Tag Archives: cruising

2009 Week 36 in Review

This week was my last cruise aboard the MV Catalyst and was a short hop from Petersburg to Ketchikan. We left Petersburg early Sunday, and sounded the siren in front of Doug’s house (he owns the Katahdin). After a 12-hour run, we anchored in Myers Chuck, a neat little place looking out to Chatham Strait.

We arrived in Ketchikan on Monday at about noon and I cleaning the engine room really before handing it off to Eric who will be the engineer for the rest of the season. Then I flew back to Seattle, ending another great season aboard a great boat, the MV Catalyst. Thanks everyone for a wonderful summer!

Remains of the Vashon

On the way to Ketchikan, I called several float plane services to see if I could get an affordable ride out to Johnson Bay to see the Vashon.

It’s a great old state ferry powered by the biggest Washington diesel ever made. I’ve known the boat was there forever (it ran aground in the early 1990s, another victim of the Tugboat Dream), but have never had the chance to go out and take a look. This seemed like my chance, but I couldn’t find a flight for less than $400 and even though the weather was nice in Ketchikan, there was enough wind to rule out just taking the Catalyst‘s skiff over.

Damn. I hope I can visit next year – I want to take pictures of the ferry and document how much is showing at what tide, so I can judge how much will show at a super low tide to possibly salvage some parts.

Nick scanned and sent me an article from the year it sank: Old Ferries Never Die. We’ve archived it here on Old Tacoma Marine Inc, along with the original photos published with the article; go check it out.

Back to Business

Even though it was a great summer, it was really great to get back to Seattle. The work never ends here at Old Tacoma Marine Inc, and the next big job is to get ready for the Lightship #83 Rehabilitation job. This means a lot of reading government manuals and filling out government forms since most of the project is funded by government grants, but we’re really excited despite all that.

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2009 Week 35 in Review

This week’s cruise aboard the MV Catalyst was from Juneau to Petersburg, stopping at Wood Spit, North Dawes, Fords Terror, Sheldon Cove, West Brother, and Scenery Cove along the way.

We got underway on Sunday and it was just a little bumpy, so we pulled in to Snettisham bay for dinner, then continued on our way toward Endicott Arm. Night running is so fun – the boat sounds and feels different. No one was awake and luckily the wind calmed way down.

Bill and I were enjoying the beautiful night and remarking on every calm night running memory from working boat years – then almost at the same time we both realized that we were in iceberg country. We started staring at the radar and flashing the spotlight around; it seemed like they were all around us. Our depth perception was really screwy because we would spot one with the light and it would seem to be right on us, yet it would take a long time to reach us. It was nerve-wracking, but we made it through just fine.

We also overheard an amusing exchange on channel 16: one of those damn cruise ships hailed “the fishing vessel in Stevens Passage with the bright fishing lights: please extinguish while we pass.” A few minutes later, this groggy old fisherman’s voice came back really slow “Okay, so you’re drivin’ a whole city past me and you want me to put out my two 500-watt bulbs? Go [expletive] yourself.” Ha ha.

The next day, we changed our plan a little and went to North Dawes, which was great because we got to spend more time at the glacier. Then we took a short paddle, mostly for instructional purposes. Debby would only paddle every once in a while, and I held firm my orders to follow the pace of the front paddler, even if they don’t paddle. We just meandered around for a while, and it was really nice.

Our last stop before Petersburg was Scenery Cove, a very scenic cove near Baird Glacier. Every week, we anchor here and skiff to the tide flats below the glacier to hike up to the ice (and sometimes onto the ice). The tide flats and glacier make an amazing sight: it’s like a moonscape. The few trees that sprout and the rock piles left by the glacier get wiped out regularly by giant floods when ice dams break – or so I’ve been told. Well, after this week I am a firm believer of the ice dam theory.

On the way into a huge bay called Thomas Bay, the captain noticed the sea water temperature drop from 44˚ to 29˚. He figured that the gauge was busted and didn’t think much about it. At the same time, I was in the engine room checking gauges and watched the product gauge on the watermaker spike past the upper limit of our element’s capacity, so I turned down the pressure. I’m always adjusting the pressure so I don’t really think about it, and I always want to make more water with less pressure so I’m thinking this is just fine. These were just hints that something had changed.

So, we dropped the anchor, used the skiff to run everyone out for the glacier hike. The captain noticed more current than normal – another hint, but it still didn’t register as anything really unusual.

We have a carefully plotted course on the skiff’s GPS for getting into Baird Glacier, a course with little margin for deviation. The tide flats have many sandbars and big rocks and the drop-off point is about a mile up the fast moving right-side river. The skiff operator needs to run fairly quick to overcome the current and follow the GPS course exactly to make the landing.

This trip, we followed the procedure like usual – until we came to an awful halt on a sandbar. The guests all grabbed onto each other and the boat, and I really worried that we removed the lower end of our outboard motor (we didn’t).

Only then did all the hints add up: the cold water, the current, even the high product flow from the watermaker.

The captain and I exchanged a look that we have never had to use before. It was the “oh my god, is the outboard okay, are we the right spot, holy crap, would the chef be able to save us, can you believe something let go up on beard glacier, I knew something was different” look.

This is all we talked about while we were in Petersburg, and we learned that three-and-a-half days before we got there, there was a huge flood, which created a ten-foot standing wave as the contents of a lake formed somewhere up on Baird Glacier spilled out into Thomas bay. It was enough water to make the entire tidal seawater bay completely fresh and cold.

I wish I could have seen it when it let go, but I’m really glad I wasn’t there when it did.

Engineer’s Log

Here’s the numbers for trip #17:

hours underway: 39
hours on main: 40.8
hours on the generator: 34
hours on the water maker: 27
miles traveled: 208
gallons of fuel used: 211
gallons of water made: 810
gallons of gas used: 8
gallons of propane: 7
gallons of lube oil: 6

And here’s a fun recipe from the Catalyst‘s galley:

Mini Pecan Pies

Base
1 1/2 stick butter
2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Mix together and press into a 9″ x 13″ baking pan

Top
2 cups pecans
1 sticks butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 tbsp cream
Mix together and spread over the base. Bake until bubbling, about 20 minutes; cool and cut into squares.

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2009 Week 34 in Review

This week’s cruise aboard the MV Catalyst was from Petersburg to Juneau, stopping at Scenery Cove, Sandborn Canal, West Brother, Twin Meadows, Fords Terror, and Taku Harbor along the way.

We headed out of Petersburg into some nasty weather, but it wasn’t bad enough to keep us from hiking up to Baird Glacier. We fought the weather Monday, too, and hid in Sandborn Canal instead of going into Donkey Bay. Sandborn was exciting for me because it’s been a while since I was there last.

I took Dan and Lou fishing while the others went for a hike and we all caught a few salmon, but Dan also caught a starry flounder. The funny part with the flounder is that it ran and actually freed itself right in front of Lou and ended up crawling right up his leg. This caused a lot of screaming that quickly turned to laughter.

The weather laid down that night and our visit to the Brothers Islands was great. We had a bonfire on the beach and Dan passed around a few nice cigars.

Then we headed up near the glacier and got to watch a huge piece fall off. We were able to take the Catalyst up to a quarter mile from the glacier, closer than we normally go. The ice in the water wasn’t too bad, but we were all amazed to see the ice move in around us as we watched the glacier. This made getting out slow going, but what a show!

Next on the schedule was Fords Terror. I talked it up for a few days and got everyone excited or nervous about the crazy current. Little did I know that this week was in fact one of the most extreme tides ever. We couldn’t even get in with the kayaks, but we did have a nice tour of the bay and took the skiff in through the Terror.

Engineer’s Log

Friday on our way out of Fords, a loud thump got everyone’s attention. Bill and I ran around trying to find out what happened. When I noticed water running out from underneath the air compressor, my first thought was that we hit something but the watermaker is right above the air compressor sits. It had a blown pressure vessel and was leaking. I secured every thing and by-passed the broken filter and started it up again. Now I’m wondering if the blown pressure vessel is re-buildable.

On Saturday morning, I started things up and then thought I smelled a burning belt, but it was really faint. Now, I always wash the deck after pulling the anchor in, but on this day I decided to check the Engine Room first and oh crap, it was full of smoke! I tracked it down quickly and found that the belts for the seawater pump had burned up. I went through this a few years ago, so I advised the captain to drop the hook again so I could replace the sea water pump. He agreed, and I got down to work.

Under the deck plate right next to the pump is another one, all ready to go: pipes at the right angles and everything. I did have to install the pulley from old one, but we were underway again within an hour. I took the pump that burned up and gathered up the spare parts and the rebuild kit, and put ite back together with new bearings. After it was all done, I put it under the deck plate; it’s now the spare for next time we burn the pump out.

And here’s the numbers for trip #16:

Hours underway: 41
Hours on main: 43.6
Hours on the generator: 36.3
Hours on the water maker: 14.3
Miles traveled: 219
Gallons of fuel used: 177
Gallons of water made: 820
Gallons of gas used: 8
Gallons of propane: 5
Gallons of lube oil: 6

And finally, another great recipe from the Catalyst‘s galley:

Spicy Limestone Inlet Starry Flounder Inari

Ingredients
starry flounder from Limestone Inlet
½ cup tahini
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp Sriracha hot sauce
2 tbsp Tapatio hot sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
Cooked sushi rice, seasoned with rice vinegar
Inari (deep-fried tofu pockets)

instructions
Combine tahini, sesame oil, Sriracha sauce, Tapatio, and soy sauce in small bowl. Lightly poach the flounder in water, then mash it up and add the spicy sauce mixture.

Fill Inari pocket half-full with flounder and top with rice. Yuuuuuum!

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2009 Week 33 in Review

This week’s cruise aboard the MV Catalyst was from Juneau to Petersburg, stopping at Wood Spit, Fords Terror, Last Chance Harbor, Sheldon Cove, West Brother, and Scenery Cove along the way.

In Juneau, we had another mad scramble to connect with the world during our limited wifi coverage: I spent my phone time taking care of bills and emails and making progress on the Lightship management proposal (more on that later).

Once we got underway again, we had another great Alaska trip. We had an amazing glacier show many giant pieces fell off the face of the glacier with a splash.

Then in the middle of Frederick Sound, we had a whale come up and rub on the boat. It was crazy! – I have never seen a humpback whale hang out near the boat like this, ever! The whale went back and forth, turning around and circling us for almost an hour. Everyone on the boat ran side to side fore and aft to watch as it went round and round. Unbelievable.

A friendly whale visiting the MV Catalyst in Southeast Alaska

We also had some young people on this trip, which means prank time! This trip called for the bear poo prank. We mix up some tasty goo that looks like bear poo, then while we’re out hiking, I piled it up on the trail without anyone knowing. On the way back, the naturalist stopped everyone and says “Look – fresh bear poo. That means they’re really close.” Then the naturalist got a stick and sifted through the goop and goes “Let’s see what they’re eating. Looks like berries…”

She kept the show going and smelled the poo and kept talking: “Wow this is really fresh. Hmm… it might even be a brown bear.” Then she took a bite of the poo on the stick and said “Yup – its a brown bear.” At this point, everyone was doubled over ether laughing or being sick. The bear poo stick got passed around and some had a taste and everyone had another good laugh.

The rest of the trip went fine, but when we got to Petersburg, we had to fuel up and fix the skiff – on top of our usual turnaround chores. Argh!

Horsepower isn’t horsepower any more

The other day, my girlfriend asked (rhetorically) “If I wear a size four, than what do all the little Japanese girls wear? A triple zero?” This is just another example of how the commercial world is constantly redefining numbers to make another sale.

I think a similar thing is going on in the engine world. When I hear that a Cat 3406 will put out 800 horsepower, my first thought is “How long is that going to last towing logs?”

De-rating is the only way to get more life out of your little engine. De-rating means taking the 800 horsepower engine the salesman just sold you and only pulling 500 horsepower out of it so that it might last more than half an hour. De-rating is a great way to preserve your engine, but on the other hand, it’s sort of emasculating

Here’s a better solution: think about running a heavy duty-diesel instead! They’ve got more torque, a longer life, no wasted power (new “high horsepower” engines use another emasculating device, the “the reduction gear”). Think about it – if you want the prop to turn at 300 revolutions per minute, than run the engine at 300 rpm. Once you hear the thud thud thud of real power, you won’t ever want to run more than 500 rpm again.

So in conclusion, if you need power, don’t get 800 horsepower in a size four; call OTM Inc and install a heavy-duty.

Engineer’s Log

Here’s the numbers for the 15th trip of the 2009 season:

hours underway: 40
hours on main: 42
hours on the generator: 43:25
hours on the water maker: 17:25
miles traveled:  235
gallons of fuel used: 179
gallons of water made: 1045
gallons of gas used: 4
gallons of propane: about 4 gallons
gallons of lube oil: 2

And here’s a fun recipe – for the kids especially:

Bear Poo

Ingredients
½ cup granola
¼ cup dried cranberry
¼ cup raisins
1/8 cup peanuts
1/8 cup sliced almonds
½ cup Alaskan blueberries crushed
½ cup Alaskan salmon berries crushed
½ cup Alaskan thimble berries crushed
1 cup chunked chocolate
1 cup melted chocolate
12 mint leaves

Combine above ingredients
Barely fold in 2/3 cup peanut butter (leaving streaks)
Spoon in to bag , cut out corner and pipe onto serving area or skunk cabbage

Lightship #83 Meeting

On Thursday, OTM Inc’s Seattle representatives met with Northwest Seaport to discuss the firm’s project management proposal for the Lightship No. 83 Rehabilitation Project. I checked in via phone before and after, and it sounds like the meeting went well. We’re going to revise our proposal and hopefully have it all submitted by the end of the week. This project is going to be great once it finally gets rolling.

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2009 Week 32 in Review

This week’s cruise aboard the MV Catalyst was from Petersburg to Taku Harbor, stopping at Scenery Cove, Sheldon Cove, West Brother, Sanford Cove, and Fords Terror along the way.

We picked up our people in Petersburg and got back in to Frederic Sound. Finally! Two weeks away and I’d missed it. Captain Bill was on the boat again as well as new chef Tracy. We went to Scenery Cove, then the Brothers.

The weather was hot and dry, but it wasn’t sunny; there was a strange haze all around us and a faint smell of smoke. It turns out that there’s a lot of Canada and the Yukon on fire right now, and it’s turning the coast hazy. We kinda felt cheated of our potential sun, but no one really complains as long as it’s dry and calm.

We pulled the old rubber fish iceberg trick again. Whenever we go to see the glacier at Fords Terror, we’ll have an iceberg centerpiece on the dinner table that night. Once in a while, I’ll freeze a rubber chicken or a fish in a bucket, and then switch it with the real centerpiece. The fish, as always, was a hit.

Soon enough, another week had gone by and we were in Juneau again. We had a nice dinner at the Hangar and drinks with Anthony, who I sailed with on the Mist Cove years ago.

Engineer’s Log

Here’s the numbers for the 14th trip of the 2009 season:

hours underway 42
hours on main: 44
hours on the generator: 31:25
hours on the water maker: 6:45
miles traveled: 237
gallons of fuel used: 181
gallons of water made: 405
gallons of gas used: 13.9
gallons of propane about: 4.5 gallons
gallons of lube oil: 4

And a fun recipe that’s part of my Eat Alaska campaign:
Fords Terror Sushi

Ingredients
bull kelp, peeled and cut into thin strips
limpets (10), baked for 3 minutes at 350, shelled and minced
rice, cooked, stir in rice vinegar and cool
nori sheets
red pepper strips
avocado
wasabi
soy sauce

To assemble:
Lay out nori sheets, spread out thin layer rice covering two-thirds of the sheet. Spread a small amount of wasabi on the rice, arrange red pepper strips, avocado, limpet, and bull kelp on rice. Roll, cut, serve with soy sauce.

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2009 Week 31 in Review

This week’s cruise aboard the MV Catalyst was from Craig to Petersburg, stopping at Port Mayoral, Squam, Whale Cove, Dry Pass, Labouchere Bay, and Kah Sheets Bay along the way.

In Craig, we took our one last chance for a wifi signal and a greasy breakfast, then went to pick up our cargo. The document of lading listed an extended family, including three boys excited to catch fish.

On the second day, we spent a few hours outside of Noise Island and watched an amazing sight: it was a very sunny day and the fog was rolling down the hills at 30 knots to then dissipate at the bottom. Watching this and a variety of coastal birds holing up in caves and holes in the jagged rock walls, while riding a long mellow NE swell, made my day.

By Day Three, it was getting to be just like Groundhog Day: have coffee, start the main, and pull chain; but once we sped up, the engine room filled with smoke!! A quick look around showed that the throw-out bearing was hot hot hot. So I called the captain to request a slowdown, and then adjusted the shifting cylinder to center the throw-out bearing. The Catalyst‘s throw-out bearing is solid brass, rather than poured babbitt within a big iron collar, so it can take getting heated up occasionally.

We also went back to The Hole In the Ground by El Capitan Pass, and this time got a great tour.

Then that afternoon, when we were waiting for our kayakers to come back, we decided it was finally time to fix the radar. This is a practical joke I’ve been playing since I was fifteen, and you have to build up to it by mentioning how the radar’s acting wonky for a few days. This one kid on the trip was really interested and kept saying he’d help, so when we were waiting for the kayakers, I told him it was time to fix it. I put together an aluminum foil suit for him, complete with a salad bowl hat and an aluminum foil flag.

He got more and more skeptical, but I kept reassuring him that this was what we had to do to fix the radar. After he was all suited up, we put him ashore with a radio and his flag and had him run back and forth along the beach, and wave the flag, and climb up onto driftwood, and really tested the radar a lot. Of course, we didn’t actually have the radar on for the test, but he did a great job anyway, and we made sure to tell him so.

radar test on the MV Catalyst

Sure enough, the next day when we turned the radar back on, it worked just fine.

Engineer’s Log

Here’s the numbers for the 13th trip of the 2009 season:

hours underway: 41
hours on main: 36.5
hours on the generator: 41:15
hours on the water maker: 21:10
miles traveled: 226
gallons of fuel used: 174
gallons of water made: 1270
gallons of gas used: 10.6
gallons of propane about: 7
gallons of lube oil: 3

And finally, here’s a tasty recipe from the Catalyst‘s galley:
Lemon Mousse

Combine:
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 Tbs lemon zest
2/3 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup butter

Heat while stirring
Remove from heat
Whisk 5 eggs into the warm mixture
Chill
Whip 1 cup cream, fold into the curd with Alaskan blueberries, salmon berries, and thimble berries. Top with toasted coconut.
Yum.

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2009 Week 30 in Review

This week’s cruise aboard the MV Catalyst was from Petersburg to Craig, stopping at Labouchere Bay, Devilfish Bay, Spanberg Island, Anguilla Island, Port Real Marina, and Trocadero Bay.

On Sunday I hung onto the cell phone reception until the very last minute while leaving Petersburg. I have a much harder time leaving Seattle these days: I try to get a lot of projects going simultaneously, but shipping out mean that I more or less drop everything except what I manage by phone.

We headed south through the Wrangell Narrows and then toward the Pacific. This is a Craig trip, heading down the outside of Prince of Wales Island we should see lots of coastal animals and forests that have been tortured by the relentless wind and rain.

We stopped in Labouchere Bay, then on the way to Devilfish Bay we took the skiff in to Hole in the Wall. It’s a narrow entrance from Clarence Strait that goes to a small round bay on the chart. It really looks odd and like a hole in the wall. Kinda like Mats Mats Bay in Washington.

Then, we pulled into El Capitan Pass and visited what the captain called the “Hole in The Ground.” It’s a cave with an opening about 300 feet above the water – we had to climb 366 steps almost straight up to get there from the beach. The Forest Service maintains the trail, and they also installed a gate about 200 feet in. You can only go further back with a guide from the Forest Service. We’ll make a reservation for a guide next week on our way back. The cave was really neat; I can’t wait to take the tour.

Hole in the Ground cave

We continued on to Spanberg Island, and then on the way to Anguilla Island, we stopped at Eagle Island for some great tide-pooling. Millions of tiny critters were running around in the tide pools:

Then we stayed a night at Port Real Marina and then at Trocadero Bay, and finally on to Craig.

Engineer’s Log

The Catalyst, like any boat that is actually required to perform regularly, has many little work-arounds to fix common problems. Here’s a few accessories we’ve picked up. First, the tennis ball.

tennis balls

The engine causes the boat to vibrate in different places and at varying rates, all depending on the number of revolutions per minute the engine is running. Even though heavy-duties vibrate much less than modern high-speed diesels, they still have areas that rattle around. At 365 rpm, the wheelhouse doors become the position of the boat vibration wave anti-node; when the door is latched a few inches in the open position, it rattles on the hook. This calls for what we call Catalyst ingenuity: a tennis ball on a lanyard. The ball gets wedged between the door and the jam to stop the rattle. Also, when the door is opened from inside the wheelhouse by an unsuspecting visitor the ball bonks them on the head, an endless source of entertainment.

Another accessory is the playing cards in the fuel system. The engine has many parts that make up the fuel delivery system: the cam on the cam shaft, the cam follower roller, the adjusting screw, the bell-crank, the adjustable push-rod, the rocker, the button, the fuel valve rocking lever, the stem and seat, the injector holes, and four pins. Washington Iron Works had a difficult time making all the parts the same and it’s even more difficult to make them all wear exactly the same, so there’s a lot of little tiny differences to each part. We’re still able to set all the fuel adjustments to get very even exhaust temperatures between the cylinders, but any time the engine is sped up or slowed down, the temperatures are uneven again.

To compensate for this, we set the adjusting screws to full speed, and then when the engine is slowed the engineer inserts playing cards under the adjusting screw temporally to even out the cylinder’s load on each. The Catalyst‘s engine at low idle (190 RPM) with the air-compressor unloaded gets cards as follows: #1 cylinder takes three cards , #2 doesn’t need any, #3 takes two, #4 takes three cards, #5 takes four cards, and #6 takes five cards.

card adjustments to the Catalyst's Washington Iron Works diesel engine

There’s a ton of other accessories on the Catalyst that I’ll try to mention as the summer wears on.

Anyway, here’s the numbers for the 12th trip of the 2009 season:

hours underway: 41:05
hours on main: 43
hours on the generator: 44:35
hours on the water maker: 10:20
miles traveled: 231
gallons of fuel used: 169
gallons of water made: 620
gallons of gas used: 8.8
gallons of propane: 4.5
gallons of lube oil: 5

And finally, here’s a tasty recipe from the Catalyst‘s galley:
Twice-Baked Goat Cheese Soufflés

Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 ¼ cups hot milk
pinch cayenne pepper
squeeze of lemon juice
salt and ground black pepper
3 ½ oz semi-hard goat cheese crumbles
2 eggs, separated
melted butter for brushing
3 table spoons dried bread crumbs
3 table spoons ground hazelnuts
2 egg whites
spinach leaves
halved cherry tomatoes
toasted walnuts
dressing

Instructions
1. Melt two tablespoons of butter and stir in three tablespoons of flour. Cook to a roux for a minute then gradually whisk in one and a quarter cups hot milk to make a thick white sauce.
2. Simmer for a minute, then season with a pinch of cayenne pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a little salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in three and a half ounces of semi-hard crumbled goat cheese until it melts. Cool slightly, then beat in two egg yolks.
3. Brush the inside of six ramekins with melted butter and coat them with bread crumbs and minced hazelnuts. Shake out any excess.
4. Heat oven to 375 degrees and prepare a bain marie (roasting pan half-filled with boiling water.
5. Whisk four egg whites to the soft peak stage and carefully fold them into the main mixture.
6. Fill each ramekin and place in the bain marie and bake for 12-15 minutes until risen and golden brown. Serve
or
7. to serve twice baked, allow to cool, then chill. Run a knife round the inside of each ramekin and turn out each soufflé onto a baking tray.
8. Bake at 375 for about 12 minutes
9. serve on a dressed salad.

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