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Pompeii of the Caribbean

After an uneventful five-hour passage from Iles Des Saintes, Guadeloupe, we arrived at St. Pierre, our first anchorage in Martinique. It’s a small town on the northwest side of the island that in 1902 was transformed from the “Paris of the Caribbean” to the “Pompeii of the Caribbean” by the massive eruption of nearby Mt. Pelée.

Above: After the 1902 eruption killed 30,000 in St. Pierre. Below: St. Pierre & Mt. Pelée today.

We anchored just offshore from the center of town in hopes of connecting with the WiFi at a nearby restaurant -- finding Internet access is a constant challenge. As usual after a day passage, we rested and I prepared a simple vegetarian meal of ratatouille and rice, accompanied by a nice dry French wine. Eating dinner in the cockpit, we watched the sun set behind golden-fringed lavender clouds. I was relieved that we had completed another successful day of sailing -- tired but not exhausted.

Later that night, we heard a band playing some remarkable music from someplace on shore that continued well into the wee hours of the morning. Ordinarily we would have been annoyed, but this music was soothing and rhythmic with a decidedly African sound that included soft drums, woody instruments, and vocal call and response. The boat’s movement combined with the music and created a unique, comforting rhythm that lulled my to sleep.

The next morning when we went into town, we noticed something unusual about the black sandy beach that stretched all along the front street of St. Pierre. The receding tide revealed a strip of broken building stones and volcanic rock. Here and there among the stones, old pottery shards and colorful beach glass peeked out in the sun. Several hours of beach combing produced a sizable collection that I plan to someday transform into jewelry.

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