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Why Are Bananas Bad Luck on a Boat?

Why Are Bananas Bad Luck on a Boat?

Why are bananas bad luck on a boat is a mysterious boating superstition that started in the 1700s that is still enduring today.

When merchants’ ships yachting from Spain and the Caribbean began to vanish, the myth has it that only the curved yellow fruits (bananas) would be found drifting amongst the remains.

Sailors believed the bananas had caused the ship to sink, which led to many rumors throughout the sea and back at the dock.

Bananas and Fishing Boats

Close-Up Photo of Yellow and Green Bananas
Bananas

Though the superstition seems to have extended to other types of boats, it’s intimately linked with fishing boats and the belief that you will not catch any fish when bananas are on board.

The internet is full of tales of strict fishing boat operators impounding bananas or banana-related items from passengers and throwing them overboard before setting sail.

Many ill-starred fishing trips, faulty motors, violent storms, and near-to-disasters involving leaking boats have been blamed on the illusionary innocent curved yellow fruits.

Why Are Bananas Bad Luck on a Boat? Reasons Behind the Superstitions

1.     Fish Repellent

Fishers believe bananas are bad luck and blame them for not catching fish. According to some anglers, fish don’t like bananas’ sweet scent and ethylene gas they release and would be repelled if the boat or fishers smelled like them.

The scent does matter for fish, and according to some studies, a fish can smell 1,000 times better than a dog.

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However, whether the fish really dislike bananas is unknown.

2.     Spoiling Other Foods

Besides methane, bananas also release ethene gas, making other fruits around them ripen more quickly along with them.

This was a problem for some sailors in the 1700’s and likely created superstitions for European Merchants and Pacific Islanders.

Other shipments and supplies would spoil more quickly than usual, which would leave them with little or no food for their journey.

Often, it would take longer due to strong waves, storms, or getting lost. Other vegetables and fruits that give off ethene include melons, tomatoes, apples, avocados, plums, peaches, and pears.

Read: What should you do first when a vessel capsizes?

Yellow Banana Fruits on Brown Surface
Bananas

3.     Unwelcomed Passengers

Venomous spiders were an issue for early Merchants selling bananas in the 1600s and 1700s.

Boats of all sizes would pull up at the dock and get loaded with crates of bananas, unaware that poisonous spiders hid inside waiting for the next victim

Although not all spiders can find their hiding place in bananas, most are invasive and would stow away and end up on board the boat, sometimes even lay eggs that would hatch later.

Some boaters would get bitten by the spiders and spend days at oceans with no knowledge of a cure or an experienced medical professional,

which would cause some to die or arrive at the dock very sick. This strengthens the reasons why people would say bananas are bad luck.

Fortunately, due to advances in medical technology, most sailors now have the knowledge and resources to correctly identify, cure, and care for spider bites.

4.     Fires

Apart from making vegetables and fruits ripen faster, Ethene gases also speed up the fermentation process.

Yachters and traders exploring new land had no idea about these new foods since they had never encountered them before. They would take thousands of them and keep them in their stores.

Unknowingly, the bananas and other vegetables and fruits would spoil and smell foul as they started to ferment.

They would also release alcohol that would combust and lead to destructive fires causing the wooden boats to burst into flames.

Unfortunately, since there were no fire suppression systems, running water, or coast guards to help aid the boaters, they would ultimately end up dead or drowned by water.

Those who were lucky enough to escape fire would find themselves in a craft, nowhere near the land, floating, with no food, just waiting to be found by another ship taking the same route.

They only hoped the weather didn’t turn worse. This occurrence strengthens the myth that bananas are bad luck on boats.

Read: 2 stroke outboard loss of power

A Bananas on the Table
Banana

Extreme cases of banning bananas on boats

Some boaters believe the banana’s bad luck goes beyond the yellow fruit itself and spreads to any banana-related items. These include:

  • Any food made with banana
  • Anything with a banana image, whether “no banana allowed” signs or stickers
  • Anything previously or currently associated with banana, including Fruit of the Loom products
  • Anything bearing the word “banana” in its name, such as Bana Republic clothing
  • Some Hawaiians and Floridians regard anything yellow as a bad luck

Read: Boat fresh water fill

Frequently Asked Questions on Bad Luck on Boats

Why Is It a Bad Luck to Bring a Woman on a Boat?

Women on board were bad luck because they distracted the sailors, which angered the sea, leading to dangerous conditions as a form of revenge. However, comfortably for the male crew, naked women calmed the sea, which is why most figureheads were women with uncovered breasts. It is believed that a woman’s bare breasts would abash violent storm into calm, alas forgotten power of female nakedness.

Why Are Suitcases a Bad Luck on Fishing Boats?

Suitcase superstition origins are mysterious, and misconception differs. For instance, some sailors are superstitious of all luggage while others only ban black suitcases and bags. However, everyone seems to agree that a suitcase is an omen of illness or death. Black bags are considered bad luck because black is the color of death and a metaphor for the depths of the dark, cold oceans.

Why Is Friday Unlucky Day to Begin a Journey on a Boat?

There is a superstition that Friday is the worst possible day to begin a journey on a boat, and no business can succeed if it commences on that day. The popular reason for Friday dislike is because it’s believed that Christ was crucified on a Friday. So, this day should be observed and respected and would be bad luck for anyone who tries to go about business as usual. 

For sailors and boaters of ancient times, it’s clear the curved yellow fruits (bananas) were not just a sign of bad luck, but they caused inconveniences and deadly hazards.

The superstition is now strongly entrenched in marine life, but it would be wise not to carry them on your next fishing trip.

However, don’t try to sneak bananas on board someone else’s boat, or you might be blamed for anything that goes wrong.

Read: Documenting vs registering a boat

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