In case you ever wondered whether the crab fishermen of Discovery’s Tuesday-night reality hit “Deadliest Catch” are now living Kardashian-style lives and hiring other people to do the dirty work, wonder no more.
“I’m in the wheelhouse,” Edgar Hansen, deckboss of the F/V Northwestern, tells Zap2it. “We’re in the shipyard. We’re doing all the boat maintenance. We’ve got engines torn apart, cranes off.”
Told that TV stars should have people to handle this for them, Hansen laughs.
“Oh, no,” he says, “you should see me right now. I’m covered in grease and paint chips. We’re trying to get it all done by June 2, to go after salmon. We do that in June, July and August. We’re a little nervous about it, but whatever, it’ll come together.”
Hansen’s older brother, Sig Hansen, is captain of the huge white Northwestern, one of the top boats in Alaska’s Bering Sea fishing fleet. For many years, the brothers had worked out a system — Sig ran the boat from the wheelhouse, and Edgar ran the deck.
But then reality-show cameras came on board, and Edgar found himself contemplating a big question.
“The camera guy got in my face one day,” he recalls, “and he’s like, ‘How much longer do you think you’ve got? Because you’re down here, busting your a**, and you’re the go-to guy. You do everything. What happens when you’re too broken to fish? What are you going to do?
“That really got me going, ‘Damn, I don’t know.'”
Like many fishermen, Edgar Hansen had his issues with hard partying during his time on shore. So, while Sig may have trusted him on the deck, he didn’t necessarily trust him at the helm of the multimillion-dollar Northwestern operation.
“He likes to tease me and fight with me, that kind of thing,” says Hansen. “I’m kind of the black sheep of the family, I guess you could say. I’ve cleaned up my act quite a bit here over the last couple, few years, so, what can I say? If he still sees me as that guy …
“At some point, he’s going to have to give it up — not give it up, but what happens if he gets hurt? What happens if he has a heart attack or breaks a leg?”
So what’s the hold-up?
“He’s arguing that the formula works,” says Hansen, “him up here, and me down there, because if I come up here, we’ve got to hire new guys. I’m saying, not only is change good, but it’s inevitable.”
Also, it’s not like the Northwestern doesn’t have talent on deck, and that includes another sibling and the captain’s protege, up-and-coming deckhand Jake Anderson, who has been in charge of the deck, piloted the boat into dock and kept the vitally important logbook.
“Yeah, that’s all fine and dandy,” says Edgar, “but when Jake’s head is so far up Sig’s a** …”
Hanson also chuckles at the idea that Anderson is Sig’s surrogate son.
“Right,” he says, “Sig’s got two daughters, and now he has one more, and his name’s Jake. But we’ve got Jake; we’ve got Norm, our other brother. He’s on deck. He’s eager and willing. I don’t think he wants to run the boat or anything, and Norman’s completely capable. They just don’t show it on TV, because he hates the cameras.”
Hansen is also well acquainted with another sibling drama on the Bering Sea, that of Josh and Jake Harris, sons of the late Capt. Phil Harris of the F/V Cornelia Marie.
In an interview two weeks ago with Zap2it, Josh Harris says he’s acquired ownership of the Cornelia Marie and plans to fish for king crab this fall.
“I heard he got it,” says Hansen, “but until I see that thing in the water with somebody behind the wheel — then I’ll believe it.”
According to his older brother, Jake Harris has taken a year off from fishing to deal with substance abuse and other issues. But before that, he was working on the Northwestern after his father’s death in early 2010.
“We tried to help Jake out as best we could,” says Hansen, “show him how to live, number one, show him how to fish on a real boat, away from your buddies and your dad and your brother. Because, Jake is a really good fisherman. He could be. He’s got it. He’s got what it takes, but he just needs to get past all the stuff he’s going through in his life to be able to excel in fishing.”
Josh Harris is encouraging about his brother’s prospects, but Hansen says, “I haven’t heard a word from [Jake], which kills me. I just hate to think what he’s out there doing. As fishermen, we’ve all been through it. It’s just part of the game. This was the cycle — you worked hard, and you played hard. But any fisherman knows that there’s a time and a place for everything, and on the boat is not one of them.
Speaking of love, Hansen says his Norwegian-American family was never demonstrative and still isn’t.
“Our father provided for us,” he says, “showed us how to do that. Just because you provided for your family doesn’t mean you had to be nice to them.
“We have a family business to run; it just sucks that we don’t act as a family. I love Sig to death, but we don’t show it. We don’t say it. I just show up, do my job, help him out and keep everybody alive.”
It could be interesting, then, if Hansen ran up to the wheelhouse, put his arms around his big brother and gave him a kiss.
“He’d probably throw up in his mouth,” quips Hansen. “I did it on ‘After the Catch’ once, and I think it was the most awkward moment of his life.”
Here’s a clip from Tuesday’s (May 14) episode, which you can see exclusively on Zap2it: