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Top 5 Myths about Bananas on Board Your Boat While Fishing

Posted by: Mark Howze on 04/29/2017

Top 5 Myths about Bananas on Board Your Boat While Fishing

bad luck bananas on the boat fishing

The following “bad luck bananas on board boat myths” are in no particular order.

They are based on years of banana research and interviews with fishermen from all over the world who claim bananas are bad luck on fishing boats.


#1 Reason To Have No Bananas On Board Your Boat While Fishing


no bananas on board

More specifically, crap-loads of spiders.

I grew up in a house in Winter Haven, FL that actually had three banana trees on one side of our home.

And do you know what could be found almost year round in and around those banana trees?

You guessed it, spiders.

For some reason, spiders love bananas.

And I can only imagine that back in the day when shiploads of bananas were being brought over from Africa, they were loaded with small spiders.

And do you know when spiders are most active?

At night.

So imagine this scene: the sailors carrying the banana cargo go to bed for the evening, they get bitten by these poisonous African spiders, and no one can figure out why the crew is dying (keep in mind that 1700s when this was occurring, they did not have cures for venomous spiders like we do today, especially not out at sea.)

When they finally arrive in their destination port with a big chunk of their crew dead, you can see just how easy a rumor could spread that bananas were bad luck on board.

#2 Reason To Have No Bananas On Board Your Boat While Fishing

“The Smoking Floating Gun – Bananas”

no bananas on board

The floating banana

Back in the 1700s and 1800s, there was no Coast Guard.

And there certainly wasn’t high-frequency radio, cell phones, or any other way to call in for help or distress.

So when a ship went down, it usually went down without anyone else knowing about it (except for the unlucky sailors on board).

Of course, other vessels that were passing through the same shipping channels found many of these shipwrecks.

Do you know what rises to the top of the water when a ship goes down?

Anything that floats of course…including bananas!

And when another ship came up to the spot that a ship had sunk, only to see a ton of bananas floating amongst the other debris, you can imagine how easy it would be to assume bananas were bad luck.

When the sailors that came across the sunken ship went back to port, you better believe every story that was shared made mention of the floating bananas.

Before you know it, that story gets passed on and elaborated upon until everyone in town believes that bananas caused the wreck.

As Gwen Stefani said, “It’s Bananas! B-A-N-A-N-A-S”

bananas bad luck fishing

Gwen Stefani “Hollaback Girl” Video (It’s Bananas)

#3 Reason To Have No Bananas On Board Your Boat While Fishing

Stinky Bananas…

no bananas on board

Have you ever left a banana at home while you went on a long vacation?

I recall one time that I went away for a little over two weeks and came home to a horrible smell in my kitchen.

I checked the trash cans, I checked the garbage disposal, and I checked to make sure my fridge hadn’t crashed and all of the food went bad while I was gone.

But it wasn’t any of these culprits that were causing the wretched smell in my house.

And then I saw it…

Almost blending into my black granite counter were two shriveled up, completely black, almost morphed together into one banana, rotten as can be, smelly bananas.

It smelled as if something had died in my kitchen.

And that smell was produced from only two bad bananas.

Can you imagine what hundreds or even 1,000 bad bananas would smell like?

Well, some sailors certainly did back in the 1700s.


Let me explain.

When a ship left with a cargo full of bananas, speed was key.

The sailors knew that they only had so many days before the bananas would go bad, which meant their cargo would be worthless (thus they didn’t get paid).

But what it also meant that when a bad storm, huge waves, getting lost at night due to the captain falling asleep at the helm (aka passing out after too much rum), or a variety of other reasons that things don’t go as planned on the ocean, was that the bananas on board began putting off an odor.

And most people don’t know this, but the odor that bad bananas put out doesn’t just make your nose twitch, it also can kill other produce around it (the odor speeds up the time that other fresh food and produce goes bad).

So when a ship would be out at sea longer than expected (thus they actually needed more food for the longer than expected voyage), yet the bad bananas were killing off much of their existing produce, many times the crew ran out of food.

And if they were out at sea long enough, it could mean death.

But even at best case, it meant a smelly, stressful, and a very malnourished trip.

Not to mention, the stories the sailors came back with to their families and friends involved the mention of the “bad luck bananas”, furthering the “No Bananas on Board” superstition.

#4 Reason To Have No Bananas On Board Your Boat While Fishing

Wood eating, banana loving, termites.

bad luck fishing bananas

Back in the 1700s, all boats were made of wood.

And it was also said that some banana rich areas of Africa and the Caribbean had some of the most destructive wood-eating termites in the world.

So you can imagine that sometimes these termites would cling to the banana trees as they were dragged across the land to the docks where they were loaded on the ship.

And when the termites realized that they were now in an all wooden cargo hold, it was like a kid getting left in a candy store…aka Wood Heaven for a termite.

Needless to say, the termites went to town on the wooden ship, causing tons of damage, and in some cases eating holes in the hull that were not repairable (as the sailors found out about the leaks way too late).

Because many of the sailors wanted to blame the bad luck on something, the obvious patsy was the bananas, as they were the reason the termites had made it on board.

#5 Reason To Have No Bananas On Board Your Boat While Fishing

Fast “Banana Boats”

bad luck bananas on board

Sorry, I couldn’t resist putting this picture in…it has nothing to do with the blog

As I mentioned earlier, speed was of the essence when moving bananas across the ocean.

Another fact is that sailors on cargo ships loved to fish while at sea.

And because most cargo ships took their time and went at normal speeds, the crew would take breaks to catch fish, and usually did quite well.

But on the “Banana Boats”, they didn’t take breaks, and in most cases went full speed ahead to their destination.

In most cases, way too fast to be trolling to catch fish.

So what happened?

Crew members talk with other crew members from other boats, they realize that the banana boats seem to be the only ones that don’t catch fish, and thus a rumor is born.

One sailor tells another that they never catch a single fish when a banana is on board, and before you know it, everyone believes the myth.


no bananas on board

Whether you believe in superstitions or not, it has hard to ignore the wild amount of fishing nightmares and instances of bad luck where bananas were on board the boat.

However, it is also easy to see how easy these rumors of bananas being bad luck on board fishing boats can spread out of control.

Fishermen and fisherwomen hate not catching fish, and blaming their bad fishing luck (or even boat problems or malfunctions) is something that has gone on for many generations of anglers.

And as long as people keep bringing bananas on board boats, expect to keep hearing stories of how the banana ruined their fishing trip.

Because when all else fails, it is easier to blame a banana than admit you just couldn’t catch any fish (or to explain why your bilge pump is acting up…)

What’s your craziest bad luck bananas on board story? Let us know in the comments.

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