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January 3, 2005- HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

I hope we can even remember all that's happened since our last update in Oriental, NC... probably not but we'll try!

We are currently anchored off Miami Beach, Florida. We've been here since before Christmas (!) waiting for a "weather window" to cross to the Bahamas. We're hoping to be able to leave in 2 or 3 days...... more on Miami later, though: I will try to fill you in on the last couple of months first.

After Oriental, North Carolina (which we very much enjoyed!) we sailed to Beaufort, North Carolina. We had been there once before by land, when we were boat-shopping, and knew that it was a very "cruiser-friendly" place. The anchorage there, however, is interesting, to say the least! There is a powerful tidal current that sweeps through at about 2+ knots, and it's a tight anchorage. It was our first exposure to heavy reversing currents (we'd soon become used to them) and our first time setting two anchors off the bow in the 'Bahamian Moor' style. This method of anchoring limits the circle your boat can swing in, almost like being on a mooring, and when the current reverses, you lie to the second anchor rather than pulling a single anchor around 90 degrees. In any case, it worked fine, although at one point the Coast Guard came around (just at dark!) and told about half the anchored boats that they had to move, since they were outside the channel markers! It was mayhem for a few hours as folks tried to find a spot to anchor in the already packed anchorage.

At Beaufort we met up again with our friends on Taku, as well as Timpe TehMystic and Alohomora, all of whom have kids near Liv's age. We all, at various times, went exploring on the island just off the town, which is a wildlife refuge that's home to herds of wild horses.

After leaving Beaufort, we had our first introduction to the really shallow ICW travelling.Our friends on Taku (a Hallberg-Rassey 42) draw 7 feet, and after they bumped their keel early in the day, we volunteered to go just ahead of them and sound the depths, since we only draw 6 feet. This part of the ICW is mostly natural creeks behind a long barrier island, with frequent inlets to the sea that were constantly shoaling up from current, too quickly for the Army Corps of Engineers to keep them dredged out. It was stressful navigating, with many new bouys added and shoal spots to keep off of. We stopped for the night at a manmade basin on an army base. The guidebooks said the holding was poor, so it wasn't very crowded, even though there were no other anchorages at all in this stretch of ICW (only marinas!) but our anchor bit right away and we had a peaceful night despite the high winds. The next day we found more of the same, mostly wilderness and shallow creeks with a few small towns and small fishing boats. This is where we first started seeing the destruction caused by last summers hurricanes, with numerous homes (although they'd been built on stilts to weather flooding) showing damage, and some beached boats. In populated areas we saw some very foreign (to us) architecture: totally Southern mansions!

Next stop was Carolina Beach. We anchored with Taku and a small catamaran with a young couple aboard. We'd been seeing the cat since Massachusetts (though we hadn't met them) and had given them the nickname "the kids" since they were in their early/mid 20's. After a windy and cool visit to the beach, we came back to the boats and noticed that the catamaran was dragging their anchors in the 25 knot winds. Neil and Dom, from Taku, went over in the dinghy and roused the "kids", who could not start their engine since they had their electrical system dismantled. Using the dinghy as a tugboat, Neil and Dom kept them off a lee shore until they could start the engine, then helped them re-anchor more solidly. Neil and Dom made sure the anchors were well set, as they chose to re-anchor just upwind of Zora!

The next day found even shallower channels, with both Zora and Taku going aground. Luckily the bottom in this part of the ICW is soft mud or sand, and no harm was done and we accepted our first grounding as an initiation to cruising! That night we tied up in Myrtle Beach to a "free dock" provided by a huge shopping/resort mall area. Boats were rafted two-deep, since that stretch of the ICW is nothing but a narrow manmade ditch (called the "rockpile") with no anchorages at all. After all the wilderness, it was very strange.

Next: South Carolina