Each year, hundreds of fishermen converge on Dutch Harbor, Alaska, for the beginning of the Alaskan king crab season. While at sea, they face nearly 24-hour shifts for days at a time, in less than optimal conditions: 40-foot waves, 80-mph winds, subfreezing weather and 700-pound crab pots slamming against the deck — not to mention a nearly 100 percent injury rate. But the payoff can be huge: Well-placed pots can collect millions of dollars worth of highly prized king crabs … or just enough crabs to cover the boat’s operating expenses. Whatever the take, the men and their families will feel the effects for the rest of the year.So who are these men risking their lives for their livelihood? Meet the captains of the six boats featured during Deadliest Catch 4.Capt. Sig Hansen
NorthwesternA fourth-generation fisherman, Sig Hansen has been a captain for the past 18 years. A classic Norwegian skipper, Sig obsesses over every decision and revels in the competition and strategy of fishing. He can be extremely superstitious. His list of must-haves before he starts each season includes yellow Post-it notes and pencils with erasers taped to the tops.Sig operates the Northwestern with the help of his younger brothers, Deck Boss Edgar Hansen and Deckhand Norman Hansen. The trio also inspired the all-new Xbox 360® video game titled Deadliest Catch Alaskan Storm, an intense crab fishing adventure that puts players at the helm of a fishing vessel to search for crab while battling the elements of Mother Nature.Sig hails from Seattle, Wash., where he lives in the off-season with his wife and two daughtersCapt. Phil Harris
Cornelia MarieA highly experienced seaman, Captain Phil Harris has worked in the commercial fishing industry for over 30 years. He has spent 17 of those years operating and co-owning the Cornelia Marie. Phil is joined again this season by his two sons, Josh and Jake. Josh, the older but less seasoned brother, is returning for a second season after serving as a greenhorn last year. Jake is returning for his fourth season of fishing and second season at full-share earning status.Phil lives in Seattle, Wash., during the off-season, where his hobbies include building handmade bird feeders and riding his Harley.
Capts. Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand
Time BanditBrothers Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand share the skippering duties onboard their family-owned and operated vessel, the Time Bandit. Johnathan is the captain during king crab season. His love for living on the edge doesn’t end when he gets off the boat, either. He’s often seen wearing his distinctive leather jacket and cowboy boots, and has a passion for riding his supercharged Harley. In the off-season, he splits his time between Seattle, Wash., and Homer, Alaska.Andy Hillstrand is the skipper during opilio crab season and spearheads the business side of the family’s fishing venture. During the off-season, Andy lives on a ranch in Indiana where he engages in his other passion — training horses.A third brother, Deckhand Neal Hillstrand, has two of the most important duties on the boat — cooking and keeping the boat running. Neal resides in Homer, where he also owns and operates a hydroseeding company.
Designed by the Hillstrands’ father and custom-built by the brothers, the Time Bandit features luxuries unheard of on other crab boats, including staterooms with queen-sized beds, a four-person sauna and a dishwasher.
Capt. Keith Colburn
WizardKeith Colburn is the captain of the Wizard, a World War II-era Navy ship that was converted into a fishing vessel in 1978. He started out as a deckhand on the boat in 1988, and eventually took over the skipper duties in 1994. When the owner was looking to sell the boat, Keith took a gamble and purchased it in 2005, knowing he would have to lease virtually all of his crab quota since he didn’t own the boat when IFQs (individual fishing quotas) were issued to boat owners earlier that year. The IFQ situation forces Keith to lease his quota from other boats each year.Keith’s brother Monte Colburn joins him as a deckhand and relief skipper.Always the adventure seeker, Keith recently ran with the bulls in Pamplona. He lives outside Seattle, Wash., with his wife and two children.
Capt. Sten Skaar
North AmericanSten Skaar owns the North American with his family and serves as its captain. Sten’s brother John works on deck and is the boat’s engineer. The Skaar family has a strong history in commercial fishing, starting with Sten’s father Erling who was enticed into the business by Captain Sig Hansen’s father, Sverre Hansen. This sparked a friendly Norwegian rivalry that still exists today.The North American is a “green” fishing boat. Cutting-edge experimental maritime technology was designed by the Skaars to generate greater fuel efficiency and lower emissions. The engine system is called Gen-Tech, and uses hydraulics to power a backup engine. On trips between Dutch Harbor and Seattle, the hydraulic-driven generator can eliminate nearly 12 tons of carbon emissions.When he is not fishing, Sten follows the pursuits that his hard work affords him — golf, soccer and travel.Capt. Rick Fehst
Early DawnThis is Rick’s first season as captain for the lucrative Early Dawn. As a young man he decided to become a crab fisherman, and after serving only three years as a greenhorn, was given his first opportunity to skipper a vessel. Ever since then he has worked hard on numerous boats as both deckhand and captain. Three years ago he joined the crew of the Early Dawn, and at 43 years of age he is proud to be at the helm.Captain Rick Fehst loves his job! In his 25 years in the Bering Sea, Rick has only missed one crab season due to injury. Fishing is his passion and he hopes to do it until the age of 60. It is rare for him to fish any less than eight months out of every year, catching red king, golden king and opilio crab.Rick has been married for 15 years and has two children. While rarely at home in Edmonds, Wash., he enjoys working on his house and in the garden during his shore leave.
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