When Discovery Channel’s crab-fishing reality hit “Deadliest Catch” returns on Tuesday, April 22, the familiar blue and yellow F/V Cornelia Marie is not among the boats seen heading out onto the Bering Sea in search of king crab.
But it will be back on the show, under the co-captainship of new owner — with younger brother Jake — Josh Harris, eldest son of the late Capt. Phil Harris, and Casey McManus, son of Phil’s friend Jim McManus.
“Interesting creature,” Harris says of McManus to Zap2it. “Casey’s a really good guy. He grew up the same way I did; we were on the boats. He fills in gaps. We’re in this together; he can teach me a lot of things.”
In the years following Phil’s death from complications of a stroke in early 2010, Josh Harris faced his own grief, Jake’s substance abuse issues, becoming the single father of a baby daughter, and pressures from without and within to recapture his father’s legacy.
Many fans have became emotionally invested in the Harris saga. Phil doted on troubled Jake while Josh worked hard on the boat — when he wasn’t squabbling with Jake. In the wake of his father’s passing, Jake went into rehab, leaving Josh to pick up the pieces. But rehab didn’t quite stick, and Josh has been moving forward alone.
“I’ve been against the 8-ball the whole time,” he says. “A lot of people ran their mouths, talked a whole bunch of s*** . If you want something, it doesn’t matter what anybody says; you go for it.”
After announcing he had gotten ownership of the Cornelia Marie — there was another owner, after whom the boat was named — Harris found the boat was just the beginning.
“When you finally get there,” Harris says, “and it doesn’t work out the way that you wanted it to … but you never give up. … It took four years for me, so far, still squeaking by.”
A lot of the CM’s equipment had been stolen from storage, the boat needed major repairs after a long time in dock, and Harris needed quota — his own slice of the total amount of crab regulators allow to be taken each season.
He announced on Facebook last fall (king crab season is in the autumn, followed by opilio crab season in midwinter) that the CM wouldn’t be in the 10th season of “Deadliest.” But when word about the season began to leak out, it was revealed that Harris had pulled it off — with difficulty and a lot of help.
“The boat is still running,” he says. “It still has fuel in the tank. Watch this season; you’ll see all my struggles, everything I go through. It was something else. It was the real deal; it doesn’t get realer than this.
“We’re a start-up operation. We’re busting our asses, trying to get everything together. We’re not on king crab, but they definitely have us on opies. The boat’s still floating, and I’m on it, so that’s a good start.
“Everyone thinks it’s so easy to go out and get a boat and just make it happen, but we’re still trying to put the odds and ends together. With me, it’s sorting this stuff out, having a kid, having the boat. It’s very stressful. I’m starting to get gray hair.
“I don’t care if they say it’s wisdom; I don’t buy that.”
As for his little brother, Josh says, “Jake has a lot of stuff he has to deal with. He made a mess, and he’s got to deal with it. But he may very well be coming back.”
Says Jeff Conroy, executive producer for Original Productions, “No, not for this season. It’s possible that we’ll have something with the two brothers as we wrap up the year, but he’s not fishing this year. Maybe he’ll be back.”
For Discovery, keeping the continuity of having the CM, one of the show’s earliest and most popular boats, was big news.
“To lose him was a big deal,” says Discovery executive producer David Pritikin, “but to get him back as a captain with his father’s boat again is monumental for everyone. We couldn’t be more thrilled about that — for him, for his life choices and for our show.”
“The jury was out,” says Conroy, “on whether he could pull it off. There were years that we didn’t see him running the boat or on the boat — those were years of mourning.
“Then he figured out what he had to do. You can really make an argument that he became more of a man during this process. Phil really took care of his boys; he loved his boys like no other.
“So when he was gone, that left a big hole. It’s taken Josh a little while, but to his credit, he’s filled that void with stepping up and handling stuff on his own.”