Friday, April 18, 2008

Deadliest Catch Season 4 Episode 1

The show opens cold, and they get right back into it – boom, rogue wave hits the Wizard, puts a hole in the hull, and they’ve got gear rolling around topside.

(And I get right back into it, using expressions like “gear rolling around topside” like I know what I’m talking about.)

And then they hit me with that opening lick from Bon Jovi’s “Wanted: Dead or Alive.” Aw, yeah. It’s on.

Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch is back, baby! And I know I’ve been jonesing for a while now. I can tell, because it’s not normal for a guy who works in an office in San Francisco to look out the window and think: “I wonder how Opilio crab season is going.”

Fishing for crab is incredibly hard work, and seriously dangerous - last year, a boat sank, and with heavy equipment swinging around on a pitching, slippery deck, a lethal injury is a constant possibility. But when the crews hit it big, when they are "on the crab," it's also rewarding and lucrative. The crew members can make up to $40,000-$50,000 for a few weeks' work. But what work it is.

Most of the same crews are back from last season:

Cornelia Marie, with Captain Phil.

“Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up…everything.”
Bonus Trivia: Lives on Marlboros and Red Bull.

Northwestern, with Captain Sig Hanson.

Or as my friend Em calls him, "Captain Sig Handsome (wink)!”
Bonus Trivia: Sig and Edgar were on Martha Stewart earlier this week, and apparently helped design a crab fishing game for XBox 360. (Both true.)

Time Bandit, Captains Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand.

Johnathan looks like a roadie for Molly Hatchet.
Bonus Trivia: Andy has a horse farm in Indiana. My girlfriend thinks Andy’s hot.

Wizard, with Captain Keith Colbrun.

Might actually be retired baseball star Wade Boggs, I'm not sure...
Bonus Trivia: Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.

There are a lot of family ties in the crab fleet. Every boat has either brothers, or fathers and sons. Two boats, Northwestern and Time Bandit, have 3 brothers, of which one stays in the background. On Time Bandit, Johnathan and Andy are out front, Neal’s in the background. On Northwestern, Sig is out front, Edgar is running the deck, and Norman is keeping the engines running. It’s like they each have a John, a Paul, and… a Ringo. A Groucho, and Harpo, and... a Gummo.

This season, Johnathan’s 25 year-old son Scotty is on the Time Bandit, joining the ranks of the second-generation, along with Captain Phil’s sons Jake and Josh.

(So, okay, I thought Johnathan was about 40. A weathered 40. He has a 25 year-old son? And why does he look more like Andy than Johnathan, hmm?)

What does Phil do in the off-season to stay in such terrible shape? smoke, drink, anything else? He looks like he’s been on a losing streak at a third-rate card club with no sleep for about six months.

Phil’s sons are apparently actively trying to kill the old man. For the second year in a row, they went nuts in town with Dad’s credit card. This time, Jake bought a $800 plasma TV for the boat.

The captains gather at the local watering hole for a final drink and to place the traditional wager - winner is the captain who hauls the best string of pots. They toast with a drink of Crown Royal, Bailey's and Kahlua - called a "duck fart." It's a little priceless to hear Mike Rowe, the narrator/host of the show and Ford pitchman, say "they sealed the bet with a round of duck farts."

The crews take care of all the last minute business before they set out. Northwestern is having some engine problems, which they get fixed by a guy who looks like Pete Seeger. (A lotta guys in Alaska are sporting that look, based on the show.)

Johnathan and Andy do their ritual pre-trip call home, and during the call, their mom predicts tragedy. Nice.

"Have a good trip! But someone's gonna die." Thanks, mom. Glad we called.

"Andy's hot," says my girlfriend. Okay, I get it.

And then, they're off to the fishing grounds to set the pots, and haul... wait for it... The Deadliest Catch!

Captain Keith on the Wizard is a little superstitious. En route, he sees whales - good omen. Also, he needs to have a Cup-o-noodles in the wheelhouse before he'll set gear. (I should do that before I start a new spreadsheet or powerpoint presentation.) Uh-oh, crisis: no Cup-o-noodles on board. (And of course I thought: "Just like Mrs. Hillstrand prophesied.") They set pots anyway, despite Keith's misgivings.

First pots for Cornelia M. - ooh, ouch. Nada. Second string? not much better. Not a good start.


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