trip.
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An innovative way to move in and out of upper floor apartments: here a truck extends a ladder up to the seventh-floor apartment window and a platform is powered up and down the ladder, transporting personal effects. Essentially it’s a temporary freight elevator for even quite-large furniture.
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Cargo Bike
This isn’t the biggest cargo bike we’ve seen, but it’s up there.
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The marina filled with smoke this afternoon when a long-cold diesel engine was started.
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Another great meal with a fabulous canal view at Mojo Japanese Kitchen. Mojo seems to have the equation right where they have great food at good value and the fairly large restaurant is completely booked every night.
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The person playing this public piano at Amsterdam Centraal Station was quite good and attracted a crowd.
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Meneer Nieges
On another unseasonably warm February day, we had lunch on the waterside patio at Meneer Nieges a few minute’s walk from the marina. We arrived just before the lunch crowd and nearly every table was taken by the time we left.
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La Motte Picquet
The French anti-submarine destroyer La Motte Picquet departed Amsterdam for sea while we were having lunch at Meneer Nieges.
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The narrow edge of this apartment complex at IJDok makes it look almost two-dimensional from certain angles.
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The day was so nice we decided to go for a walk after lunch. This is looking down the canal Linjbaansgracht, built starting in 1612.
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Cafe Sonneveld
We ended up outside Cafe Sonneveld in the vibrant Jordaan district, where we’d escaped a downpour in early January. But this time we sat outside in the sun.
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Looking across canal boats along the river Prinseneilandsgracht to the Sloterdijkerbrug. The bridge looks old, but was built in 1952 in the traditional style.
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The view north along the river Prinseneilandsgracht from the bridge Sloterdijkerbrug.
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A new foundation going into a canal house along Hartenstraat that runs between the innermost two canals in Amsterdam’s canal ring. In the examples we’ve seen, what appears to be happening is the structure, held up by pilings and are getting dug out below and basements put in while the structure stands above.
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Looking north along the Singelgracht. The canal circled medieval Amsterdam and served as a moat for the city until the late 1500s.
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Keesie Dive
At Keesie Dive to shop for scuba gear. The well-stocked store above is only a fraction of their total space. They have large numbers of storage and work areas down below and spreading out across away from the facility.
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As well as being a general-purpose dive store, Keesie Dive has one of best corrective lenses stocks in Europe—divers come from all over to get lenses. When goggles are upgraded with corrective lenses, the old previous clear-glass lens the goggles came with is discarded. Here’s six months of lens sales at Keesie Dive.
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Morgan en Mees
A great lunch street-side at Morgan en Mees. The weather continues to be unseasonably warm for February, with the temperature in the low 60s F (15C).
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Pet Passport
We got Spitfire an EU Pet Passport in Scotland in 2017. The passport is recognized in the EU and Norway, and has allowed hassle-free travel the past two years with Spitfire on board.

But a UK pet passport no longer will be valid for travel within the EU as of March 30th, 2019 if there is a no-deal Brexit. So while his UK passport still is valid, we got him a Netherlands passport with the vaccination information transcribed from the UK passport.

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Another Amsterdam canal house foundation being replaced. The pilings visible on the left likely have supported the house since the 17th century.

Amsterdam canal houses were built on shifting marshland, each supported by roughly eighty Scandinavian pine trees pounded 40-60 feet (12-18m) into the earth. The piles were driven under the waterline, where they would be directly exposed to oxygen and rot, and continue to support many of Amsterdam’s canal houses centuries later. They may not have rotted, but the piles have shifted over the centuries, causing some of the structures to list and lean, so it is a reasonably common practice to replace the foundation.

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A ladder-based moving platform, similar to the one we watched the other day, but this one mounted on a trailer rather than a separate truck. Here you can see the portable freight elevator at work, where furniture is halfway up to being delivered at the second-floor apartment window.
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Orphan Boxes
While walking to the Rokin Metro station, we passed through a courtyard outside the Amsterdam Museum. The museum is built on the site of an old orphanage and the “orphan boxes” visible in the walls are where the boys used to keep their tools. The cupboards now are part of a free-of-charge display detailing the building’s history.
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We took the Metro 52 to the southernmost station at Amsterdam-Zuid and stopped for an excellent lunch at Gustavino overlooking a fabulous display of daffodils. James is just visible on the patio at the left. The restaurant was packed inside with a business crowd, but surprisingly, we were the only ones choosing to enjoy eating outside.
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Kamera Express
The reason we’d come to Amsterdam-Zuid was to pickup a spare camera battery, as we couldn’t get a Lithium-Ion battery shipped to the Netherlands from outside the country. In fact, we couldn’t even get Lithium-Ion batteries shipped from the European mail-order vendors that we tried. We got one at the vast Kamera Express outlet here.
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Vinoly Tower
Escape staircases running along the outside of the distinctive Vinoly Tower in the Zuidas business district, viewed from the Amsterdam-Zuid Metro platform. The district is rapidly developing and the train station here is expected to become the 5th busiest in the Netherlands, with high-speed rail connections to Schiphol airport, Rotterdam, Belgium, France and Germany.
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Our drysuits are nearly twenty years old. We’ve replaced the seals many times, but they’re now to the point where they just leak everywhere and we’ve been planning to replace them. We love warm-water diving, but really haven’t been doing any recreational cold-weather diving. Over the last five years the only cold-water diving we’ve done has been to free up a stuck anchor, clean the bottom, or other boat service. It seems crazy to spend upwards of $2,000 on a good-quality drysuit that will only be used in emergency situations.

When our anchor was ensnarled in the Orkney Islands in 2017, James dove the anchor in a 5mm wetsuit in 58F (14C) water. Perhaps because the 5mm wetsuit he was using seals quite well, or because the dive was relatively short at only 35 minutes, but the wetsuit did surprisingly well and he wasn’t that cold. An obvious approach is to get a 7mm wetsuit, which would work fine at roughly $250. This would be far less expensive than even a cheap drysuit.

After visiting Keesie Dive yesterday, we decided to take a slightly more flexible approach and returned today with our 5mm full suits to try things on. We bought a hooded 3mm core-body undergarment that can fit underneath the 5mm full suit when more insulation is required. In addition, we got a 5mm shortie that would fit over top of our 5mm full suit.

For colder dives we now have a choice between diving wearing the 5mm alone, or any combination of wearing the 3mm undergarment, the 5mm shortie and the 5mm wetsuit. We were able to add those options at less expense than a 7mm wetsuit and a tiny fraction of the cost of a new drysuit, and it offers a fairly flexible solution.

Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at mvdirona.com/maps.


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