What’s that infernal beeping? It’s the alarm going off. Looking up at the hatch overhead, I see nothing. Absolutely nothing. It’s pitch-black.

Where am I?

Barry is nestled beside me, but I can barely make him out. His head and face are hidden inside a fleece hood, and only the top of it peeks out of the sleeping bag.

I struggle out of the heap of bedclothes, remembering that the reason the hatch is black is because the dinghy is upside-down on top of it. Sitting up, I peer out the porlight.

After two and a half years in one place, this simple act of looking out the window is exciting.

I am on Flutterby. That’s a good thing. Flutterby is on the water. That’s a good thing. But where am I?

A few minutes later, after I’ve added more layers of clothing, I slide back the companionway hatch and do a 360-degree scan of the horizon.

The first thing I see is my own breath. It’s a frigid, 25-degree morning. Before me, I see a large, protected anchorage with a half dozen boats, their anchor lights glowing in the pre-dawn. On shore, there are many lights and illuminated signs, and a huge hotel. There’s a low fixed bridge, with taillights and headlights zooming across on the way to work. It’s six AM.

I know this place. This is Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.

The first time we anchored here, it was aboard Cayenne. That was the first time we ever got a wi-fi signal on an anchored boat — in 2004. I remember Barry huddling in the forward part of the v-berth with the laptop, because that was the only place where the signal came in.

A few years later, we passed through on Flutterby. That was three years ago — literally, to the day. It was just as cold, maybe colder. We took the cover off the engine and huddled over it for warmth. On another occasion, we stopped here in the van, in the summer, to see a friend. We ended up dinghying out to Katja for dinner.

As I reminisce, the horizon beyond the hotels is turning orange against the indigo sky. It’s time for hot coffee and yet more layers of clothing.

Barry pulls up the anchor, and motoring slowly, I take us out of the anchorage. I cast a last glance over my shoulder at the sun, which is just peeping over the horizon. The windows on the sides of the hotel have turned to molten gold.

Channel markers point the way to another day’s adventures. I have no idea where I will awaken tomorrow.

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