Braving the Bering Sea

Captain Johnathan HillstrandIf 30-foot waves, freezing temperatures and exhausting work hours on the Bering Sea sound like your idea of a dream job, then you might want to consider a spot as the newest “Greenhorn” on Captain Phil Harris’s crab fishing boat, the Cornelia Marie. With King Crab season starting in October Phil and his two sons, Josh and Jake, from cable television’s “Deadliest Catch” aren’t wasting any time looking for someone to fill the position.

Last Saturday, August 29, Harris and his sons made a stop in Las Vegas at the Gold Coast to search for and interview potential candidates. Captain Johnathan Hillstrand from the Time Bandit, also featured on the “Deadliest Catch,” joined them for a meet and greet with fans that took place that afternoon. More than 300 people showed up for the meet and greet and out of those, about 25 people put their name on a list to be interviewed for a spot on the boat.

While some people may have viewed the search as just an opportunity to get on television, Russ W. Herriott, president of Sports & Entertainment International, Inc., which represents Phil Harris, assured me that this wasn’t an “American Idol” type gimmick.

“These people don’t understand what goes into just standing on the boat,” said Herriott. “You can’t let pain get to you. It’s constant, and it doesn’t stop.”

He explained that in order for the deck hands to maintain their grueling work hours, many of them have to sleep with a wooden spoon or other brace tapped to their hands to prevent them from clenching into fists from severe muscle strain. With quotas to meet and unpredictable weather conditions, deck hands don’t have time to wait for their hands to loosen up before they have to start working again.

But just being physically strong isn’t enough. Aside from just having a high pain tolerance, in order to be a “Greenhorn” you have to be a risk taker. There’s no trial run or training session. It’s all on-the-job training, explained Josh Harris.

Despite the extreme work conditions, he’s always wanted to be a crab fisherman.

“When I was 10 I needed money for school clothes, and my dad said ‘it’s time to go fishing,’” said Josh.

The passion that he and his brother have for their work is what Phil is hoping to find in the next “Greenhorn.”

“We need a guy that wants to go fishing,” said Phil. “It’s more attitude and heart. You have to love what you’re doing, and the rest of it’s easy.”

Applicants who were interviewed were asked to send in a three-minute video stating why they think they should be the next “Greenhorn.” From there, Herriott, Phil, Josh and Jake are going to determine who can cut it for the next season. Only time will tell if one of them will actually be selected to join the crew of the Cornelia Marie.