Jake Anderson returns to the Northwestern at the start of red crab. I saw an interview after last season in which Sig said he’d like him back, but Keith joked that someone else, meaning Johnathan, was looking for guys. Did you ever approach Jake for real, Johnathan?
Johnathan: I hired him! He was mine, and I was so happy. And I would have had a perfect, no problem boat. But they gave me Sunshine off the Northwestern.
Keith: Nice trade. Instead of Jake Anderson, they get Sunshine.
Johnathan: We renamed him Moonbeam — and lots of other names. His name’s Nick, so he’s got Nick-names. He’s the nicest kid ever, but he doesn’t belong on a crab boat. He makes great TV.
Bill: [To EW] Hey, you’re getting a lot of insider information. [To Johnathan] You know we’re being recorded.
Josh Harris and the Cornelia Marie return for Opi season. Producers have told me he has a co-captain, Casey McManus.
Bill: It’ll be interesting to see how it’s portrayed, how much he is driving.
Johnathan: I’d like to watch that myself…. We gave him a S-H-I-T shirt: It says, “I am the S—” on the front, and on the back, it says Skipper Harris in Training. [Laughs] We made him put it on without seeing what it said on the back…. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s gonna do it. He’s a little bit cocky.
Keith: He is a little bit cocky. But in all seriousness, we’re just givin’ him a hard time because he’s basically a greenhorn captain. As captains who’ve been out there, between the three of us, 90-plus years at sea, you always rib the new guy.
Bill: He’s getting an education. If your father’s a mason, that doesn’t mean you can build a fireplace.
Johnathan: Plus, he didn’t have to learn like us: He has a skipper. We were the guy. Everything was on us. All the paperwork was on us. You miss one piece of paperwork, you don’t go fishin’. We were sweatin’ bullets. Those were different days.
Bill: [To EW] Insurance won’t let him just take a boat out [now].
Johnathan: [Directly into tape recorder] We love you, Josh Harris. [To EW] Remember his dad [the late Capt. Phil Harris]? He did a lot of yelling. He was one of the best there was. We were watching the best of fights on boats.
Keith: I thought it was gonna be all me.
Johnathan: I thought it was gonna be all you, too, but it was just Phil. “Yeah, you could be an astronaut, but you’re not!” I loved Phil.
Let’s talk about Sig’s daughter Mandy, an accomplished gymnast, joining his deck for Opi. What do you guys think of that move?
Keith: The [uneven] bars is all about upper body and core strength. So even though she’s tiny, she’s still pretty tough.
Bill: And what was great, she’d sit at a table with us, and she could hang with the conversation. She’s intelligent.
Johnathan: She’s got the Hansen mentality. She wanted to go fishin’. Basically what she told her dad was, “I’ll go out on another boat if you don’t take me on your boat.” I told Sig, “I’ll take her out, but she’s gonna come home knocked up and pregnant.” I got all those young guys on my boat now.
Keith: So needless to say, Sig put her on his boat as quickly as possible so he could keep an eye on her.
Have you guys ever had female deckhands on boats you’ve worked on?
Johnathan: Yeah. They end up knocked up and pregnant…. My daughter should be named Opilio Hillstrand because her mom was out on a ship when she was conceived.
Bill: My daughter was conceived on a boat, and her name is Delia, which means “jewel of the sea.”
Johnathan: [Bill] met his wife in Togiak, Alaska. That’s the Death Valley of Alaska.
Bill: They put row techs on the boat, and end of the season, I just kept her. It took the ship two days to figure out she wasn’t there. They called me up and said, “Hey, did you take somethin’?” I said, “Yeah, she’s here.” [All laugh] But I always worried about takin’ a woman on the boat, because there’s a lot of women that watch the show, and if she didn’t make it or —
Keith: Would you be the most evil man ever? I’ve had that thought, too. There was a gal who flew to Alaska about three or four years ago. She got a hold of me in advance. She’s from Wyoming. She’s about 6′ tall. Her arms are bigger than mine. She was, like, a Division 1 volleyball player. Raised on a farm. If there’s ever a girl that’s gonna be able to do it, it’s her. So I said, “You know what, I don’t have any work, but you can stay on the boat, and that way you don’t have to spend über amounts of money trying to find a job while you’re in Dutch [Harbor].” She was diligent. She was lookin’ every day on the dock, and every day she would come back and say, “I didn’t find anything. Are you sure you don’t need a deckhand?” Ohmygod, after about three days, I’m like, “Oh please, please, find a job or leave.” I just got freaked out.
Johnathan: Was she hot?
Keith: She was attractive, yeah.
Johnathan: She would’ve got me. [All laugh] It’s hard to have girls out on the boats because the guys start trying to do stuff for them. “Here, let me do that for you.”
Keith: They’re a distraction, plain and simple. That’s the number one reason why we don’t have women.
Johnathan: Sex is on our minds enough that we don’t need to see someone bend over. It’s like if you put eight people on an island together, and there’s one female. Something’s gonna happen. Like Naked and Afraid. Some of them might be Naked and Pretty Happy. [All laugh]
Isn’t there also a superstition that women are bad luck on boats?
Keith: You can’t do that anymore because 30 percent of the time we have state observers come on the boat, and most of the time, they’re girls. So if you’re freaked out about a girl on the boat, how are we gonna catch crab when the state says, “Oh, here’s your observer for the next month-and-a-half, and it’s a girl”?
Johnathan: Young 18-19-year old girls, and they end up having relationships with sometimes a few of the guys.
Keith: Not on my boat. They know the rules. Don’t go down that road.
Johnathan: I can’t wait to see if Mandy Hansen can hold her own. I’ll say, “Wow,” if they don’t have to help her out and she hangs for the whole time.
Keith: Or will Sig let her try to hang? Is he gonna baby her? Is he gonna be rough on her? Is he gonna protect her?
Is retirement, and who’ll inherit the wheelhouse, going to be discussed on the Time Bandit this year, Johnathan?
Johnathan: Yeah, you’re gonna hear stuff that’s been asked too many times, then people snap and say, “F you, you’re not in my family anymore.” Andy had to tell my son, “You’re dead to me. You no longer exist” because the camera guys kept having Scotty zero in on Andy and trap him in the wheelhouse.
Keith: That’ll make the show.
Johnathan: It’s gonna be bulls—. But he said it. He should’ve kept his cool.
Bill: Something will happen, and you’ll think, “Ah, that’s gotta make an episode,” and then all season you watch for it, and that doesn’t make it but something that you can hardly remember does. It just works out for editing…. My mom’s like 85. She’ll call me and say, “I’m so happy you weren’t on the show much last night. It means everything must be going okay on your boat.” Her perception is all they do is show all the bad stuff.
Keith: My mom just stopped watching.
What are moments you were surprised didn’t make it into the show over the years?
Keith: Two years ago, I took a wave that moved the entire stack about four feet, destroyed four pots, and I had to jettison pots, do a bunch of crazy stuff to get into town, never made the show.
Bill: I did a crazy MacGyver fix on a generator, and nothin’.
Johnathan: We had the same thing, where it was blowin’ 50, and we just barely got our motor goin’. Just as it came up really hard, a guy on deck almost got hurt, and it shows [Capt.] Elliott [Neese] fixin’ an air compressor instead. An air compressor, you don’t even need that to run your boat…. You know why we watch the show: Because we love to watch the misery and pain of these other guys, because it makes us feel better about our pain and misery. [All laugh]
Bill: [To EW] It’s funny, you haven’t asked anything about Elliott. This is normally the way it goes: “Hey, Capt. Bill, love you on the show. Why are so mean to your son?” And then the next thing is, “What’s up with that Elliott guy?” Those are usually the questions I get on the road.
Johnathan: Snoop Dogg asked him that in the elevator.
Keith: When I’m on the road, I get, “Hey, Keith, why are you so mean to your brother? Why is Bill so mean to his kid?” [Bill and Keith laugh]
Producers told me Saga remains a good name for Elliott’s boat.
Johnathan: Elliott’s doing the same stuff Elliott does…. [But] you’ll see a four- or five-minute segment where he is a hero.
Keith: Elliott has some redeeming qualities and some redeeming moments. [To EW] And that’s all you’re gonna get on Elliott.
Bill: Remember Dallas, and how everybody hated J.R.? He’s the J.R. of Deadliest Catch.
Keith: Which is the best thing that ever happened to “Wild” Bill and myself. [All laugh] I’m serious, man. I used to get so much hate mail, and then Elliott came along.
Johnathan: If J.R. and the devil could figure out how to have a baby, that would be Elliott. [All laugh] But otherwise he’s probably a great guy. I don’t really know him that well.
The only captain we haven’t touched on is Junior (Scott Campbell Jr.). He has a serious back problem on the Seabrooke. Do you guys see that and cringe?
Johnathan: We have bad backs, too, so we know his pain. I’ve had my back hurt so bad that I’ve thrown up. It made me literally vomit, and I still fished the season. I’m glad I never had the operation that he ends up having because he still hurts. We saw him, and he got up out of the chair like a 70-year-old man. He’s got a battle ahead.
Keith: If you have any weaknesses on the Bering Sea, and you’re sittin’ in the chair, it will exploit them, and you’ll be retired before you want to be retired. So it’s not good.
Johnathan: Now you know the whole season.
Bill: Even that Elliott’s the devil’s spawn.
Johnathan: If Keith Richards and the devil could figure out how to have a baby together, there’s Elliott.
Keith: And Joan Rivers. [All laugh]
Bill: Other than that, we all really like Elliott.