Captain Joel’s Fishin’ Holes Aug. 9, 2018

Published on: August 8, 2018

Bad-luck bananas

By JOEL BRANDENBURG

Since the 1700s bananas have been considered bad luck on boats. Fishermen and sailors are some of the most superstitious people in the world. Their superstitions have to do with the unpredictability and mystique of the ocean. 

Many adults are serious about the bad luck banana myth on boats. There are many stories of boats sinking, getting stuck in storms, engines breaking down, sails ripping, running aground, bilge pumps malfunctioning, fish not biting — and the stories go on and on. 

You can Google bananas and boats and read hundreds of tales of the sea. These tales have been passed down from generation to generation. One of the oldest stories is from the 1700s when a cargo ship carrying supplies from South America to North America had a large family stowed away in the galley. Their plan was to bring enough fresh water and bananas for the trip. After many weeks at sea, these stowaways made it to North America, but, unfortunately, when the captain and crew unlocked the galley doors they found all the stowaways dead. Their untimely death was blamed on bananas. Some say the bananas rotted and the stowaways died of starvation; others say the gases from the rotten fruit in the confined galley killed them; another theory is that the bananas may have been infested with Peruvian brown recluse spiders, the most venomous spider in South America.

Back in 1998 my wife Ana and I were meeting with our accountant who suggested we create a small business on the side to offset our income taxes. At the time I was an executive in the “death care industry.” I said to our accountant, “I work a hundred hours per week, I don’t have time for a side business.” 

She said “It can be any business. What’s your favorite hobby?” 

I told her “Fishing.” 

She asked, “Why don’t you start a fishing company?” 

I said “Okay.” 

She said “Good. What’s the name of your company?” 

I looked at Ana and said “How about Ana Banana Fishing Company?” 

She said “That sounds great,” and made Ana Banana Fishing Company an LLC. I never expected to do much — if anything — with it.

A couple of years later I got frustrated at work and played hooky to go fishing. I never went back to the office. I resigned that day and never looked back. 

We started our charter company using the LLC we already had (Ana Banana Fishing Company). I figured if I kept the name, my wife might let me fish more. 

What I didn’t think about is how many fisherman wouldn’t have anything to do with a boat or charter company that even has the word “banana” in it, that’s how strong the superstition is. I even marketed using the phrase “The Lucky Banana.”

I’m not a superstitious person at all, I don’t believe in ghosts, aliens, Bigfoot, Loch Ness monsters, black cats in my path, opening umbrellas indoors, walking under ladders, etc. We’ve caught hundreds and thousands of trophy fish over the years on the Ana Banana boat and, yes, with many clients who’ve packed bananas on the trip, so I have no superstitions regarding bananas, but a few years ago while fishing off the coast of Salinas, Ecuador, with my father-in-law and his friend, the bad-luck banana myth came into play. 

We went out with an Ecuadorian captain and his first mate son. They had an old homemade boat with an old outboard. No radio. We went 30 miles offshore in 6- to 8-foot seas, 4,000 feet deep with 50-foot humpback whales crashing all around the boat and pirate warnings in the area.

We caught a 25-pound dorado and the engine conked out during the fight. As the captain and first mate were trying to pull start the engine, we were starting to get worried. My father-in-law’s friend was in charge of the food and drinks. I opened the cooler and grabbed our lunch bags. Each bag had a sandwich and, yes — a banana. I got a little superstitious all of a sudden. Even though food could have become a real premium if we stayed stranded, I still took the bananas and threw them overboard. 

The fellas got upset. I said to my father-in-law, “If we stay stranded, we’ll eat you first since you’re already half-baked,” referring to his weathered body. 

He replied, “No, we’ll eat you first so we can all eat,” referring to my portly figure. 

We were nervously joking about a serious matter, but not two minutes after I threw those bananas overboard the captain got the engine started, and we were heading back to port. 

For a charter with Captain Joel Brandenburg of Ana Banana Fishing Company, call 813-267-4401. 

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