The year 2013 is turning out to be a momentous one for 30-year-old Josh Harris, eldest of the two sons of the late Capt. Phil Harris featured on the Discovery Channel reality hit, “Deadliest Catch,” currently airing its ninth season on Tuesdays.
He recently took ownership of his father’s crab-fishing boat, the F/V Cornelia Marie, based in Kodiak, Alaska. Also, on March 7, he became a father himself.
But first, the boat. While Phil Harris captained the vessel and owned the rights to fish a certain quota of crab, he was only part owner of the Cornelia Marie. After his death from complications of a stroke in early 2010, Josh became determined to become the boat’s owner and take her back out himself to go crab fishing on Alaska’s Bering Sea.
Before that could happen, he had to deal with his younger brother, Jake Harris, whom fans have witnessed struggling with substance abuse before and after his father’s death. At the same time, Josh had to assemble the financing to achieve his goal, under the scrutiny of friends, family, fans and the media.
Harris ultimately achieved his goal, and after some schooling this summer to earn the proper credentials, he plans to be the Cornelia Marie’s new skipper in time for this fall’s king-crab season.
“It was a three-year process of getting the boat,” Josh Harris tells Zap2it. “[It] took a lot of my money. My kid’s kids will be poor if we don’t make it. We’ve been working on this for quite some time. I put my heart and soul into this whole process, got shot down a couple of times, thought there was no hope, and, at the last second, we struck a deal.
“The boat should be leaving [port] right now [to go herring tendering], going out for the first time. I’ll tell ya, man, it has been a stressful, stressful couple of days. But I should get my first paycheck from the boat in a month. It’s going to be pretty amazing. It could be a lot of money, but a lot of money’s going into the boat.
“We’re starting out herring tendering; then we’re going to move into salmon tendering. Then, from there, the boat will hopefully make its way down to Seattle. We will make some very significant repairs, another $500,000 in repairs. I’ll tell you this, it’s been a challenge and a struggle, but we made it, and we’re pretty excited about it.”
Asked how longtime friend Capt. Johnathan Hillstrand — on whose boat, the Time
Bandit, he’s worked as a deckhand for the last two seasons — reacted to
his acquiring the Cornelia Marie, Josh says, “He came up and gave me
that weird, awkward hug that he gives people. I was pretty excited. He
(You can go here for a story from last week featuring Hillstrand’s comments on the situation.)
Even though Josh is in charge, as managing partner, he has joined forces with Jake, something that might have not seen possible for fans who watched him battle his demons on the show last season. They no doubt have noticed that Jake’s not featured in the current season, which launched April 16, and there’s a reason for that.
“Jake took a year off, and he’s been working his a** off, getting his s*** together,” Josh says. “If he continues to do well, he’s going to be part of this operation. If he decides that he wants to go back to his old ways, he’s not going to be a part of that.
“With everybody watching the boat — Coast Guard, media, everybody — I’m going to be running a very tight ship. I have very high expectations for my crew, so if they fail in any way, they get fired. We’re going to run a very professional boat.”
In the episode airing Tuesday (April 30), Josh was seen having a tense conversation with Jake on his 27th birthday last October. At that time, the younger Harris seemed to still be having a hard time, which visibly upset his older sibling.
Told that he’s been a good brother, Josh says, “Jake’s a good brother, too. He’s got his issues, but hopefully — hopefully — we’ll be fishing together. It’s a lot of fun. I’ll tell you what, there’s nothing like beating the sh*t out of your little brother.”
Another big part of Josh’s growing-up process has been having a baby daughter, an unexpected but welcome event with a friend.
“She’s really smart, a nurse,” says Josh of the baby’s mother, “a really good mom. She has a daughter, 5, and we’ll see. No plans on being with her. We’re just friends, raising our daughter. She’s Kinsley Ella Harris, the beginning of my Harris clan. Hopefully, I won’t have any more children until I’m married.”
While he says he’s good at feeding Kinsley, Harris says that when he’s diapering, “I look like a monkey f***ing a football. But I can tell you that I can do it two-handed; I don’t need anybody’s help anymore.”
Life changed immediately for the freewheeling future captain.
“I went from being the party king,” he says, “to being very responsible. It definitely killed my night life. It’s surprised me, but I like being boring. It’s hard for me, because I’m always needing to be doing something, but right now my kid doesn’t do any tricks, so I just kind of sit around, watching TV.”
Little Kinsley also had some interesting stats at birth.
“She was born on March 7,” says the proud father. “She was seven pounds, seven ounces; she took seven minutes to be born, and she was 21 inches long. Very freakish, the number seven. She could be a very lucky baby.”
Harris hopes to bring back some of his father’s former crew, starting with Samoan Freddy Maugatai, currently working on the F/V Wizard under Capt. Keith Colburn.
“I’ll have to talk to Keith,” says Harris, “and I don’t think that’s going to be a pleasant conversation, because I want Freddy back. But he promised he’d come back and be my bait boy. I don’t think Keith’s going to want to let him go. We’ll see what happens.”
Harris has also co-authored — with brother Jake and journalists Steve Springer and Blake Chavez — a book about his dad, called “Captain Phil Harris: The Legendary Crab Fisherman, Our Hero, Our Dad.”
When asked to speculate on what his famously salty father might have said about his new situation, Harris says, “That’s a really good question, and I don’t have a good answer. I don’t know. He’d probably be like, ‘You’re f***ed.'”