The Curse of the Boating Bananas

“Bananas on a boat are bad luck,” Captain Mike announced as he chucked my Chiquitas overboard.

Ship from a banana.

My expression must have pegged off the WTH meter because Captain Mike quickly added, “It’s true, you can look it up on the Internet.” Since I had met this veteran striper fishing guide only a few hours before, I wasn’t sure whether his quick smile conveyed suppressed amusement or an intention to placate me. Didn’t matter. I wasn’t taking the bait.

While the weather during our striper fishing trip on South Carolina’s Lake Murray had been nasty — a double whammy of cold and windy — I couldn’t complain about the fishing. Everyone on the boat had boated a striper or two already. We were optimistic there would be more striped bass for our cooler.

As my bananas bobbled away in our wake, I jumped on my smartphone to research the outrageous claim that bananas on a boat are bad luck.  In 0.21 seconds, I was looking at page 1 of 4,910,000 results. It appeared this bananas-being-bad-luck thing had legs. There were numerous forum posts and blogs dedicated to the superstition. However, I turned to an expert source — snopes.com.  What I found there wasn’t the scathing denial I had hoped for but instead a cheeky rundown of the superstition’s origins.

Here’s what I learned.

  • In general, bananas are deemed unlucky by recreational anglers.
  • The bananas don’t have to be in their raw fruit form to invite bad luck. Banana muffins, daiquiris, and clothes and sunscreen bearing the name banana are also bad juju.
  • The superstition has been around for a long time, maybe centuries. In days of yore, spiders, snakes and other icky critters living amongst the bananas in a ship’s hold would infest other parts of the ship. That would certainly qualify as bad luck in my opinion.
  • Bananas also got a bad rap in the old days when they were the only item left floating after an overloaded ship capsized. Talk about jumping to conclusions.
  • When bananas were in the cargo hold of ancient ships, other fruits spoiled more quickly. This likely had more to do with the ethylene gas that bananas emit than bad Karma.
  • Crew members reportedly either got sick from eating bananas or slipped on their peels.
  • Anglers didn’t catch fish, and banana oil on the hands was the suspected culprit.

You can get the full explanation here: Banana superstitions.

To my ears, the above sounded like a lot of hooey and resulted in more questions than answers. For example:

  • If bananas are found on a boat and then thrown out, will bad luck be replaced by good luck?
  • If you break a mirror with a banana while on a boat does the bad luck cancel itself out, thus paving the way for a cooler full of fish?
  • If an angler has a tattoo of a banana on their body, is the captain obligated to throw that person overboard (with their life jacket on, of course)?
  • Did the Titanic have bananas on board?
  • If you sing “Yes! We Have No Bananas” or any song about bananas for that matter while on a boat, can it make other boaters uncomfortable around you?

While pondering the answers to these questions, I suddenly realized that since Captain Mike had tossed my bananas, the striper bite had come to a screeching halt. Coincidence? Or had the discovery of bananas angered the piscatorial gods? I’ll never know. But just to be safe, next time I go striper fishing, I’ll bring an apple.

If you’d like to have your own banana-free striper fishing adventure with Captain Mike Glover on Lake Murray in South Carolina, visit http://www.stripermike.net/.

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