Bananas and Boats - what say you?

Just one of the gorgeous, gleaming yachts at the show.

Just one of the gorgeous, gleaming yachts at the show.

I had a great trip to the West Palm Beach International Boat Show, which gave me a chance to tour some amazing superyachts and scope out boats for future adventures. Like this Kanter named Bread, originally built in 2007 and later cut in half and stretched to its current length of 137’.

I also had a chance to talk to people who work on these yachts for a living, like my character Penny, and gain even more insight to their superstitious world.

I spoke with one yacht chef who disregarded the “no bananas on board” superstition and brought several bunches on board for a multi-day offshore trip. They were five hours into the trip when the captain spyed the offending fruit on the galley table. He immediately ordered the boat back to land. Unfortunately, the chef was tossed along with the bananas.

Slipping on a peel aside, bananas seem such a harmless fruit, right? Where did this superstition come from? There are tons of theories, but discussions at the show turned up three main ones:

  • At the height of the trading empire between Spain and the Caribbean in the 1700s, most cases of disappearing ships happened to be carrying a cargo of bananas. (Coincidence? Cue the Twilight Zone music here.)
  • Because bananas ferment so quickly in the heat of the storage hull, they were thought to produce deadly toxic fumes. (I think that was the rum...)
  • A species of deadly spider hides inside banana bunches with a lethal bite that can cause crew to die suddenly.  (Spiders? Now you have my attention.)

Lastly, just in case I’m inviting bad luck with this post, here’s a little antidote: Cats are good luck on a ship!