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Marina Vallarta Las Palmas I Local 3

I was sitting in front of my shop the other day enjoying my view of Marina Vallarta and some locals came by. We started talking about his fishing day and he mentioned how when the Captain of the boat saw him with bananas, and the captain “flipped” out.  He continued how the captain wouldn’t allow them on the boat because they were “Bad Luck”. For as long as I’ve been around the rumors of Bananas on boats would result in bad luck fishing days. I think I was about twelve years old when I first heard of this “fishing tale” from friends and family. As the story goes, bring Bananas and bad luck follows, something is going to happen. Seems pretty silly right? Bananas, the easy “peel and go” fast, healthy food. Perfect for fishing trips and besides that, I like bananas! But there are people who go to extremes on this like no banana bread, banana cookies, banana chips and the list is endless. Now you may think this is silly and I did agree, more on this later in the article. But the superstitions foundation is a mystery. After some research, what I learned is in the following paragraphs…  

One suggestion is that before refrigeration existed, Bananas which had to be shipped by boat would ripen and decay quickly. Because of this, the crews on the boats had to move as quickly as possible. This meant they would troll quickly and thus reduce their chances for catching dinner. So in this case bananas were frowned upon. You can imagine how catching fish for dinner would be essential. To stop fishing meant people could go hungry. Not a pleasant thought, personally, I don’t think this explanation is worthy of the superstition.

Another down side of storing and shipping bananas is the fact that Bananas secrete a gas called Ethene (formally known as Ethylene). Bananas excreting this gas, stored in the cargo hold, would spoil the other fruits or even the crew’s rations. This could and would kill the food supply leaving the crews rationing their food or worse, have very little to eat due to this spoilage. If this isn’t bad luck, I don’t know what is! If there were storms or large swells, not to mention they would get lost from time to time, this condition would get worse.

And as if that’s not enough, the Ethene gas would accelerate the fermentation process, fruits and vegetables have sugar. These were “New Foods” to distant civilizations and weren’t well known. With these new foods of different fruits and vegetables would start to stink as it fermented creating alcohol. Which in turn  could and would spontaneously combust. This of course means the ship caught on fire and would ultimately sink, leaving Bananas floating…. 

Another thing that was common in the 1700’s was the fact ships would sink for many reasons and with no radios for SOS’s or to report locations, ships would sink. They would go down with nobody knowing where or when except for those on the doomed vessel. When other ships would pass a ship wreck area, they would find floating bananas, indicators of the ships sinking. So a relationship between sunken ships and floating bananas is more understandable. Especially for the superstitious looking for “reasons” for the disaster. This would reinforce the superstition and after hundreds of years of this banana superstition, it has mutated to the point it is today.

So all of this can sound like a bunch of “baloney”. But I can personally add to this story. I remember one day we were out at Corbetena, a super famous fishing area located in the Puerto Vallarta’s fishing grounds.  I kept hearing on the radio how boats that were in the area were just catching fish as fast as they could reel them in. It didn’t make sense, so I went down and asked the clients if they had Bananas, Banana Bread, Banana cookies, anything banana. They denied they had bananas, so I just chalked it up to bad luck.  Then one of the ladies confessed she had bananas and handed them to me. We made a big deal of tossing the bananas in the ocean and went back to the business of fishing.

Fifteen minutes later we hooked into a 800 lb Black Marlin. Then continued on to boat six Dorado and a Sailfish. Now I’m not saying getting the Bananas off the boat changed our “luck”. But I learned my lesson and now always ask clients if they have ever heard the “Banana Superstition”? And in fact the other day, I took bananas from clients before they got on the boat. The clients had a great day on the water. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

For those who do bring Bananas onboard, there is a “Repentance Prayer” for the super, superstitious written by some forgotten sole in a time long gone. It goes like this:

The Bananas aboard Repentance Prayer:

Oh great Konpira, please, hear my plea, I am sorry for my mistake, A banana I brought to sea …

It was an honest gesture, a noble means of nutrition, I had no ill intent, I brought fruit of my own volition….

Please forgive my idiocy, I meant my friends no harm, we just want to go fishing, and go home with a sore arms ….

We beg of you to release the curse, upon which I have brought, in your honor I consume these bananas, a sacrifice all for nought ….

So no matter how you feel about bananas on a boat, after reading this article, would you still take the change of not catching fish? Or are you going to pay heed to the superstition more than three hundred years old and counting?

Written by Stan Gabruk