Even in an industry used to wild weather and physical peril, this past opilio-crab season on Alaska’s Bering Sea was one for the books. So says Johnathan Hillstrand, co-captain of the F/V Time Bandit, one of the crab-fishing fleet featured on “Deadliest Catch,” airing a new season Tuesdays on Discovery.
“It’s ugly,” Hillstrand tells Zap2it. “There are a lot of injuries. It’s just part of our job, but it looks pretty bad. They didn’t have cameras on every boat, but the first two days of opie season, two guys lost their legs out there.
“I don’t know if Discovery caught it on the Coast Guard end, but one of the boats that was on the show last year, the Kodiak, a guy got his leg crushed. We had ice and violent storms. Weather would come up, from southerly to northerly and back around to southerly, and the crab pots, they weigh three or four thousand pounds [full], landed on the guy’s leg and completely smashed it. He ended up losing it.
“Everybody’s got injuries, I think, this year.”
Meanwhile, Josh and Jake Harris, the sons of the late Phil Harris, captain of the F/V Cornelia Marie, featured in early seasons of the show, continue to try to make their way after their father’s death from complications of a stroke in early 2010.
Josh, 30, has been determined to get back ownership of the Cornelia Marie, while younger brother Jake, 26, has struggled — even before his father’s death — with substance abuse, including a stint in rehab during and after his father’s hospitalization.
Again this past season, Josh was a deckhand on the Time Bandit. Even though he’s very close to Hillstrand, Harris’ tenure there is limited.
“We told him this is his last season,” Hillstrand says. “We gave him tough love. If he doesn’t get his boat, he doesn’t have a job. He can’t fall back and use us and be a slacker. He’s got to get his boat.
“He’s telling us that he’s getting a boat, and then, all of a sudden, a week before we go fishing, he’s like, ‘I need a job.’ So, we loved his dad, and we want him to be a man. We’ve taught him everything we can. If he wants, he’s going to take whatever he wants to take with him.
“He swears that he has his boat, but everyone’s going to have to watch to find out.”
UPDATE: Today (April 23), Josh posted this at his official Twitter feed @JoshHarrisDC: … For those of you wondering, I have purchased the CM! #herefishyfishy
Last season, Jake Harris crewed on the F/V Northwestern, captained by Sig Hansen, another close friend of Phil Harris. Also on that boat is deckhand Jake Anderson, who has also battled addiction and endured the loss of his father in a 2010 murder (the body wasn’t found until 2012).
While Jake Anderson has worked to get his mate and master’s licenses with the goal of captaining his own boat, Jake Harris appears to be at sea only in the emotional sense.
“He didn’t make it,” says Hillstrand of the most recent fishing season. “He still has his troubles. He’s just caught up in that stuff he was doing. You’ve got to give him tough love, too. I told his brother, ‘Don’t give him any money. You can help him later, but you’ve got to help yourself right now. He’s going to drag you down.’
“All that stuff goes hand in hand. I’m no angel, but I sure as hell don’t mix my drinking with work.”
In May of 2012, Anderson married Jenna Patterson in the Northwestern’s home port of Seattle, with Hansen as the officiant. Jake Harris was at the wedding, but to Hillstrand’s eyes — and those of the cameras — he didn’t look good.
“It made me mad,” says Hillstrand, “because, if you watch the show, he’s got open sores on his face, at the wedding. I wanted to say something, but it’s Jake Anderson’s wedding, so it wasn’t a good time to do that. Then he just disappears on us.
“We try to give him tough love … if a person doesn’t want it, I can’t do nothing about it.”