Let us count the ways...

Come summer, the beach is our favorite stretch of real estate, a 50-mile-long wonderland of sun-soaked, ocean-lapped coastline between the mouth of the Delaware Bay and the Maryland-Virginia line. Within its borders lie five beach resorts, three boardwalks, four seaside state parks, one national seashore, eight inland bays, and countless opportunities to overindulge in one’s favorite seasonal pleasures. So knock yourself out. Party hearty at Fager’s Monday night deck parties. Watch family-friendly movies on the beach. Learn to surf. Nurse a hangover at The Starboard’s Sunday brunch. Look for wild ponies on Assateague Island. Grab a slice of Grotto Pizza. Ham it up in a photo booth with your buds. Why are we so enamored with the beach? Read on to find out.

BY MARTY LEGRAND

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Christopher Myers


Comfort food comes in a tub and it’s doused with malt vinegar . . .

Succumb to the boardwalk’s favorite frites, Thrasher’s French Fries, 801 Atlantic Ave., Ocean City, 410-289-4150, and other locations.

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. . . or smothered in caramel

Don’t forget your pals (like the pet-sitter) when buying tubs of gooey goodness at the original Fisher’s Popcorn, 200 S. Boardwalk Ave., Ocean City, 888-395-0335. The Fisher family also runs mom-and-pop(corn) shops in Fenwick (37081 Coastal Hwy., 302-539-8833), Bethany Beach (108 Garfield Pkwy., 302-537-9155), and Rehoboth Beach (48 Rehoboth Ave., 302-227-2691).

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Skee-Ball games still cost a quarter (or less).

Aim for the high-scoring holes to win T-shirts and free skee-ball for life at Beach Arcade, 5 N. Boardwalk, Rehoboth Beach, 302-227-1040, or plush toys and skee-ball souvenirs at Funland, 6 Delaware Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 302-227-1921.

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Courtesy of Trimper’s Rides


Twenty dollars buys priceless nostalgia.

For two sawbucks (40 tickets), enjoy carny classics at Trimper’s Rides, Ocean City’s oldest amusement park (founded in 1890): bumper cars, the haunted house, the mirror maze, tilt-a-whirl, the Zipper, and the park’s vintage merry-go-round. 700 S. Atlantic Ave., 410-289-8617.

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John J. Young


Boardwalks beat boardrooms.

Large (Ocean City), medium (Rehoboth), or small (Bethany) resort boardwalks pulse with life. Embrace tradition: Order a peanut-butter chocolate twist at the Kohr Bros. stand at the Pier, 401 S. Boardwalk, Ocean City, 410-289-1178, and on weekends grab a seat for concerts at the bandstands in Rehoboth Beach, 1 Rehoboth Ave., 302-644-2288, and Bethany Beach, 114 Garfield Pkwy., 302-539-8011.

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Havaianas are considered formal wear.

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Pam Reid


Our pooch can meet new pals.

Play fetch with Fido at Ocean City’s off-leash dog playground, 94th St., 410-250-0125. Let your chowhounds feast at “pooch pancake breakfasts” held Sundays at Yuppy Puppy, 123 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 302-537-0171. Ramble on the sand at Dewey Beach, one of the only Delaware or Maryland resorts that permits dogs on public beaches in summer. License required. 302-227-7796, iDewey.com.

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Courtesy of Karl Schwarz


We can cruise the beach,literally.

Register to drive a three-mile course on Ocean City’s famous beach at Jeep Week Beach Crawl Aug. 28-29 or buy a spectator’s pass that includes admission to Jeep Jam, an obstacle course/music festival in Berlin, 410-213-9473. Purchase an Over-Sand Vehicle permit and explore remote beaches at Assateague Island National Seashore, 6633 Bayberry Dr., Berlin, 410-641-1441.

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We can ride bicycles built for two.

Rent a tandem bicycle for a morning ride on the boardwalk, plus get info on cycling routes and local bike ordinances from Atlantic Cycles, 18 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 302-226-2543, and Wobbly Wheel Boardwalk Bicycle, 3 N. 1st St., Ocean City, 410-289-2453.

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We can totally check out the lifeguards.

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We get to read naughty novels and thrillers.

Catch up on the Fifty Shades trilogy under a beach umbrella or buy Jo Nesb’s latest crime tale at Bethany Beach Books, 99 Garfield Pkwy., 302-539-2522, or Browseabout Books, 133 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 302-226-2665.

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Kids can fish in SpongeBob’s ’hood.

Young squirts can catch crabs (mayhap a Krabby Patty, too?) at Northside Park Pier, bayside at 125th St., Ocean City, 410-250-0125. Head to Oceanic Fishing Pier (open 24 hours), 710 S. Philadelphia Ave., Ocean City, 410-289-2602, for larger species like flounder and bluefish.

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Courtesy of Michael Bentley


Kids can get touchy-feely with nature.

Let them see local wildlife and plant a garden during Saturday morning edu-tainment events at Bethany Beach Nature Center , 807 Garfield Pkwy., 302-537-7680 (free). Help them haul a fishing net full of sea critters at the Seining the Bay program with the Indian River Life-Saving Station, Fenwick Island State Park and Delaware Seashore State Park, 39415 Inlet Rd., Rehoboth Beach, 302-227-6991 ($4 per person), destateparks.com.

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There’s a new crustacean in town.

Try the other white meat—lobster. Crack open a one-pounder, star of the lobster dinner at Twining’s Lobster Shanty, 37310 Lighthouse Rd., Selbyville, DE, 302-436-2305. Savor a Bar Harbor-caliber lobster roll at Henlopen City Oyster House, 50 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 302-260-9193.

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Bloody Marys enjoy cult status.

Practice mixology at the mecca of Bloody Mary bars, The Starboard, 2009 Coastal Hwy., Dewey Beach, 302-227-4600, offering a staggering selection of vodkas, mixes, and hot sauces. Savor the reigning champ of beach Bloodys, the Crabby Mary (topped with smoked jumbo lump) at Fish Tales, 2207 Herring Way, Ocean City, 410-289-0990.

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Crushes are permissible.

Renew your ardor for summer’s signature concoction, the Orange Crush, at the drink’s reputed birthplace, Harborside Bar & Grill , 12841 S. Harbor Rd., West Ocean City, 410-213-1846, or the renowned Friday night Taco Toss happy hour at The Lighthouse, 124 Dickinson St., Dewey Beach, 302-227-4333.

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Courtesy of Michael Bentley


You can never have enough dough.

Carbo-load on buttermilk pancakes or pepperoni pizza at the legendary Dough Roller, four Ocean City locations, including its original boardwalk site, 606 S. Atlantic Ave., 410-289-3501. Craft a designer doughnut at Fractured Prune, seven beach locations, including Coastal Hwy. at 81st. St., Ocean City, 410-524-4688.

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Courtesy of Papa Granes


Matt Haley’s restaurants still rule.

The late restaurateur’s legacy lives on. Enjoy imaginative seafood dishes, house-made sodas (or stronger tipples), and unbeatable bayside views at Catch 54, 38931 Madison Ave., Fenwick Island, 302-436-8600. Try Mex with a twist (Korean pork belly tacos, anyone?) at Papá Grande’s taquerias: 38929 Madison Ave., Fenwick Island, 302-436-7272, and 210 Second St., Rehoboth Beach, 302-212-2409.

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Bars come with playgrounds.

Enjoy a leisurely meal and a frosty margarita while your fidgety brood frolics on the sandy, pirate-themed playground at Dead Freddies Island Grill , 105 64th St., Ocean City, 410-524-3733, or Fish Tales, 2207 Herring Way, Ocean City, 410-289-0990.

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The nightlife is rejuvenating.

Rock out like you did in younger days at The Bottle & Cork, 1807 Rte. 1, Dewey Beach, 302-227-7272, featuring revival/tribute bands like The English Beat and Dark Star Orchestra. Kick up your boot heels to live bands and DJs at Cowboy Coast Country Saloon, Coastal Hwy. at 17th St., Ocean City, 410-289-6331, where daredevils can ride a mechanical bull.

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Sand-sculpting stirs our competitive juices.

Grab your buckets and spades and match your creativity with rival Rodins in two time-honored sandcastle contests in Rehoboth Beach: July 11 at Delaware Seashore State Park, 39415 Inlet Rd., 302-227-2800, and Aug. 1 at Fisherman’s Beach, end of the northern boardwalk, 302-227-2233. Or watch pro sculptors at OC Sandfest, Aug. 23-30, North Division St. Beach, Ocean City, 410-798-6304.

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Every hour is happy.

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Courtesy of James Allen


We can float on a raft sipping frozen rum drinks while listening to reggae.

Relax, mon, at the legendary, colossal tiki bar Seacrets (aka Jamaica USA), 117 W. 49th St., Ocean City, 410-524-4900. Arrive early to avoid the tipsy throngs. Or join ’em—but prudently: Book a room at Seacrets Hotel, 410-524-4496.

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History is spine-tingling.

Imagine a foundering 19th-century ship as re-enactors “rescue” victims during Breeches Buoy re-enactments at Indian River Life-Saving Station Museum at Delaware Seashore State Park, 25039 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 302-227-6991. Visit the mesmerizing artifacts at DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum , 708 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 302-539-9366. If the museum’s deep sea-exploring owner is there, you may get to hold centuries-old gold coins.

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Shopping is tax-free in Delaware.

Browse the latest vintage-print summer dresses and fab best-friends bracelets at Downtown Cowgirl, 146 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 302-227-1917. Upgrade your business profile with a swank messenger bag from Coach Men’s Factory store, Tanger Outlets, 36470 Seaside Outlet Dr., Rehoboth Beach, 302-644-2062.

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Courtesy of Hotel Rodney


We like small-town hospitality.

Book a cozy room at a boutique spot like the Atlantic Hotel, 2 N. Main St., Berlin, 410-641-3589, or Hotel Rodney, 142 Second St., Lewes, 302-645-6466, then explore the charming, historic towns in which you’re staying.

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Courtesy of Randy Roberts


We love the new places to stay.

Rest in Mad Men-era style at Dogfish Inn, 105 Savannah Rd., Lewes, 302-644-8292 , an in-town motel modishly revamped by the owners of Dogfish Head Brewery. Drop anchor in a nightlife nexus, Hyatt Place Dewey Beach , 1301 Coastal Hwy., 302-864-9100, part of the waterside Lighthouse Cove dining/entertainment complex.

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Christopher Myers


We get to chow down on Baltimore Avenue.

Bring your appetite to one of Rehoboth Beach’s primary foodie boulevards, where renowned chefs make restaurants such as a(MUSÉ), 44 Baltimore Ave., 302-227-7107 (dinner, closed Mondays), and Café Azafrán, 18 Baltimore Ave., 302-227-8100 (daily lunch, dinner, weekend breakfasts) must-eat destinations.

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There be pirates everywhere, matey.

Search for treasure and bombard baddies with water cannons on a cruise with Duckaneer Pirate Ship Tours, 311 Talbot St., Ocean City, 410-289-3500. Let the kids get skull-n-crossbones tatts (temporary, of course) before they storm the movie-inspired miniature links at Captain Jack’s Pirate Golf, 21 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Bethany Beach, 302-539-1122. Cool off on the buccaneer-themed jungle gym at Jolly Roger’s Splash Mountain Water Park, 2901 Philadelphia Ave., Ocean City, 410-289-3477, but beware the pirate head, a giant water bucket that periodically drenches park-goers.

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The beers have gotten a lot craftier.

Dogfish Head got the keg rolling 20 years ago. Now craft brewers abound. Hoist a house-brewed Kraken I.P.A. at the spacious Ocean City Brewing Co., 5509 Coastal Hwy., 443-664-6682. Indecisive? Order a surfboard-shaped flight of six sample beers at Backshore Brewing , 913 Atlantic Ave., Ocean City, 410-289-0008.

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Morning walks are more eye-opening.

Pass pine forests, cranberry bogs, and World War II bunkers on Cape Henlopen State Park’s Pinelands Trail , 15099 Cape Henlopen Dr., Lewes, 302-645-8983. Take in views of Rehoboth Bay and Dewey Beach’s skyline on Delaware Seashore State Park’s Thompson Island Trail, 39415 Inlet Rd., Rehoboth Beach, 302-227-2800. (Of course, an early a.m. beach walk is great for shell-seekers.)

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Courtesy of Golden Plate


We can have our funnel cake and eat like a foodie, too.

Indulge in the satisfying spectrum of beach fare, from sugar-dusted mounds of deep-fried dough at Golden Plate, 19C Atlantic Ave, Ocean City. 410-289-4488, to gourmet tasting tours of Rehoboth Beach restaurants with Eating Rehoboth, 800-979-3370, eatingrehoboth.com.

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Mike Drukenbrod


We can find some peace and quiet.

Hike through bayside forest, marsh, and beach at out-of-the-way James Farm Ecological Preserve, Cedar Neck Rd., Ocean View, DE, 302-226-8105. Paddle quietly through a bald cypress swamp at Trap Pond State Park, 33587 Baldcypress Ln., Laurel, DE, 302-875-5153.

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We’re in sweet-tooth heaven.

Think outside the (salt water taffy) box wow fadeIn; try sea-salt caramels—among other goodies—at Dolle’s, three Ocean City locations, including the original, 500 S. Boardwalk Ave., 410-289-6000. Pretend you’re in Paris (by way of Penny Lane Mall); order a delicate, strawberry-stuffed crepe at Café Papillon, 42 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 302-227-7568.

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Clif Burns


Sunsets are worth celebrating.

When the sun dips over the inland bays, Ocean City parties à la Key West. Bring a beach chair, pack a picnic dinner, and listen to live bands Thursday nights at Sunset Park, South Division St., 800-626-2326. Earn “downy ocean” cred by lifting a glass to these sunset anthems: Kate Smith’s “God Bless America” at Macky’s, 5311 Coastal Hwy., 410-723-5565, and “Pete” Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” at Fager’s Island, 201 60th St., 410-524-5500.

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The fish are Hemingwayesque.

Watch nightly weigh-ins to see whose big billfish will net big bills (over $2 million in prizes) at the White Marlin Open (Aug. 3-7), Harbour Island Marina, 419 14th St., Ocean City, 410-289-9229. Root for anglers at Capt. Steve Harman’s Poor Girls Open (Aug. 13-15), Bahia Marina, 2107 Herring Way, Ocean City, 410-289-7438, a breast-cancer fundraiser.

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Christopher Myers


Movies are shown seaside—for free.

Bring the blankies and the Milk Duds and enjoy family flicks that keep the piggybank intact. These towns host complimentary movies on the beach: Ocean City (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights), three locations, 800-OC-OCEAN, ococean.com/freeforall; Bethany Beach (Monday nights), Garfield Pkwy. beach, 302-539-8011, townofbethanybeach.com; Dewey Beach (Monday nights), Dagsworthy St. beach, 302-227-2233, beach-fun.com.

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We love the ponies.

Visit Assateague Island National Seashore, 11800 Marsh View Ln., Berlin, 410-641-1441, and keep an eye out for the barrier island’s famous wild horses, who gravitate to the park’s marshes and breezy beaches in summertime. Play the ponies at Ocean Downs, 10218 Racetrack Rd., Berlin, 410-641-0600, the casino/racetrack that offers live harness racing each summer.

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Courtesy of Carlos A. Lacruz


Indian River Inlet Bridge looks amazing at night.

After dark, the LED-lit, cable-stayed Route 1 span glows like a futuristic sailboat with neon-blue rigging. See it by car or the bridge’s walkway. Or stay nearby at the fully furnished Cottages at Indian River Marina, 39415 Inlet Rd., Rehoboth Beach, 302-227-3071.

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We can pretend we’re in Hawaii.

Catch a wave at Ocean City’s surfing beaches. Two are reserved daily (on a rotating basis) for surfers, as is a permanent weekday spot at the Inlet in the summer months (info: 410-289-7556). Mellow out with “dynamite rolls” and a cold Kona at Nalu, 1308 Coastal Hwy., Dewey Beach, 302-227-1449, an open-air surf bar and grill.

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We can make s’mores on the beach.

Skip the local fire-permit bureaucracy and bring a bag o’ marshmallows to Dewey Beach’s free Wednesday night bonfires, Dagsworthy Street beach, 302-227-2233. Enjoy Thursday evening concerts at the North Inlet gazebo followed by a bonfire at Delaware Seashore State Park’s North Inlet beach, 39415 Inlet Rd., Rehoboth Beach, 302-227-2800. (You bring chairs; the park supplies marshmallows.)

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Artists head outdoors.

Paint the town at Artists Paint OC Aug. 6-9, when everyone is invited to capture his/her favorite scenery en plein air, Art League of Ocean City, 410-524-9433. Admire and acquire paintings, photographs, and other artworks at The Rehoboth Art League’s Outdoor Fine Art and Fine Craft Show, Aug. 8-9 and 15-16, 12 Dodds Ln., 302-227-8408.

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Courtesy of Tom Lynch Photography


Two words: steamed crabs.

Order a summer feast—steaming blue crabs and pitchers of Natty Boh—at The Crab Bag, 13005 Coastal Hwy., Ocean City, 410-250-3337. En route to OC, take a detour along Route 54 and get your crab fix at Old Mill Crab House, 8829 Waller Rd., Delmar, DE, 302-846-9000.

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Courtesy of Lighthouse Sound


Golf greens boast blue views.

Two of the shore’s premier courses feature stunning vistas of Assawoman Bay. Pit your skills on perhaps Ocean City’s toughest course, The Links at Lighthouse Sound, 12723 St. Martins Neck Rd., Bishopville, 410-641-1189. Channel the Golden Bear while challenging the Jack Nicklaus-designed links at Bayside Resort Golf Club , 31806 Lakeview Dr., Selbyville, DE, 302-436-3400.

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If it’s raining, we can still play miniature golf.

Swing with the fishes—and other replica denizens of the deep—at Undersea Adventure Golf, 6801 Coastal Hwy., Ocean City, 888-OLD-PRO1, one of Old Pro Mini Golf’s two indoor courses. Conquer the jungle-themed links at the other site, Safari Village, 13603 Coastal Hwy., Ocean City, 888-OLD-PRO1.

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There’s life in the back lagoons.

Explore the inland bays’ placid waters and varied wildlife atop a paddleboard on guided SUP tours by Coastal Kayak, Rte. 1, Fenwick, 302-539-7999 (a lesson is included). Book two-hour, ranger-guided Friday afternoon cruises on the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal from Lewes, through Cape Henlopen, to Rehoboth Bay; ($22 adults, $15 children), Cape Water Taxi, 302-644-7334, capewatertaxi.com.)

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There’s an app for that.

Try these best-of-the-beach apps: Rehoboth In My Pocket ($3.99 iTunes, Google Play), tips on dining, lodging, and attractions; Delaware State Pocket Ranger (free, iTunes, Google Play), plan trips and navigate using cacheable maps. Coming this summer: a pay-by-phone parking app and O.C. beach report app.

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We can see sea creatures.

Watch for bottlenose dolphins offshore and join the National Aquarium’s Annual Dolphin Count in July to help researchers track these marine mammals, Ocean City and Assateague State Park, Berlin, animalrescue@aqua.org. Go eye-to-eye with seahorses, horseshoe crabs, flounder, and other aquarium dwellers at Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum, 813 S. Atlantic Ave., 410-289-4991.

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We dig fresh clams.

Search for succulent shellfish along the inland bays at Holts Landing State Park, Road 346, Millville, DE, 302-227-2800, and Assateague Island National Seashore, 11800 Marsh View Ln., Berlin, 410-641-1441. The Indian River Life-Saving Station in Rehoboth Beach offers clamming and crabbing lessons. 302-227-6991.

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David Clow


There’s an ocean, of course!

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