Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Boats Arrive

If I wasn't such a diehard Deadliest Catch fan, I might be able to convince you that I was looking forward as much to meeting my fellow fans as to the Captains and crews. But, knowing me like you do, no one would believe that.

However, I really looked forward to meeting the friends I have made through the Northwestern Forum, Facebook and Twitter ALMOST as much as any of the other CatchCon activities, including meeting the guys. As much as I make use of social media, I have never been a fan of meeting people via the Internet. All of these dating sites and chat sites just seem wrong, and I have made my share of fun of the statistic about the number of marriages that first started as online relationships.

Below, some of my online peeps share our balcony awaiting the arrival of the boats. I have no idea how unusual the evolution of the Deadliest Catch fan base is in the entertainment world. I watch as little television as possible, reserving most of my TV time for several Discovery Channel shows and a few from the History Channel. Even my interest in music and movies is somewhat lackluster. So it never occurred to me that I would become a part of a fan/groupie event. But this seems different. The online friends that I have met truly seem like life-long friends the instant that I met them in person. They are quirky, funny, dedicated, open, friendly... everything you would want in a friend, and everything they seemed to be online.

Below the Discovery Channel suits work on the last-minute details of CatchCon prior to the arrival of the boats.Maybe there are other fan families that develop for other shows. Certainly Star Trek and Dr. Who have their own mega fans, but that seems different. Each of the boats of the Deadliest Catch fleet maintain a website that has an e-commerce component as well as a fan component. The FV/Northwestern site is the home of the Northwesterners (Yes, there are some fans who call themselves the Hansenettes). The forum is well maintained, rules are strictly enforced, yet strong bonds develop among the members. And their regular site sells great merchandise!

Below, the crews at the convention center are hard at work placing the "props" that we will enjoy during CatchCon. The F/V Time Bandit fans call themselves Banditas. Their forum is a fun-loving free-for-all where some of the most outrageous thread topics are allowed to flourish, and flourish they do!

Below, the construction guys across the slip are taking pictures of us taking pictures of them. We were told once that people in Seattle think you're strange if you talk to them on the street. We didn't find that to be true. Everyone we met was friendly and fun, and if they thought we were strange, they didn't let on. And here was the moment we'd all been waiting for, our first glimpse of the F/V Wizard and the F/V Northwestern as they round the corner of the Edgewater hotel and motor toward their berths. We were told that they expected to be on the boats around seven and move through the Ballard locks by approximately 7:30, but that construction on the locks cause a delay. I suppose that is quite common, as each lock (large and small) really has room for only one or two boats heading in one direction. Everyone must wait their turn. If memory serves, the boats finally arrived around ten, which didn't really seem to matter, as we all had fun getting to know one another during the wait.

Back to my analysis of the fan communities of the various boats. The F/V Cornelia Marie forum has changed naturally, since the death of Captain Phil. His moderators, who were personal friends of Phil's have maintained the site and the discussion as his fans go through the grieving process. It is a very close-knit community. The F/V Wizard site and fan forum is loosely organized, with fun and games and lots of off-topic discussions going on. So far, it is the most open, allowing even non-members to post to threads. Wizard fans are known as Wizettes.

Below, the Wizard crew are hard at working securing the vessel so the Northwestern can come along side. Of course there are other discussion groups... many others. The Discussion boards on the Discovery Channel website are hugely populated with mega fans. That is where I spend the least amount of my time. The comments are often hard-hitting, critical and show a level of interest in the minutiae that I find disturbing.

Captain Monte takes a moment away from his duties to chat. The Mister and I had quite a few discussions on the topics of the fans before, during and after CatchCon. Since this was our first fan experience, we didn't know quite what to expect. The only time I had an item autographed, I was a thousand miles away so a friend had to stand in line for Captains Johnathan and Andy to sign... He did have some interesting tales to tale about the fan behavior on that occasion.

Closer and closer... the beautiful Northwestern eases her way into the slip with Edgar at the helm. Overall, I've got to believe that the organizers of the event, and the "stars" themselves have got to be content with the fan activities. We did hear some discussion that might have skirted the "stalker" definition, but I don't think anything crossed the line, at least that I observed. I certainly didn't see any of the more popular captains have their clothes ripped off or chunks of hair pulled out. They may have gotten a proposition or two... or three... or... But hey, they're good lookin' guys!

Our balcony party gets a wave from Jake Anderson. It was truly my experience on the F/V Northwestern forums that has heightened my interest in the boat and crew, and the show in general, enough to make a trip to Seattle to participate in a fan activity. Had there been more time, I would have expressed my appreciation to Captain Sig for the considerable investment in time and money into developing an exceptional website and well-run forum. Consider this my thanks, which extends to the web boss Patrick as well as to the many moderators who keep the discussion flowing and cordial.

The Northwestern being secured to the Wizard. With Edgar at the hydraulic controls, the Northwestern extends a welcoming crane boom toward our group on the balcony. I offered to send a six-pack down to them, but couldn't figure out how to secure it. Besides, the six-pack was from the mini-bar in our hotel fridge, and the beer was about six bucks a bottle - we soon replaced that with a little less expensive brew from the deli down the street. Sorry guys - luv ya, but not to the tune of a $6 bottle of Bud Light! Captain Keith was on hand to make sure that everything was done properly. Just think about this concept - the "stars" of the show, the Captains and Crews of the Wizard and Northwestern have been at work since 7:00 in the morning and possibly earlier (The Wizard did report problems with the battery and electrical system the day before, so I'm sure they were scrambling then, too), to get ready for a fan event where they will be the center of attention. Bet that doesn't happen to rock stars!Across the way, Captain Johnathan is holding court with the Discovery entourage, which looks to include reporters, Discovery execs, convention center staff, and other workers. Everyone who works for a living feels an affinity with these guys, who do a particularly difficult and dangerous job while we get to look on from the comfort of our living rooms.Captain Sig arrives on the Northwestern and quickly goes to work giving tours and I'm sure, expounding on the virtues of the beautiful Northwestern. Or maybe that is just a fish story he's telling... "It was this big...".It doesn't seem as if any of the crew are going to get a break. We've seen the elusive Norman a few times, Matt, Jake and Edgar have been hard at work, and now Nick arrives to take his turn.Oh the drama... the suspense... Will Captain Johnathan deign to walk on the Wizard deck? Will Captain Keith have him thrown off? Will we see sparks fly if the two get within two feet of one another? Is there a burn barrell anywhere in sight?

Um.... No.However, once upon the Northwestern deck, Captain Johnathan takes a tumble and yells something about suing. Could it be his snake-skin cowboy boots slipped, or perhaps there's a bit more alcohol in his system than he calculated when he got up this morning?

Just kidding... it was all in fun.Well maybe except the part about the alcohol. The Northwestern sorting table is a relaxing out-of-the-way place for a quiet snooze. He's got a long couple of days ahead of him, so who could begrudge him a rest.If there's one thing in particular I took away from this weekend of meeting all of the featured players on Deadliest Catch, it is their warmth and generosity. There were quite a few of us hanging out on the balconies of the Edgewater. Being under constant surveillance must be unnerving, but the guys took it with grace and style, even posing when asked.All too soon the fun with the crews on the boats was over and it was time to make our way to the Smith Cove Cruise Terminal for the memorial service for Captain Phil Harris. His presence at all of the festivities was deeply missed, and it was generous of his family and Discovery to provide this opportunity for his friends and fans to celebrate his life and mourn his passing.

Fittingly so, the Harley Davidson honor guard preceeded the motorcade into the venue.My admiration for these two young men grew with each encounter. Josh Harris is a mature and articulate gentleman and welcomed guests to the memorial service with grace. His quieter brother Jake was content to let his brother do the talking, but offered a no-less heartfelt welcome for all its brevity.

Many of Captain Phil's friends were on hand to give insight into the life of a man who lived it to the fullest, always rushing full bore into the next adventure. He lived and loved large, and the depth of his character and the expanse of his heart was evident to all who knew him, or had the chance to experience his personality through the medium of television. We miss him every minute.Following the service, which ended just as the first cold drops of rain began to fall, we returned to the hotel to find that the tide had risen, and that it probably would now have been possible to jump from our balcony to the deck of the Northwestern. Thankfully there isn't enough Guinness in Seattle for me to have considered that. Thanks for stopping by. If you come back over the next couple of days, you can enjoy a cup of coffee while reading about our further exploits at CatchCon.

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