2 nm to a night at Platanal, Isla Cebaco

Platanal is the largest village on Isla Cebaco. The village consists of two clusters of about 10 buildings (houses), separated by about 1/4 mile of jungle. You can see the school house built up on the hill and presumably there are more residences scattered out of view up in the jungle. The anchorage is once again, just an indent into the coast, not really a bay. Now, in the rainy season, with the winds from the south and west, the anchorages on this side of the island are quite nice and calm, but we hear that they would not be in the winter months when the wind blows in from the north. When we arrived at Platanal we spent a good 45 minutes sounding the anchorage looking for the best place to drop the hook. The water is very shallow in places, with numerous sand bars and reefs running off the island, so it took a while to find a good place. Remember now that we're seeing 16 foot tides, so we needed to make sure that we had good water under us, yet were not so far from the island as to be totally unprotected.

We finally set the hook down about 3/8 mile off shore right in the middle of the indent, in front of the largest cluster of houses, in sight of a small church. Since none of the other boats had been here before, we decided to go right away to shore and do a reconnoiter. Funny, but now that we have fuel, it's turning out that the limiting factor to our staying out at these islands might be provisions. All three boats were running a little short of the more desirable snack foods and beverages. Ashley on KU has been asking for diet coke and although there's plenty of rum around, we're all also on the lookout for beer and other "necessities" like potato chips, milk, and so on. So we decided to check out Platanal. We got in the dinghy and headed to shore. About 20 yards from shore the water gets too shallow for the dinghy so we pulled it through the lapping water up to the shore. The "shore" being a mudflat rather than a beach, was fairly level, only rising another 1 foot or so in the next 20-30 yards, so we then hauled the dinghy up thru the mudflat to the highest ground we could easily reach. We tied it to a pile of rocks we made and confidently walked into the small village.

Asking directions from the first young person we saw, we found that we had landed right at one of the two tiendas in the village. However, as in Bahia Honda, the store was rudimentary, at best. They had no beer, bread, meat, or any fresh vegetables. Mostly all they carried were staples like rice and beans, some canned foods, notably Spam, and a few cleaning supplies. We were able to scare up 4 coca-colas which we purchased and put in our backpack. We asked about the location of the other tienda, and the youngsters, lounging around on the hot humid day, communicated to us that it was at the other side of the "bay", and would be best reached by dinghy.

So, we untied the dinghy, hauled it back across the mud and out into the water, started it up, and headed over to the other side of the bay, about 1/2 mile back. We had to go several hundred yards offshore to clear a sand bank and small reef that divided the two parts of the village. Then when we pulled up to shore, it was even shallower, and the mudflat even larger than where we had landed the first time. We had to walk the dinghy about 100 yards thru 6-12" of water (over mud) and up onto the mudflat where we then took it about 20 yards before giving up and just dropping it where it lay. We crossed the other 80 or so yards of mudflat to the real beach above which the village lay.

Once again, the people were very laid back in the humidity and heat. This side of the village seemed to have more older people in it, and after a few tries, we talked to one of them and got directions to the tienda, just a few houses around from where we landed. When we got to the tienda, it was, as expected, just as rudimentary as the other one. They had no beer for sale, nor even any coca-cola. The only thing they did have was a few packs of cigarettes, 4 to be exact. I made to purchase all four packs of cigs, as not only I but Tashin and Rengin on DS were running short, but the owner of the tienda would only sell me three of them, inasmuch as they probably represent the entire islands reserve of cigarettes and he wanted to keep some on hand! Yikes!

After only a few minutes, we had "explored" the village to our satisfaction and went back out to the dinghy. Good thing too because in the 30 minutes or so that we had been ashore, the tide had already risen a few inches, and the dinghy was lapping water and would have floated away shortly thereafter. We hauled the dinghy out to manageable water, got in, rowed a bit, then started the motor to go back to RHAPSODY. As we did so, we saw PIPE DREAM and SPIRIT making their way into the anchorage. We had talked to them earlier on the VHF; they were about a day behind us, just having left Catalina and planning to also come here to Platanal. As we got back to RHAPSODY the other two boats dropped their hooks and we chatted a bit on the radio.

Late in the afternoon a voice came on the VHF asking about the Platanal anchorage and means of ground transportation to Panama City. We talked to them and a short time later, as the sun was setting, the boat VIKING HEART pulled into the anchorage. The man and his girlfriend came by in the dinghy to ask some more about getting to shore (his girlfriend had a flight the next day in Panama City) as well as to find out about getting fuel. After that, we did some boat chores, notably bringing the dinghy up on deck and cleaning it. We had been towing it around since Bahia Honda and we wanted it in place on deck for the next passage to Ensenada Naranjo. After more than two weeks in the warm tropical waters it was growing a fair amount of crud on the bottom so we both took turns cleaning it. After that we had dinner on the boat, watched a movie, and went to sleep fairly early.