Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

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Thursday, January 03, 2019
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Thursday, March 14, 2019
On second thought…

When fishing isn’t so a-peel-ing
“Life is full of banana skins. You slip, you carry on.”

— Daphne Guinness

It’s been about 15 years since I last wrote about a subject that seems to keep popping up. And lately, I’ve had several folks ask about it.

Most folks say they’re not superstitious.

But, they’ll still wear their raggedy “good luck” basketball socks. They refuse to throw away their best bowling shirt.

Do you still have a pair of “tighty-whitey” underwear in your drawer that you won’t throw away even if it has no more elastic and your wife nags you about it?

Do you refuse to open your eyes when your team’s kicker lines up for the game-winning field goal because it’s “bad luck?” Still have your bloody-splattered fishing t-shirt from when you were in college when you were 100 pounds lighter?

So, what’s the deal about bad luck bananas and fishing?

To some, it’s just something to goof with and talk smack about.

I’ve seen guys “plant” bananas in their buddy’s tackle box or fishing boots. I’ve seen guys tie a banana on hotel room doors or toss a banana onto a buddy’s boat.

To others, it’s deadly serious. It’s grounds for fighting words and coming to blows.

I’ve seen boats catch fire. Bananas were later found in the galley.

I’ve been on boats where everyone is catching fish except the boat with bananas but start catching fish when bananas were tossed overboard.

I was working as a deckhand where a guy broke his leg in a freak accident. Bananas were in an ice chest on deck. Another time a guy had to be airlifted after having a heart attack on a boat that had bananas.

If bananas were found in the galley of any boat that I worked on or had chartered they were quickly discarded or discreetly “disappeared” at night when the boat was underway.

Rumor has it that Fruit of the Loom underwear used to have a banana on their label, but the banana was eliminated.

So, what’s the source of the superstitious myth?

There’s a number of theories.

Bananas Stink

Back in the days of sailing ships, fresh fruit and vegetables were pretty important. Having bananas aboard, the bananas ripen pretty quickly and emit a gas and odor that can quickly ruin the food stores of a crew. Lacking fresh produce on those long voyages could lead to malnourishment at best. At worst, death.

No Slowing Down

The fact that bananas ripen quite quickly could also give credence to the lack of fish caught on board. Speed was essential to cargo ships carrying bananas.

Normal ships could travel at regular speeds. Often crews would fish to supplement their diets and the diets of passengers.

Banana boats did not have that luxury. They had to scoot. No slowing down to troll. It was essential to get from point A to point B.

Word got out that you didn’t want to crew or travel on a ship carrying bananas because those ships “never caught fish!” Seems logical.

Hidden Critters

Bunches of bananas could often hide snakes, spiders and other creepy-crawlers that could get loose aboard a ship. Many areas in Africa also were home to a voracious wood-eating termite that could get loose when bananas were brought about those old wooden sailing ships.

A Dark Chapter

If you remember your history, banana boats were often used as slave ships. If you suddenly woke up manacled, crowded and in a dark place smelling of bananas, life was about to take a turn for the worse.

Davey’s Locker

Similarly, bananas float. When a ship would sink, among other things, floating bananas would often be indicative of the final resting place of a vessel.

Here’s another one…

Good To Be King

From my part of the world where my family originated, in Hawaii, only royalty were permitted to have bananas. A commoner found in possession of bananas could be grounds for execution… the ultimate bad luck!

So, what do you think?

I’m not superstitious, but you’d still better not bring bananas on any boat that I’m on! Why tempt luck?

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Reader Comments
8 years working on the charter boats and 3 years doing East Coast- West Coast boat deliveries I have experienced the "Banana Curse" Mains down, no fish, injured crew and guests. Yup, superstition my ass. try drifting 2 days at sea 100 miles from Panama because our electrical systems went down. Found a banana in the galley while looking for electrical tape, tossed it overboard and all systems powered up. Coincidence ? Keep up the good work, Sir. We all enjoy your views on things. Have a great 2019 season.   — Capt Rob
Robert Hagerty
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