11 May 2013
A Badge of Honor - that first stalk of green bananas brought on board and hung from the rigging when arriving in the tropics. It seems every cruiser we see has a large stalk dangling in the cockpit. Bananas are one of the few cheap items in French Polynesia, where a six pack of canned beer cost $18.00, a 1.5 liter of coke $11.
And it's such a romantic notion - throwing off the lines to civilization and sailing to where life is simpler. Fewer clothes, fewer responsibilities - and living off the fresh caught bounty of the sea and the abundant fruit of the land.
Here's what they don't tell you. That stalk of 100 green bananas is harboring a legion of ants, several GIANT cockroaches, and maybe a hairy tarantula. The sap that oozes from the stalk will mark everything - decks and clothing - with a permanent brown stain. But when that much anticipated moment arrives and the first hard, green banana turns yellow and is consumed, it is declared the most delicious fruit ever! So much more flavorful than those genetically modified bland bananas in the grocery stores back home. And it's a good thing they are so delicious because in 24 hours all 100 bananas on the stalk will be yellow and threatening to fall off. Break out the banana bread recipe before it all turns into a black gooey mess! And where did all those fruit flies come from out here on the ocean? What was that Bahamian saying about not catching any fish so long as there are bananas on board? Time to start giving them as gifts to other cruisers (rather like that giant zucchini offered to neighbors in Vermont in late August).
Just how many bananas can two crew eat? A lot. Eventually the stalk will get tossed overboard without ceremony and with some relief. Another rite of passage, like crossing the equator, has been completed.