Sailing Folklore: Are Bananas Bad Luck On A Boat?

Sailing has a rich history filled with superstitions and folklore, and one popular belief among sailors is the notion that bananas bring bad luck on a boat. This superstition has been passed down through generations, and many sailors continue to adhere to it even today. In this article, we will explore the origins of the banana superstition, examine the various theories behind it, and discuss whether there is any truth to the belief that bananas are bad luck on a boat.

The Origins of the Banana Superstition

The superstition surrounding bananas on boats can be traced back to the 1700s during the height of the trading era.

It is believed that this superstition originated from the experiences of sailors who noticed that ships carrying bananas often encountered various misfortunes, including shipwrecks, storms, and crew members falling ill or meeting untimely deaths. As a result, bananas became associated with bad luck and were considered inauspicious on board.

Theories Behind the Banana Superstition

Although the superstition has been ingrained in maritime culture for centuries, there are several theories that attempt to explain why bananas are considered bad luck on a boat. Here are a few of the most commonly discussed theories:

1. Rapid Spoilage and Gas Emission

One theory suggests that bananas were seen as bad luck because they would ripen quickly and emit a gas called ethylene. This gas was believed to cause other fruits and vegetables to spoil more rapidly, leading to shortages of fresh food on long sea voyages. As a result, bananas were deemed undesirable on ships.

2. Spider Infestation

Another theory revolves around the presence of spiders in banana shipments.

It is said that venomous spiders, such as the Brazilian Wandering Spider, could hide within the bunches of bananas, posing a significant threat to the crew.

The fear of spider bites and the potential danger associated with them led to the belief that bananas brought bad luck.

3. Slippery Deck Hazards

Bananas have a reputation for being slippery when their peels are discarded, which can create a hazardous situation on a ship’s deck.

It is suggested that sailors, who were already navigating treacherous and unpredictable conditions at sea, wanted to avoid any additional risks. Thus, the association of bananas with bad luck was born.

4. Historical Trade Connections

Some theories propose that the superstition may have originated due to historical trade connections.

Bananas were predominantly transported on fast ships known as “banana boats.” These ships were often small and nimble, and their presence in ports could be a sign that a storm or other dangerous weather conditions were imminent.

Over time, this association between banana boats and adverse weather conditions may have led to the belief that bananas were bad luck.

Debunking the Banana Superstition

While the superstition surrounding bananas on boats has persisted for centuries, it is important to approach it with a rational mindset. The idea that bananas inherently bring bad luck lacks scientific evidence and is primarily based on anecdotal experiences. Modern-day sailors and boaters have successfully carried bananas on board without encountering any ill fortune.

It is crucial to recognize that many superstitions arose from a lack of scientific understanding, cultural beliefs, and historical experiences that may not hold true in the present day. As our knowledge and technology have advanced, we can approach sailing with a more rational and evidence-based mindset.


Sailing folklore is rich with superstitions, and the belief that bananas are bad luck on a boat is one of the most enduring. However, it is essential to understand that superstitions are often based on historical anecdotes and cultural beliefs rather than scientific facts. While the banana superstition may have originated from the experiences of sailors in the past, there is no concrete evidence to support the notion that bananas bring bad luck on a boat.

As with any superstition, it is up to individuals to decide whether they want to adhere to it or dismiss it as a product of folklore. Sailing enthusiasts can now enjoy the delicious and nutritious benefits of bananas without fear of incurring any misfortune.

So, the next time you set sail, feel free to bring along a bunch of bananas and enjoy their natural goodness while appreciating the fascinating folklore that surrounds the world of sailing.

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