Mike Dolan and Nick Pappas had never been to sea in a small boat until they signed on as crew on the first leg of our around-the-world cruise, a 1,200-mile passage from Annapolis to Miami.

They got more than they bargained for:

Pea-soup-thick fog on the lower Chesapeake Bay on our very first night under way, causing us to grope from buoy to buoy, listening intently for large freighters.

Bitter cold but crystal clear days in the beautiful sounds of eastern North Carolina.

Strong winds and sloppy, cold seas from the wrong direction off the coast of South Carolina.

Engine trouble off the coast of Georgia.

An exhilarating downwind sail along the Gold Coast of southern Florida.

We started with a traditional trip in mind - a run down the Chesapeake to Norfolk, thence through the canals and sounds of North Carolina in order to bypass the dreaded Cape Hatteras, then outside into the Atlantic - at Morehead City, N.C., weather permitting.

The coastal waterway, a series of natural inland waters and dredged canals, runs the entire length of coast to Miami, offering calm waters and refuge from bad offshore weather. It also meanders far out of the way through South Carolina and Georgia and passes under a multitude of busy bridges in Florida.

Dolan and Pappas were anxious to get out to sea for the first time. Both had taken two weeks off from their jobs in the Justice Department and Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, and they wanted to see what ocean sailing was all about.

Dolan lasted about three hours after we went out the Cape Fear River near Wilmington, N.C. As the winds and sea built steadily, he turned various shades of green before losing his dinner over the side.

He was joined in mal de mer during the night by Goodwin, and the two spent their watches either steering the bucking boat or lying prone over the gunwales.

The excitement belonged to Pappas and Woodard. One of the heavy ahchors carried on the bow came loose during Pappas' watch and started banging on the hull of the boat as it heaved into short, choppy waves.

Woodard awoke, went forward, and - with water occasionally waist deep - managed to resecure the hook in place. It left a nasty scar on the fibreglass hull, adding another repair to our growing list of chores to be undertaken in Miami.

The boat's motion was violent enough to ring the fog bell, which hangs on a bulkhead in the cabin, with each pitch and plunge. Eventually the bell sprang from its mount and clanged around on the floor. Pappas grabbed it on one pass by his bunk and stuffed it under his pillow, where it quietly spent the rest of the night.

The reason for our misery was a 30-knot wind from the west. The National Weather Service had predicted that the wind would go around to the northwest, which would have given us a booming downwind sail along the coast. It didn't work out that way, and we beat into the wind and sea for most of the next two days on our soutwesterly course.

Tons of water broke over our bow, drenching everyone and exposing every small leak in our craft.

The first morning offshore, while we dried clothes in front of the cookstove oven, we noticed that one of our batteries was low on charge. The tentative diagnosis: a faulty alternator - one more thing our Annaplois mechanics did not fix.

Our diesel engine requires no electricity, so we kept it running and set course for Charleston, S.C. By late afternoon we were under the protection of the shore, and we decided to continue south for St. Simons, Ga.

We missed President-elect Carter and his entourage at St. Simons, but there on the dock when we arrived - quite by coincidence - was former Congressman Bill Stuckey.

Stuckey grabbed our bow line, recognized that we were from Washington, and offered his assistance in repairing the alternator. Even with his knowledge of the district, however, there was no mechanic available on this particular Saturday night.

Stuckey and his friend, Don, Satterfield, looked at the anemic alternator, concurred in our diagnosis, and advised us to continue south with our now-fully-charged batteries.

The wind mercifully stayed light as we motorsailed along the north Florida coast for two days. Then, on the last day of our pasage, it finally did what the forecasters predicted - it went around to the north.

For the first time since Annapolis we cut off our engine and sailed in earnest. We also hoisted - for the first time ever - our big, diamond-shaped running sail.

Away we went under the big sail, surfing down seas that built up before the north wind. The mansions of Palm Beach and the condomuniums of Fort Lauderdale raced by. We logged eight knots - about 10 mph - which is racing to cruising sailors.

Things went so well, in fact, that we dreaded taking down the sail, and with good reason: The wind had increased to more than 20 knots, and since we had never had this sail up, we had never taken it down. We contemplated leaving it up, roaring right past Miami, and going straight to Panama. But since Dolan and Pappas had to return to work, we had to drop the sail.

Some mangled fingers and tense moments later, the sail was on the deck, and we were motoring peacefully into Miami harbor.

Dolan and Pappas are back at their jobs now, although Dolan is planning to rejoin us for another leg and Pappa's culinary skills on a swinging stove will be welcomed at any time.

Meanwhile, we have seen it snow in Miami. We all got more than we bargained for on this first leg of our voyage.

Our next destinations: the Bahamas, Jamica, and the Panama Canal.