Discovery: Welcome to our weekly Deadliest Catch chat series. Tonight’s guests are Greg and Ragnhild Moncrief. Ask the Deadliest Catch husband and wife team about their first season on the show and life on the Bering Sea together.
Ragnhild Moncrief: We’re glad to be here and look forward to answering some questions.
rEvA:Greg, what is it like fishing with your wife onboard?
Greg Moncrief: It’s different. Of all the years I’ve been fishing or running boats, I’ve been in charge. I pretty much lost that. I wasn’t the boss anymore
fisherqueen: Ragnhild, what made you decide to join your husband out on the sea?
Ragnhild Moncrief: Last time I joined him was in 2002, for king crab and I was only cooking at that time. Greg has been asking me about going back. He started asking me last year and I started thinking about it. I got the time off from my regular job so that made it possible. So I said yes to joining him this time for king crab.
Kyle:So what’s it like to have cameras on the boats all the time?
Greg Moncrief: At first it was different, because the cameras were everywhere. But as time went on we kind of got used to them. Todd and Cameron, the camera guys were great to work with. So we got used to them, but at the beginning it was a little odd though.
L7: Do you ever use pickled herring for bait?
Greg Moncrief: No, I think Ragnhild used that to catch me! I think there was some in the refrigerator, actually it’s pickled salmon. No, we don’t use it for bait.
longlinegal: Ragnhild, tell us about those cool boots you wore.
Ragnhild Moncrief: That’s a long story because when I first used to come up to Alaska back in ’86 and ’89 I always liked to have different boots. I used to hate the style boots everybody wears, so when my friends heard I was going out they asked if I was going to wear those ugly brown boots again. I said no, I would like not to. They said they’d help me find some cool boots to bring to Alaska this time. So, I bought them and wore them. That’s why I decided to wear them. I like the boots and I decided to go for it – buy them and wear them.
Greg Moncrief: She has another pair but they haven’t aired yet!
Milinko12: Hello Greg and Ragnhild. Greg, does it surprise you that your wife enjoyed being on deck so much? At the beginning of the show (in the bathroom), it didn’t look too promising!!
Greg Moncrief: Well, last time she was on the boat she went out on one day and took pictures and never went outside again. So, I was really surprised when she went out on deck and stayed out on the deck, even when the weather got worse. She surprised me, impressed me She did a lot better than I thought she would.
dumptruck: How cold does it really get on the deck of a crab boat during the season?
Greg Moncrief: For king crab, it wasn’t real cold. But as the year goes on it gets colder, when you get into opilios it gets a lot colder, that’s in January/February/March. It was in the 40s and 50s for king crab, and this last year snow crab or opilio at the end we were at -20. That’s why I don’t go outside, and you’ll see why Ragnhild was crying.
repousmc: What do you do the other months when you are not fishing for crab?
Greg Moncrief: Ragnhild has a full-time job, she’s a travel agent. So she does corporate for fishing companies. And I work up at a golf course, mowing grass for free golf. And we also tender salmon with the Farwest Leader in the summer, in June and July.
skarz: What’s the biggest King Crab count you ever had for one pot?
Greg Moncrief: Last season I think it was about 153 in the biggest pot we had.
KingCrabber: Greg, were your crew members concerned about having your wife onboard?
Greg Moncrief: Well, they were a little leery, but actually Tico, Ricky and Chilly were on the boat when Ragnhild was on two years ago. And she comes up every summer for salmon, so they’re all familiar with her.
jewfish: Where do you all live during the off-season? What states?
Greg Moncrief: Ragnhild and I live in Seattle, Mukilteo area, north of Seattle. Tico lives south of Seattle. Johnny is in Anacortes. And Ricky and Cory both live in Montana.
utjazz1: How long have you been at this and my second question is why don’t the deckhands always wear their life safety suits? If I were on board and went overboard, I would at least want a chance of survival.
Ragnhild Moncrief: They all wear their life suits, but they wear them under their rain gear so you can’t see them.
Greg Moncrief: They’re like two strips; Mustang self-inflating life vests. All my crew is required to wear them whenever they go outside. On this last episode, you saw me put Ragnhild’s on and then her raincoat over it.
LBrach: Ragnhild, how much time did you spend on deck? It looked like you enjoyed sorting crabs.
Ragnhild Moncrief: I did. During king crab I was out there after I cooked basically two meals a day and cleaned up. I spent a few strings out there, two to three hours maybe. I did enjoy it. At first I was bored, but I got used to sorting the crab and I got to enjoy it.
Meht:How did the two of you meet and how long have you been married?
Ragnhild Moncrief: We met up in Alaska on a factory trawler when we were both there working in 1986. We got married in 1989. I still fished in 1989, our oldest daughter was born in 1990.
WHITELION: What IS the toughest part of the job?
Ragnhild Moncrief: I thought everything was tough, I didn’t think anything was easy, cooking or working on deck. If I was to pick, the toughest was hauling the pots. The easiest was the sorting of the crab out on deck.
miki_d: Ragnhild, did you take any meds to help with your sea sickness, or did you just get better on your own?
Ragnhild Moncrief: Yes, before we left Dutch Harbor I had a patch behind my ear, but I had to take it off because it dried me out. I tried to make it without medicine. When we got out there someone from another boat gave me a tablet, I was down for a couple of hours but that got me back on my feet.
Virginia Fans: Ragnhild, what was it like the first time you grabbed a crab on deck?
Ragnhild Moncrief: It’s hard to explain. I’ve never enjoyed touching live crab; the previous time I was up there I had a hard time with that. I’d have to say the gloves I was wearing helped me a lot. Without gloves I couldn’t do it. I got slowly used to it and the way they moved. They moved rather slowly, the king crab, so I got better at it but it was slow for me. Handling king crab is tough and they’re also very heavy. I got tendonitis almost immediately during king crab season.
rcooked: What has the crew’s reaction been to the popularity of the show?
Greg Moncrief: I haven’t talked much to the crew, so I don’t know. Actually, this last episode was the first we were shown, I don’t think they realize anything about the popularity. They’ve seen the show but nothing has affected them yet. At this moment, we’re on the east coast so it hasn’t aired yet on the west coast.
hojo: Who sets the weight quota for each boat?
Greg Moncrief: The quota comes out from National Marine Fisheries. They come out with the whole quota for all the boats in total. Then the individual for each boat is decided on your past catch history. That’s where they get it. Then they have other boats catching other quotas. But individually each boat gets their own quota and they lease more from other boats. I think for king crab this year if you caught someone else’s quota you paid them 60% and you kept 40%. I’m not sure.
sfshrimp: Will Ragnhild go again?
Ragnhild Moncrief: I wouldn’t rule it out for king crab but I’ll say I’ll never go for opilios again.
Greg Moncrief: She had a real bad time for opilios.
BP901: Hi Greg. I notice that a lot of times the captains in the wheel house are just wearing shorts and a T-shirt! What is the temperature in the wheelhouse compared to on deck?
Greg Moncrief: Well, that all depends. You can have it really hot, but I keep it a little cooler to help stay awake, because it can be boring. So, I don’t wear shorts. I keep the windows and doors open so it’s not so hot so I can be more alert.
goofy173: Ragnhild: Did you ever get pinched by a crab?
Ragnhild Moncrief: All the time! I used to call it getting bitten by a crab. It took them a long time to teach me it was getting pinched by a crab in English. But it happened a lot.
xxrdddxx: Great episode tonight! How was it that the ship that went down just had 4 crew on board? Seems like the ships are much larger than that?
Greg Moncrief: The Ocean Challenger was a smaller boat, I’m not positive but I think it was only 58 or 60 feet. I’m not real familiar with the boat, but it was a smaller boat.
rsdjcarter: How did you get a Capt. gig?
Greg Moncrief: Well, I worked on deck for a long time and then started running boats ten years part-time and the last seven years full-time. And I’ve had the Farwest Leader for the last six years.
Virginia Fans: What made you decide to drop the first pots in the region you did?
Greg Moncrief: We fished there last year and then my partner boat, the Barbra J, was farther north and he was seeing some signs. So I set farther south from him so we worked together, covering a little more ground.
astros: What’s the longest time you’ve stayed awake fishing?
Greg Moncrief: Running a boat it’s been about 48 hours. Working on the Artic Eagle, on deck for a guy named Joe was about 72 hours.
dumptruck: What are the rules about international waters? Can you fish anywhere you want to?
Greg Moncrief: No, not really. We cannot cross the Russian line to the Northwest. The only fisheries that go out to that area would be opilios, but we didn’t have to go that far this year. And with American fisheries we have borders where we’re allowed to fish king crab and opilios, all the different fishers have borders where we can go.
Butch864: Ragnhild, how could you stand digging in the bait bin. Doesn’t it smell really bad?
Ragnhild Moncrief: That is true. In the very beginning when the bait is fresh and it’s kind of half-frozen and hasn’t started to stink yet, that’s when we filmed this episode. It gets worse. You can’t breathe. You just have to hold your breath! It does get worse.
jewfish: I know the crew doesn’t have much free time, do they use ship to shore radio, during free time, or just sleep?
Greg Moncrief: They mainly watch movies. We don’t use ship to shore. We have a satellite phone, but most of them don’t call. They watch movies. All of them have little DVD players in their bunks. So, they watch movies and fall asleep.
Domino: After hearing about that boat go down, do you guys ever consider giving up the season and working easier catch?
Greg Moncrief: No, you can’t compare. We were in a totally different area You’re always concerned with the safety of your crew, but you’ve got your job to do. If the weather gets that bad you stop fishing and just wait the storm out, but you don’t give up. You just wait it out.
utjazz1: What is your handicap in golf? Did you watch the Masters?
Greg Moncrief: Yes, I watched the Masters. Living on a golf course you think I’d be pretty good at it, butâ€¦ It’s going down. It’s gone down 4 strokes in 2 weeks. I came in first in a tournament on Sunday. It’s getting better, but I won’t discuss the number. When I come back from fishing it isn’t where I left off, it’s back where I started.
staceyh7203: How do you keep you and your crew healthy through the wet and cold weather?
Greg Moncrief: If it’s that bad I let them come in and change after each string. In the cold they stop and change in between each string. We try to eat two meals a day, pretty decent ones. My problem is I get so carried away with fishing I forget to eat. The main thing is to get them to eat and keep them out of their wet clothes as much as possible.
Funzy28: Does Ragnhild get a paycheck like everyone else?
Greg Moncrief: Yes, she gets paid a crew share, actually a half-share; half of what the regular guys got. The deal was she got that if she worked on deck as well as cooking. And she did. You can tell by her Nordstrom’s credit card bill!
skarz: Greg, how deep is the water where you set the crab pots? How much does it vary?
Greg Moncrief: For king crab I was fishing in about 38 to 42 fathoms, so 252 was the deepest. Opilios was anywhere between 50 and 60 fathoms, so about 300-350 feet.
longlinegal: Ragnhild, what kind of meals do you serve the boys? Are you going to share your recipes with your fans?
Ragnhild Moncrief: Yes, I will. It was very difficult the first few days because I had to figure out what kind of food they like to eat. It took a little time. I figured out they were more steak and potatoes guys for dinner. They liked chili so I made that a few times. They liked pork chops, hash browns, and eggs. Regular American breakfast. Meat and potatoes for dinner. They don’t like casseroles, I found that out the hard way. They like cake, I made a few of those.
Greg Moncrief: She made a really good cheesecake.
hojo: How is a crew’s share determined?
Greg Moncrief: I get a certain percentage for the crew and then split it up. On our boat, 40 percent of the gross after bait, fuel, and food. What’s left goes to the crew.
onagrind89: Women, suitcases and four legged animals are considered bad luck on a boat, but it looks like you are bucking the trend. What are your superstitions?
Greg Moncrief: Well, suitcases and umbrellas are still a no. Four-legged creatures, not that bad. I don’t leave port on a Friday. And I don’t let them whistle in the wheelhouse. Actually, with the women on the boat we did pretty well.
Wyocrabfan: What is it like being the only women on the boat?
Ragnhild Moncrief: That was very difficult. I don’t know how exactly how to put it into words. I learned a lot about guys that one month out there. I will never be in an environment again like that, last time, in 2002, there were fewer men. It was interesting. They were all really nice to me and considerate. I tried to be nice to them so they liked me better.
bobbi: Can you let us know the criteria for keeping and releasing crabs caught?
Greg Moncrief: For king crab their top shell has to be 6.5 inches wide, not counting the legs, and they have to be male. If they meet that, if they’re male and over 6.5 – we keep them.
crabber: Hi Greg, are you first generation fishing?
Greg Moncrief: Yes. My father was Coast Guard, so I’ve been at sea since I could walk. I grew up in Juneau, Alaska and Ketchikan, Alaska but I’ve been fishing since I was I think 11, for halibut.
bignick: I was wondering how much does it cost for a survival suit?
Greg Moncrief: I’m not exactly sure, I think they’re about $300
rendrag54: Hmm…your oldest daughter is my age. how come she isn’t on the show, too?
Ragnhild Moncrief: Christina has spent two summers in Bristol Bay on the Farwest Leader doing salmon tendering and she’s planning on maybe going back this summer for her third year.
flagger: Did Ragnhild do any wheel watch for you?
Greg Moncrief: Yes, I taught Ragnhild how to drive the boat. She drove the boat and hauled a few pots actually.
utjazz1: How often do the boats break down during the season? Are the boats reliable or is it something you always need to work on?
Greg Moncrief: You always have stuff to do. With king crab we didn’t have any breakdowns . You watch the opilios season there; will be a few new twists to it. And then we did have a breakdown up to Dutch Harbor, that’s why we were late. Other than that, they’re pretty reliable, you just have unforeseen problems.
vabeacher: Ragnhild, did your perception of your husband change any after being out there working with him? Woman to woman here…I am wondering if there were things he did that bugged you working for him or did you gain a new sense of respect for him watching him work?
Ragnhild Moncrief: I have worked for Greg before. I knew that he would be considerate of me. I was a little worried in an all men environment, I wasn’t sure how he’d treat me being the only woman on the boat. I will say he was nicer to me than I thought. He was very fair, but not overly nice in comparison to the other guys. He made it fair. I have to say, Greg is nice. He treats them with respect. He’s not a yeller. He’s nice to them. I think for the most part his crew likes to work for Greg.
Virginia Fans: We have watched the show since the beginning and always wondered how much distance captains give each other. Is there an informal rule about areas and distance?
Greg Moncrief: No. But you don’t set right on top of them. If their gear is there, you give them some room. It’s a big area, so you don’t have to crowd. We all know each other and we all pretty much help each other. We just ask where they are so we don’t crowd anyone.
shreve16: Greg, do you see a lot of boats come and go over the seasons or do the captains and boats pretty much stay? It just seems like there would be a lot to invest in and give up after one season.
Greg Moncrief: Most of the boats we see fishing now do both seasons. A lot of the boats that are leasing out their quotas don’t fish just one season, they just lease it all. There’s usually the same amount of boats for both seasons.
bobbi: Are there any memorials for those lost at sea, and where can we view them to send thoughts and prayers?
Greg Moncrief: Yes, there is. Fishermen’s Memorial in Fishermen’s Terminal in Seattle, Ballard’s Water Park. There’s a statue and a plaque with all the people from the Seattle area, the Bering Sea and everything, with dates they were lost. There’s a non-profit organization: The Fishermen’s Memorial Fund, and there are benefits for them, golf tournaments and scholarships for their families.
FISHIN CRAZY: Greg, Have you ever lost a deckhand to the sea?
Greg Moncrief: No. And knock on wood I never will.
gigi: Greg, what are the biggest waves you’ve encountered while fishing?
Greg Moncrief: That would be Thanksgiving back in 1990 I think. Black Thursday, about 50-60 foot waves.
onemeanmike: How many boats are usually out there during the season?
Greg Moncrief: For red crab I think there was 75 or so, I don’t know if they were all out at the same time. Where we were there there was maybe 15-20 in the area.
mrswear: How do you and your crew stay emotionally sane, with the nature of your jobs and the danger you face?
Greg Moncrief: My guys have been with me so long they’re used to it. It really isn’t a problem. We’re not out for more than 4-5 days anyway. As long as we’re catching crab and making money, they’re pretty happy.
Discovery: Thank you for being here tonight, and answering questions from all your Deadliest Catch fans! Do you have anything you’d like to add, before we have to close?
Greg Moncrief: Thank you everyone for watching and for your questions.
Ragnhild Moncrief: Thank you for your questions and your interest. And thank you for watching the show!