Bananas don’t belong on boats.
There are lore and legend that attempt to explain why. But any old sailor conscious of the give and take of the sea will tell you that bananas simply do not belong on a boat.
I learned this over a year ago when I stumbled into an opportunity to join Captain Jim, a commercial halibut fisherman in Alaska.
We were going to be gone all day so I packed enough food to keep me full. (I am, like my dog, most obsessed by food).
This packing included a banana which, fortunately, I tucked into the outer pocket of my backpack.
Upon watching me step onto the boat, Captain Jim noticed the banana on the side of my pack and immediately began yelling at me to leave the banana on the dock.
“Banana’s don’t belong on boats,” Captain Jim said as though he expected me to already know this.
Now I know that bananas don’t belong on boats.
This is why, when we were on our way to board a boat to go swim with whale sharks in the bay of La Paz, I left my breakfast banana on the dock.
I packed it to eat on the bus ride from the tour office to the dock. But not realizing the ride was so short, I failed to remember to eat it.
But I did have it in the same outer pocket of my backpack as the one in Alaska. This time I caught myself.
No other boat captain needed to tell me to leave my banana behind. I understood this, in English and in Spanish.
Our guide, Siddhartha, was about to push the boat from the dock when he noticed the banana sitting by itself at the water’s edge.
He looked at me quizzically and then asked, “ You’re not going to take this?”
“No,” I said unsure why someone so familiar with boats would ask me that. “Bananas don’t belong on boats.”
Siddhartha smiled. He knew that bananas didn’t belong on boats.
“But this one is lucky,” he said as he grabbed the banana and leaped onto the boat. “Do you mind if I bring it to eat later?”
I didn’t know Siddhartha well enough to know how hard I could push him on the banana thing. So I conceded and the banana remained onboard.
We had a spectacular day swimming with the gentle whale sharks. The water was calm and we saw so many sharks that Siddhartha, a marine biologist by trade, told us that he had never seen so many whale sharks in one place before.
He then reminded me about the lucky banana.
I grinned back nervously.
Moments later I heard a commotion in the water from our friends who had taken the tour with us. Mike was motioning with his hands something about “it coming off and sinking.”
From his wife’s response, we realized they had just lost their brand new GoPro 8 to the sandy seafloor 30 feet below.
I am a scuba divemaster. To become such, one of the skills you have to learn is underwater navigation.
There are a variety of methods you learn when searching for a particular thing – say a lost diver stuck in a coral head. Using a compass and sometimes an underwater whiteboard you will canvass the stretch of water where you believe the diver to be lost.
Of course, you are limited in your air and you search as a team so as to not lose other divers.
But the premise is, what we all know, the sea is vast and getting lost is easy – especially when you are an inanimate object that has no choice but to be swiftly caught up and carried in the currents.
Visibility was terrible that day. It was great visibility for the whale sharks because clouds of their food had made the water milky white.
But this was the same white as the sand below. So as you looked down into the water all you saw was white, unsure of whether you were looking at the seafloor or the water ten feet beyond your vision.
Still, Siddhartha took to free diving to the bottom of the sea to try and find this elusive lost GoPro.
In just the area immediately around him, there would have been hundreds of square feet of surface to search. How much searching could one man do, especially with the effort required to reach 30 feet below the water’s surface?
The rest of us returned to the boat where we tried to remain out of the marital disagreement that was now taking place.
The camera was literally brand new and it was equipped with all of the bells and whistles – not to mention all of the footage of the family swimming with the whale sharks all morning.
I was at the bow of the boat with our camera (a non-waterproof high definition Sony Handycam) when suddenly Siddhartha surfaced and exclaimed that he had found the GoPro!
“It’s that lucky banana,” he said, further tempting fate.
Almost immediately my camera made a wretched miniature electronic click-click-click noise before the screen turned black.
I did everything in my power to turn the camera back on.
I searched for signs of water or sand in places it should not be, finding none.
Then I blew into crevices where I thought water or sand might be.
I gently shook the camera, replaced the battery with a fully charged one and even said a prayer over the camera.
Nada. Which means “nothing” in the language of the country where my camera died.
Siddhartha still speculates that this banana brought him good fortune both in the profound number of whale sharks we saw and in the finding of the GoPro.
But for me one thing is certain, that banana broke our camera because bananas don’t belong on boats.