Friday, April 15, 2011

Regular Joes

No matter how "Hollywood" the fans, the promotion of Deadliest Catch or the Discovery Channel try to make the captains and crews, the fact of the matter is these are hard-working guys facing incredible conditions trying to make a living for their families. Don't get me wrong - we had lots of fun at CatchCon, enjoying the very "Hollywood" production, but in the end, it was listening to the guys share their stories that was the highlight. Much like sharing a beer at the end of a hard days' work with everyone trying to top the other about what a bad day they had, telling funny stories about the pranks they played on co-workers, complaining about their bosses... we've all done it, and there's something comforting about the process.

The hints they dropped foreshadow a season that is filled with rough weather, injury, conflict, bad fishing and equipment breakdowns. Just the kind of thing Discovery Channel loves to make compelling television, but not so popular with the fishermen. Deadliest Catch follows only six boats, the Northwestern, Time Bandit, Cornelia Marie, Wizard, Kodiak, Ramblin' Rose and Seabrooke. However, it's important to remember that there are about 60 0ther boats in the crab fisheries, all of which face the same conditions and obstacles as do the guys we know and love from the show. When they go home at the end of the season, they share the same camaraderie with their friends and families rather than millions of fans.

One fairly intelligent question that was asked was what the captains like the most and hate the most about their fans. While they were reluctant to answer, Keith finally manned up and admitted that it was our passion - they both love and hate it. When it's positive it's a good thing, but when it's negative - such as death threats against John Hillstrand - it probably makes them regret ever signing on for the show. The crew got to tell their side of the story. There were some major changes over the course of the King and Opelia crab seasons this year. Travis Lofland left the Wizard to join the Time Bandit and Freddy Maugatai left the Cornelia Marie to join the Wizard. I'm sure this is nothing new. Most of the fishermen have multiple boats and captains in their past, but after seeing the bond that develops among the crew on a well-captained fishing vessel, it must be very difficult to "jump ship." Remember all of the conflict last year between Captain John Hillstrand and Captain Keith Colburn over the incident with Scottie and Eddie? And how about how hard it has been for Lenny to retire - notice that he still isn't retired! The kind of character it takes to thrive in such harsh conditions doing such brutal work leads to big egos and territorialism, and understandably so. Maybe it's the other way around... you have to have a certain amount of ego and macho attitude to be a fisherman. The biggest disappointment of all was the questions from the fans. Come on... "boxers or briefs"? Give me a break. These guys have just finished one of the most difficult seasons any of them can remember, and the fans want to know boxers or briefs? It was much better last year when Discovery did most of the moderation of the forum... Then there were the questions to Josh and Jake Harris and Jake Anderson that were in extremely poor taste. There's enough information available on the Internet and from fellow fans that these guys don't have to be slapped in the face with personal questions. Just sayin'. We didn't make the mistake of NOT walking the decks of the boats this year! In fact, we made a beeline there just as soon as we got in the door. It really paid off, because it was wonderful getting to experience in person the place where the magic happens. Notice our banner on the window of our room at the Edgewater. Nebraska was well represented at CatchCon. I have seen the banner in several national blogs and news articles about the event. And, while I won't go into details about how it happened, Sam also made it onto the deck of the Wizard and Northwestern. Lucky boy! Well connected friends resulted in a "behind the scenes" tour of some of the places on the boat off-limits to the general public. It couldn't have gotten any better. Cozy is a word that best describes the galley. It is amazing how tiny the space is, and it's all watched over by a print of the famous photograph "Grace" by Eric Enstrom. If you are a Deadliest Catch fan, and if they hold a CatchCon next year, you should really make plans to attend. The conversations with the guys, the chance to get on the boats, the opportunities available in Seattle to get a closer look at the fishing industry, and most of all, the chance to meet fellow fans and make new life-long friends is well worth it. In fact, start saving NOW! I may never wash my hands again... I got to touch the hydro controls. Actually, I used hand-sanitizer right away! Beautiful Elliot Bay in the background off the stern of the Northwestern. Yes, I do now know the difference between stern and bow, port and starboard. I think the show has a new fan now. All of the fan events were wonderful, but best of all was getting re-connected with all of the wonderful friends we made last year. Our biggest regret is that our quick trip didn't allow for enough time to spend with them. Philadelphia, Boston, Minneapolis, Grand Junction, Houston, Seattle, Washington DC... we have friends across the nation now.

Don't forget. Deadliest Catch is on Tuesday nights at 8pm CT, 9pm Eastern and Pacific. You'll love getting to know this great bunch of guys. They might not always be likeable, but they're always real... even if the story line emphasized by Discovery isn't.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

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