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In my area, the winds are typically 5-20 kts. and when the wind gets to 30 knots, no one (out of maybe 500 boats on the creek) goes out. With a very shallow bottom, the short, high choppy waves that result would make the ride very uncomfortable in any event, and if the wind blows long like this, there's a good chance that you would not get back to the dock as the water is blown out making the docks unaccessable. Occasionally, someone returning from a cruise will need to dock in high wind conditions, and it's always a somewhat out of control crash since these landings are frequently downwind and crosswind. Yet on this list, I read that people in the SF bay area routinely sail in 25-30 kts. in the summer, and some people (there and elsewhere) even claim they look forward to going out in 40-50 kts. (I believe the SF summer winds are frequently 25-30 kts....I'm not so sure about intentionally going out in 40-50 kts.) Someday, I'm going to be faced with the 25-35 kts. docking and would like to be as prepared as possible.

So SF bay sailors, what are your docking conditions (real wind at the dock, not necessarily the same as out on the open bay) and how do you handle it, especially if single handing, without beating your boat to pieces? I have seen aerial photos of one large bay area marina, and it was oriented so that most docks were either upwind (most expensive) or downwind of the prevailing wind direction, which simplifies the situation if there is little crosswind (I almost always have crosswind). It was noteworthy that all the upwind and downwind slips were filled and most of the crosswind slips were empty. Sailers in other areas beside the SF bay area that encounter similar or worse conditions, please join in also. Precisely how do you do it? Is your slip sheltered so you get less wind and how much? What prearranging of lines and fenders on the boat or slip are in place? Are you going into to floating docks or fixed pilings? Some will say, you just have to experience it, but that's not that helpful the first few times one actually does it. Newbies and fair wind sailors need all the in-advance, pre-event guidance that they can get in addition to storm conditions know how for open water. (And taking a sailing course on SF bay, while helpful, is not practical for most of us that live a great distance away).

So, experienced high wind sailors, how do you do it, and more importantly, how should the rest of us do it when we get confronted with such a situation?
 

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I'll start, but...

Take this with a huge grain of salt NC - because I've only been sailing for 8 months or so (on a lake). So I look forward to the same advice. Because I've found that it's freakin' hard!

I've had 2-3 outings where we were having winds in the range you mention (25-30). And I still suck at it - but, thanks to a lot of the tips I've gotten around here - am starting to get a bit better.

Our marina is very sheltered by surrounding hills (which causes a lot of swirl) - but the blows I've mentioned above were coming straight in off the water - pushing us toward the slip. This inevitably leads to serious cotton-mouth in my case.

So during these times, I've tried to practice on balancing the momentum between the wind and the motor to keep the speed as slow as possible, yet maintain enough forward momentum to avoid crabbing (or being pushed leeward) and to keep the rudder fully engaged. The trick for me has been trying to figure out when to completely power down/reverse as I'm coming into the slip (floating docks with "fingers" BTW). And I'm finding I often wait too long.

We have I guess what you'd call a "newbie catcher" (a fender at the water line with lines strung horizontally to the forward cleats on the dock). This helps slow us down if we come in a bit hot so we don't punch the bow into the concrete. So far, we've not busted anything - but we've definitely come in too hot sometimes. At those times, it was critical to have a bow monkey ready to jump onto the dock and help slow us down. I'm way too green to try a singlehanded attempt like that.

So, that's all I really know at this point. It's probably not helpful - and you'll get much better answers from the salts around here. But those are the things I'm practicing because I LIKE going out in heavier winds. So it's great knowledge to have.

The hardest part for us has not been the docking - but actually getting OUT of the slip on fresh days. Trying to build that momentum (especially if you're backing out of the slip) is a nightmare. So we always flip the boat now and motor out forward instead of trying the reverse thing. Just more cotton mouth as far as I'm concerned.

Welcome to Sailnet dude!
 

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The way I do it is. I wait till I am just inside the marina and make a radio call on channel 16 that i am coming in to the docks. This way I get a good view of the other boaters running from the docks screaming in terror. Then at the last moment, when I perpendicular with the slip, I spin the wheel, close my eyes and pray like a bad Nun on Sunday morning.

All situations are different. I do have to dock in cross winds routinely. I have found that when the wind is really blowing that many times it is better to back down into the slip then come in bow first.

I make a U-turn in the fairway and keep the bow pointed in to wind. I do this as the bow has less windage than the stern. Depending on witch side of the dock you have to bring the boat in on, up-wind or down-wind. You either bring the stern in short or long. You are trying to use the wind to you advantage. Try to keep the bow in to the wind or as close to the wind as long as possible. One of the reasons to do this is you have more power in forward (if you have to pull out and try again) then you do in reverse.

I hope this helps.
 

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NC...each case isa particular one..

Normally, when docking in high winds, either against, behind or cross, the trick is to use the boat's turning momentum, to slowly crawl or get into your space. Granted it takes some practice.

The principle is easy, when the boat turns, it allways carries enough momentum, that can conuteract the wind.

A few examples:

a) Boats that dock in reverse in slips with cross winds, for example, the idea is to get in the lane that goes to your slip space, already going in reverse, AND against the wind. This serves two purposes, one keeps the boat moving rearwards, providing some speed and momentum that will improve steering, second, that will be the last turn into your slip.
Then, as you motor and you approach your slip, turn the wheel abruptly, into your space. This will cause the bow to slowly rotate into the wind, which will slowly reduce the momentum and at the same time stop the movement. Once aligned, shift in forward to stop the boat and tie the boat. Off course having preset spring lines helps.
If you are coming from where the wind is coming, go past your slip, (overshoot it), in forward, pass the slip, then, return in reverse, and get some momentum going.

b) Boats that dock bow first in cross winds, the idea is to reduce the amount of side exposed to the wind..don't come in large and wide on your last turn, and use the momentum of the turn to your advantage.
Come in along the lane that gets to your slip, thin, meaning, as close as your turning radius allows, to your slip side (if your slip is to port, then come as close to port as possible). Then as you approach it, turn abruptly, into your space, but sail into the pier side or finger side, turning at last minute to paralel the boat, as the stern roatates, it will start rotating into the wind, which will in turn stop the boat paralel.
You really need to carry the boat as close to the side of the pier as much as possible, then turn sharp. The idea is that sharp turns cause more turning momentum, which is good in strong winds.

DO NOT COME IN SLOW AND LARGE.

I will write more, need to do somethng now. be back with more cases..
 

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1-Call every friend you have at the marina (this is assuming you have friends)
2-Beg ½ them to get on your boat to hold fenders and throw lines for you (pick them up at the fuel dock or on an outside dock)
3-Convince the other ½ that they will be safer on the dock receiving lines.
4-Take a shot of rum
5-Get the longest casting lines and largest fenders you have ready in all positions
6-Take another shot of rum and say to yourself “I have insurance and it’s only money”
7-Depending on where the wind is choose if you need to head in bow first or transom first
Note-If the wind is going to push you into the boat next to you then head in bow first as the aft is going to follow the bow when docking.
8-Throtle up the engine so the prop will bite the water. You do not want to dock under low RPM!
9-If you feel like things are out of control then they are and you should pull out and start again. If it takes 100 tries no one cares.
10-Throw lines as fast as possible!
11-Utalize the pilings, dock or anything else you can to get into the slip. If you must fend-off another boat use a boat hook and fender, never your arm.
12-Give the rest of the bottle of rum to your friends and thank them.
 

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First choice: Drop and anchor outside the marina and wait.

Seriously. Lasso a piling as best you can and spring it in with fenders as slowly as you can.
I've found it helps to back up to piling because you can always accelerate away in forward better than you can slow down. I single hand a lot so backing it to a piling means I don't have to leave the helm to put a rope on the pier/piling. It also means my view is better. Backing up to mooring ball in a catamaran is another trick we use to make it easy, just walk down the steps and and get the pennant then walk it forward.

I'm on the end of a T and make a U turn and drive into my slip, just hit reverse to stop, reach over and grab a line. Normally it's a simple thing, but being a catamaran I get caught in cross winds and pushed more than most (more windage). Unlike most cat's I don't have two engines, just the one; but it is steerable just like a outdrive (turns with the rudders about 20 degrees). I can walk the boat sideways in about 1.5 boat lengths, no wind, no current.
The number one rule should be the same for all docking.
Go as slowly as you can and still maintain control, get a line around the first thing you can and then using fenders as necessary pull it in, don't drive it in.

It will be ugly, but not as ugly as the repair bill for ramming it home. Any dock mates that give you grief you can pay back by going sailing when they come down to the piers to fix their gelcoat on a good sailing day.
 

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I routinely go out in high winds. I was out yesterday in 20+. I was out the time before that (solo) in stronger gusts. My slip is "beam-on" AND I back in. The trick? Speed.

Go faster. You have to maintain your leeway and minimize it from the bow dropping off. This varies on current and winds. I also always look at the wind direction when coming in to "over-compensate" to get back in. Not a big deal, just takes practice and a few scratches!

- CD

PS getting out is harder than getting in (when backed in).
 

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c) Boats that dock stern first into the wind..Again, the trick is to use the wind to turn the boat. Come in along the lane in reverse, as close as possible to the side of your slip. Then as the slip approaches, start turning the stern to the slip, and try to slow down the boat, The wind will slowly strat to push the bow away from the wind, just use enough power, to prevent the whole boat from being pushed with the wind, and use to use the wind to rotate you. Once you're aligned, just reverse with confidence.

d) Boats that go bow first into the wind...come in wide and large with moderate speed. Turn inot the wind slowly and just park it easy.
 

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Personally, I think trying to shoot into the dock is dangerous and likely to result in a semi-controlled crash. I have to dock here in Nassau in a marina in the harbor, where the tide runs fast and reverses twice daily, so first, I try to time my docking for slack tide. If the wind is blowing across the slip I approach upwind as slowly as possible. I try to catch the outboard piling with a spring line and stop the boat perpendicular to the slip so the spring line is holding the boat in place. Then slow ahead with appropriate rudder and she rotates slowly into the slip. Another line on a windward piling as you come in and you're good to go with final tie up.

With wind from astern It's like a crosswind, except easier. The wind holds the boat against the piling. Work against the spring line and you're in. Wind from ahead just roll on in, allowing for drift while approaching the turn.

Obviously, these all require capable crew on the bow handling the lines. If you've ever been in Venice you can see the masters of the art of using the motor against a line when a vaporetto comes into a stop. The crew ties a spring line off on a dock cleat with a quick loop, pilot goes slow ahead and the boat snuggles against the dock just a pretty as you please.

Finally, it's important to know how your boat turns. My old Pearson, with fin keel, would rotate on the keel so I could just come almost past the slip, turn hard and slide right in. My Islander Freeport 41, with an old fashioned long keep, makes swoopy turns that would put me into the third slip down if I tried to dock that way.

Good luck,

Dick Pluta
AEGEA
Nassau, Bahamas
 

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Dick,

I don't think anyone here said to com in hot at full steam like the Titanic about to hit the iceberg.

The trick is momentum, not speed..a slow boat in gear has more momentum than a slow boat with gear disengaged (up to a certain level), slowly bobing around to place.

The idea I was transmitting is to come in positively, (that theory of coming in at the speed you would like to hit the pier is very nice when the conditions are calm)..and thus keep control of the boat, before wind or current picks it.

Maybe was the way I wrote it.
 

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So then really the idea (as I said earlier) is control, i.e., as slow as you can and maintain control, not SPEED.
 

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My boat is in windy Texas and I frequently have to dock in gusty winds. If I have a crosswind, I always manuever the boat so I am approaching the dock upwind and take a sharp angle into the dock. Be sure to maintain about 1.5-2knots speed to maintain steerage thru the wind. I try to have a) a spring line on the deck just forward of amidships ready to "catch" me on the windward side and also prevent me hitting the headpier. I try to tie up to the outside cleat b) setup fenders on the leeward side when the boat blows that way inside the slip.

If you're approaching downwind, just make sure your speed is at 1.5-2 knots (even if that means having the boat in slow reverse) and do a normal approach. Again, have a spring line ready to catch the first cleat in the slip and have those fenders preset on the opposite side, especially mid to stern areas-which will be vulnerable when the spring line grabs.

Good luck!
 

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Pick a downwind dock. If your dock is upwind, pick a different dock.


In winds of this level, most people get in trouble because they get fixated on "their" dock, never considering that they can lay alongside to a downwind dock, or even boat, go on shore, and then warp the boat over to their dock. No, you don't look like a Destroyer Captain but you've a good chance of ending up docked and unscathed.
 

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I regularly have a tail wind going into my slip. I have found a couple of things very helpful to prevent me slamming headlong into the concrete seawall at teh front of my slip. 1) I leave the fenders attached to the dock when I leave. One less thing to have to mess with on return. 2) I have a long straight shot (downwind) into my slip once inside the harbor. I do big "S" turns as I work downwind toward my slip. This helps burn-off speed during the approach. The last "S" turn is back toward the finger pier (floating) on the side I intend to tie to. Then I turn into the slip quickly to prevent spending too much time with the stern exposed to the wind to build speed back. 3) A spring line attached amidship to act as a brake and a stern line to keep the boat along side are all I really need to smoothly get the boat moored. Once those are secure, I can then take my time with the rest of the lines.

I have a fairly unique situation since I don't have a fairway to navigate on my approach, but would use a similar method if I had to run down a fairway with a tailwind.
 

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I've come into the marina and strange marinas in high winds several times. These episodes come to mind:

1. First ever docking in high winds (50+) at a strange marina was not much fun. We came in hot, surfing between the breakwater walls with me standing so I could see past the wildly flapping doused main, put her in reverse, full throttle and 200' to stop. Backed as far as we could while strangers ran to a dock to help in the failing light. The wind was pushing us sideways into the rocks so I let off to steer away and found that reverse failed when I went to back up above the slip again. I put it in forward, gunned it hard and turned as hard as I could to spin into the wind. We crawled upwind of the slip until we were about midship and went hard to port, pinning the bow on the end roller (it turned super fast) and pushed along the slip with people pushing to keep us off. Lines weren't necessary as she was pinned hard and it took all of us to push her far enough off to get fenders in.

2. The wind blows from port to starboard on my home slip usually so coming in to home isn't too hard. We have a pretty decent wind break unless it's a North wind. Coming in with just two aboard means coming into the wind briskly and turning quickly as Alex said for a Starboard mooring. I have to watch my sprit so I don't sink the 38' Bayliner next to me. Once I have the timing down and have made the turn, I already have her in reverse before I finish the turn so I can stop.

3. Again in 40 knots at Port Townsend (it always seems to blow a Gale when I go there) I came in a lot slower since the wind was from the opposite direction with just myself and Fredia aboard. Fredia had already doused and tied off so I didn't have sails flapping in my face either. While she was below cleaning up things from the cabin sole, I came in, found an empty 70' slip between two superyachts, spun in for a Starboard (downwind) mooring and coasted to a stop. The landing was so soft that when Fredia came up to help dock, she was astounded that I was already finished with the mooring lines and dressing ship.

The thing is, you can always get the boat docked IF the mooring is downwind. Mooring on an upwind dock is tough, especially for me as the bow will flat run off so I have to pin the bow, get someone off to handle the bow line and walk her up. If coming into a strange marina, I usually request a downwind dock if possible.
 

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I agree with Sway in that in tough conditions, you need not always pick your own dock. You can pick the seawall, or you can pick a dock that favours your boat in the wind you are experiencing, or you can pick up a mooring. (Think it's hard? Picking up a mooring is the easiest of all because there is hardly anything to hit and you can approach it going dead to wind with all the surrounding boats parallel to you!).

If the wind favours it, and I have the room, I will power in a little quicker than usual, and disengage the gear, and do a sharp "S" turn to bleed off speed before docking. This takes practice to know how rapidly your boat loses speed, but the point is to lose just enough momentum to give you steerageway, but no more than you can handle jumping off the boat with a stern line, a midships spring line and a boat hook if you drop something! (This is also why I keep boat hooks lightly lashed to the shrouds...I can grab one if I drop the other and the bow goes for a walk).

The key to this is practice with your own boat. I have two sailboats with very different windage profiles and handling characteristics, so I have to park a sports car and a loaded truck, if you follow. Practice with fenders and fender boards if necessary with a buoy or race marker in a stiff wind. Try "docking" (meaning passing the buoy within one metre at under 1.5 knots, say) being blown on, blown off, pushed and pulled. There are ways to grab lines from dock-mounted poles, and there are all sorts of cushions that will forgive sloppy docking, but I prefer to just practice until I get it right.

I knew a guy who took the first private yacht into Hudson's Bay for hundreds of years...and saw him nervously screw up a docking at Toronto Island...so don't worry. Even the "pros" sometimes need to practice this.

chapters.indigo.ca: Something Worth Doing: Judith Chopra: Books
 

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Like T34C I leave a fender at the dock at the piling on starboard and port to which my spring line is attached. I come in bow first and the first line to grab is the spring line on the windward side (if I can) if there is one, to stop the momentum of the boat from going further forward to the head of the slip or blowing back out of the the slip. The fender keeps the boat from hitting or scrapping the dock should I not be able to grab the windward spring line, but have to grap the leeward one as the boat may get blown sideways when i get into the slip and stop the forward motion (this happens most often when singlehanding, I have an inexperienced crew which cant get to the windward spring line first, or when I fumble getting away from the helm running up the gunwhale to grab the spring.

As Giu has stated the key is controlled speed. In this case momentum will get you caught and moved by the wind. It is best to power into the slip with movement, then drift in slowly like when there is no wind. In no way does this mean come in "hot" and throw it in reverse. You need enough speed to have steerage.

I singlehand plentry and the trick is that spring line. Once i grab it and secure it to a midship cleat i am in the slip. You can methodically get the other lines and adjust later. When leaving the slip my last line off the cleat is the spring line and it is on a hook on the piling for an easy reach when returning.

Dave
 

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Bubb—

We've got a powerboater at our marina that uses that same docking technique... all the time. :)
The way I do it is. I wait till I am just inside the marina and make a radio call on channel 16 that i am coming in to the docks. This way I get a good view of the other boaters running from the docks screaming in terror. Then at the last moment, when I perpendicular with the slip, I spin the wheel, close my eyes and pray like a bad Nun on Sunday morning.

All situations are different. I do have to dock in cross winds routinely. I have found that when the wind is really blowing that many times it is better to back down into the slip then come in bow first.

I make a U-turn in the fairway and keep the bow pointed in to wind. I do this as the bow has less windage than the stern. Depending on witch side of the dock you have to bring the boat in on, up-wind or down-wind. You either bring the stern in short or long. You are trying to use the wind to you advantage. Try to keep the bow in to the wind or as close to the wind as long as possible. One of the reasons to do this is you have more power in forward (if you have to pull out and try again) then you do in reverse.

I hope this helps.
 

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A couple of other thoughts on ship-handling in high winds...

A lot of members are mentioning that speed is needed to provide steerage. This is not actually correct, although it is the most common way of achieving what is needed; flow over the rudder. You certainly don't need speed of the vessel itself, other than to overcome the wind when stemming it, rather you'll want propeller thrust over the rudder to provide steerage.

You can gain steerage via flow over the rudder without the attendant and dangerous speed associated with higher revolutions on the engine. You'll use the lowly anchor to do this. You should already have one, or two, anchors cleared before attempting docking in high winds anyway.

To "clear" an anchor means to make it ready to let go instantly. On a ship this would mean that the wildcat is disengaged from the windlass and the anchor is merely being held by the friction brake. On a boat it means that, whatever your set-up, it's ready to go over the side and run freely doing so. It's not stowed, it's not pinned to the anchor roller, and it certainly isn't in position where it must be walked out on a windlass. We won't have time for those niceties in this situation. It's a very good idea to have your second anchor cleared aft; it's likely to be closer to hand there and may be more effective as well. This is also a time and case where having 20-30 feet of line bent on to it might be better than your full 250 feet of "sailnet anchor thread-approved indestructible anchor rode". We ain't gonna be mooring here; we're going to be grabbing a hold of the bottom, possibly frantically, for only a short time.

You can use the anchor to control the bow by dragging it under foot. Chain rode, to the extent you have it, works better than line rode for this. You don't need or want the stretch of the line. But, you're going to use what you've got so don't worry about it.

Deploy the anchor just a bit further out than "up and down". (btw, if you're super fixated on the chain or line not wearing on your hull, you shouldn't be even attempting to dock and should have anchored or moored...anchor rodes chafe against hulls, that's what they make paint for!) "Up and down" is when the anchor is still touching bottom but the rode is tending up and down. You'll want a short scope out. A short scope in this case is such that your rode, while dragging the anchor, does not tend much over thirty degrees off vertical or, up and down. Get too much scope out and the anchor will set. With certain bottoms you may be able to break it loose instantly and drag it again, or it may stop you dead in the water. You'll have to practice some time with your individual anchor to see how it behaves. The goal is to get the anchor to grab but never take a hard set. If you're in nice soft mud, it can be buried in the mud but not holding against the engine; that's ideal! If you're in sand, you'll have to make sure you do not get too much scope out or you'll set up firm.

If you have a choice, you want the anchor off the bow deployed over the leeward side, so that it can tend down and under your hull, leading to windward. You'll get a more horizontal lead on the rode that way. (Don't worry so much about your hull here, you're really worrying about the hull of the million dollar boat down wind of you that you're going to have to repair if you don't carry this off!) Again, you want short scope so it drags but just enough that it holds your bow up to the wind as necessary and enough (more importantly) that you can motor ahead on it.

Once you've got your scope adjusted correctly, you'll find that you can motor ahead without going ahead. And that means that you now have steerage because you're flowing water over the rudder. Now you can walk your stern up into the wind under power, while the anchor holds your bow from falling off.

With practice, you'll be able to use your anchor just like a spring line as Chef and others above have described using mooring lines.

The key with all of this is control. If you're going to come in like a Destroyer Captain and rely strictly on split second timing of astern propulsion or line-handling, you're going to have a "naval moment" eventually. Bear in mind that the US Navy keeps the American shipyard business afloat while master's of privately owned vessels who emulate them generally get fired. Something always goes wrong eventually and you go crunch. Slower and under control is better. And you should be willing to try, and practice, unconventional methods of achieving that control. Like all ship-handling, practice is the key, and that's why it looks easy when someone experienced does it. Practice somewhere where you can eliminate the dock from the equation...some time when you're hoisting anchor is a good time since the anchor is already deployed.

If you end up tossing your stern bower over to stop your down-wind progress into a slip, you might consider leaving it where it is for a time. You'll want to let out enough rode so the rode lays along the bottom, of course. You may find that the wind will not have abated by the time you decide to un-dock and you can use that stern bower to kedge yourself out of your berth. Why mess about with prop walk and the wind/current when you can take your rode to a winch via a stern chock and pull yourself right out stern first into the wind/current. Once clear of the slip, you just pass the rode forward and your boat will pivot nicely into the wind. Motor slowly ahead and bring in the anchor rode as you go. No drama.

One other thing. You need to keep the bow off the wind as you're manoeuvering with the anchor dragging and that's a particular area where practice is essential. If you've the wind too fine on the bow, you're going to find yourself tacking into it, or back and forth across it, and that will destroy your best laid plans.
 
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