Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been surprised by the folks on the dock who have never heard of the bad luck associated with bananas on a boat. This superstition is very prevalent in the fishing and boating community. Some folks swear by the ‘No Bananas on the Boat’ rule (me) and some laugh it off. The story of bananas becoming bad luck on boats began back in the 1600s and 1700s.
Back in the 1600s and 1700s, boats loaded with bananas and other produce had to move quickly to be able to deliver their cargo before it spoiled, so they would push the limits of speed, which would be too fast to catch any fish trolling. Hence the beginning of the superstition, ‘No Fish on the Boats with Bananas.” Couple this with the fact that bananas float and in those days the floating bananas would identify a sunken boat. We’ve all left on vacation to come home to spoiled banana left on our kitchen counter and the horrible smell that then radiates throughout the house. Imagine that smell multiplied by 100’s when bananas would spoil on the trip. Add to that the spiders that accompany shipments of bananas and would crawl out at night and bite the crew and the curse of the banana becomes more and more relevant.
Over the years the superstition has proved itself to many people. I have experienced this firsthand. While on a fishing trip in the middle of the day, both engines began running rough. We jumped into action trying to find the issue. We checked everything, fuel, electrical, pumps, etc. After a couple of hours wrapped around a hot engine, we see one of our friends come out of the salon eating the forbidden fruit. We ended up with a long slow trip back to the dock on one engine. The next day we went back to the boat to diagnose the problem with no bananas on the boat. The boat ran perfectly. We never could figure out what happened that day. The only thing we know is that the boat ran terribly with a banana onboard, perfectly without.
I tell this story a lot. There’s a very famous fishing guide in Miami named Bouncer Smith who was well known for not allowing Banana Republic shirts, Banana Boat sunscreen and for cutting Fruit of the Loom labels from his customers underwear. On a particular trip with some very good clients his steering went out and had to be fixed, they couldn’t find bait and had to buy some from a bait boat and when they finally got to the fishing grounds they were able to watch all the other boats catching fish while they floated. On the way in Bouncer said “Someone must be wearing those danged Fruit of the Loom underwear.” Well, one of their executives was on the boat. He asked what the problem was and Bouncer told him about the superstition. The executives were invited to fishing the next day, leaving their underwear in the hotel. Well, that day was epic. They caught bait immediately, were first to the fishing grounds and caught fish after fish. There’s not a banana in the Fruit of the Loom logo anymore. I’m not saying this story is true or that they are connected. I guess you’ll have to decide.
At the end of the day each person will make the choice to believe in superstitions or not. For me, I’m not going to chance it. I leave the bananas at home.
See you on the water (without bananas),