With insight borne from his decades spent at sea, Sig Hansen, captain of the F/V Northwestern and original cast member of “Deadliest Catch,” has determined that the only certainty in commercial fishing is the simple fact of uncertainty. “That’s the thing about fishing,” Hansen told Nicki Swift in an exclusive interview. “You can’t take it for granted. You can’t expect everything to go smoothly.”
“Deadliest Catch” is no stranger to adversity, or even tragedy. However, as the Discovery Channel hit entered its 17th season, Hansen and his fellow crab boat captains were confronted with a new wrinkle to the same old handful of dangerous unknowns: attempting to operate, thrive, or simply survive with the specter of COVID-19 blanketing their every personal and professional move.
Add into the pandemic fallout Hansen’s pitch for a tenuous alliance amongst the captains, some of the wildest, coldest fishing conditions the fleet had yet encountered, and the inevitabilities of onboard mechanical snafus — a “calamity,” as Hansen described what went down on the deck of the Northwestern — and there was a whole lot to navigate on the latest, epic season of “Deadliest Catch.”
Cagey crab captains and necessary alliances
With the attendant restrictions made necessary by the emergent threat of the coronavirus pandemic, it was a challenge just to get their boats out of port as the captains of “Deadliest Catch” headed into Season 17. And without the usual survey data from Alaska Fish and Game — another COVID casualty — Captain Sig Hansen and his colleagues were essentially fishing blind. Sig’s solution to all of this adversity? An alliance, even if he wasn’t sure these typically cagey captains would be all in.
“You’re just gonna lie to each other, just the way it is,” Hansen told Nicki Swift. “But I think they understood the risk that we were facing, which was literally no season at all. And without a season this year, you’re looking at a potential two-year shutdown of the protocol. So we had a lot on the line this year, more than any.”
The dangers — and the rush — of fishing in the North
In the wooly world of crab boat fishing depicted on the Discovery Channel hit “Deadliest Catch,” if it’s not one thing, it’s another. And so with all of the COVID-related chaos surging, and the alliance between he and his fellow captains barely holding, Sig Hansen had to fight through bad weather and worse trouble on board just to get the F/V Northwestern in a position to capably fish.
“We didn’t know what we were dealing with on many levels, you know, with health, potential illness,” Hansen told Nicki Swift . “Whether it’s weather or crew member issues or an accident or an incident, you know, that’s always there, and you always have to kind of roll with the punches when you’re out there.”
For Hansen, this crab season only got tougher because the unknowns hit so close to home. “Later on, we had the calamity, we had mechanical breakdowns that really hurt us,” Hansen told us. “We had a crane, which collapses. You know that’s not a nice business, a crane. You start pushing those around, they’re man killers, so you got to have that crane.” Cranes collapsing on deck? Just another day on the job for this veteran fishing captain. “It’s just unscripted. There’s so much unknown, and that’s what makes it fun. I’ll be 55 years old, and I get a rush every time I go up.”
“Deadliest Catch” is streaming now on Discovery+.
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