Clas­sic catches

Th­ese crus­tacean-chasers are among the most ma­cho he­roes on tele­vi­sion

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Guide -

WHEN you con­tem­plate the fir­ma­ment of TV stars, your first thoughts don’t fall on ma­cho fish­er­men who fight the el­e­ments eight months of the year to find Alaska’s king crab.

But Sig Hansen finds him­self in that rar­efied com­pany.

Hansen is cap­tain of the North­west­ern, one of the crab boats fea­tured on the Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel’s hit se­ries Dead­li­est Catch.

He has been skip­per­ing for 18 years and, with broth­ers Edgar and Nor­man, he chal­lenges the sea the way his Nor­we­gian fa­ther, grand­fa­ther and great-grand­fa­ther did.

‘‘The first cou­ple of years I hated it, but it grows on you,’’ Edgar says.

‘‘You don’t like it in­stantly, it takes a while, just like mould. It’s ad­dic­tive. It’s a dif­fer­ent world when you’re out there in the mid­dle of nowhere, some­thing about it keeps draw­ing me back.’’

Sig Hansen likes to keep the same crew, not only for crab fish­ing. He also runs sal­mon char­ters and fishes for cod.

‘‘We have the same peo­ple com­ing back and we do pay them a lit­tle more. On our boat we have a lot of fam­ily on there. It’s usu­ally some­one you know, it’s nice to hire some­one you know is go­ing to stick around for a while,’’ he says.

‘‘Back in the ’70s and early ’80s there was a lot of al­co­hol and drug abuse on the boats. Nowa­days we’re much more reg­u­lated.

‘‘So the guys, if they want to do their drink­ing, do it in town. But on the boat, no. It’s like an hon­ourable thing, you don’t do that. Nowa­days we have to take urine sam­ples if there’s an in­jury.’’

Each trip can range from two days to three weeks, de­pend­ing how long it takes to cor­ral the crab, and while they use an elec­tronic plot­ter and a GPS, find­ing the crus­taceans still de­pends on the cap­tain’s in­stincts.

There are four men on deck at all times and one in the bunk, and they sleep and eat in ro­ta­tion.

‘‘Guys like a steak when they can get it. They may have their din­ner at 7am,’’ Sig Hansen says.

Hansen spends be­tween $5000 and $10,000 on dry goods ev­ery sea­son, meals are rushed and the most com­mon fare is peanut but­ter sand­wiches.

‘‘We’ll have a four-day runout, I’ll stay awake for two days, take a lit­tle four-hour nap or some­thing — stay awake for one more day and the guys will run the boat in,’’ Hansen says of the rou­tine.

‘‘The guys are do­ing 16-hour shifts, four hours in the bunk. They ro­tate like that. It’s a ma­chine which never stops.’’

The most deadly of all his dead­li­est catches occurred when he was a new cap­tain.

‘‘She al­most sank be­cause I iced her up so bad,’’ he says of his boat.

‘‘It was my fault. It’s so cold as the boat’s driv­ing into the wave, ev­ery­thing’s in the air and com­ing on deck. It’s freez­ing in­stantly and you have to keep up with that. The guys have to go out with sledge­ham­mers and bats and break the ice off.

‘‘I was like 28 at the time. We were fish­ing and I didn’t want to stop and didn’t re­alise how much

Pitch and toss: (above) the crews fea­tured in Dead­li­est Catch brave the el­e­ments to find the ocean’s pre­cious bounty. At the helm: (top right) fourth­gen­er­a­tion fish­er­man Sig Hansen fought the pull of the sea but it won. Claws out: (left) crew mem­bers Jake Har­ris and Dave Mill­man sort crabs on the deck of the North­west­ern.

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