Entry No. 3: Storm Tossed
Read about Doug Stanley’s travels with the Timebandit fishing vessel during the filming of Deadliest Catch season 3. Previous blog entries are also available on the Discovery website.
Sometime in the middle of the Time Bandit’s storm-tossed journey out to the king crab fishing grounds I found myself jarred suddenly awake. The boat had just been hit by a strong wave and I was having a “moment.” Disoriented, I had a profound sense of needing to know if everything was OK.
As I crawled across my stateroom in the darkness I was reminded that the f/v Ocean Challenger had just capsized sometime during the last 12 hours. I remembered the looks on the faces of the Time Bandit’s captains, Jonathan and Andy Hilstrand, after the mayday and as they closely followed the incident on the radio. I, too, feel a deep sense of loss for the men who did not survive the vessel’s sinking. I feel my own vulnerability as well. Even as a guest aboard the Time Bandit, I am a committed member of the crew. I am often confronted with the reality of our situation out at sea.
The Time Bandit seemed pretty normal once I had reoriented myself. Everyone except Russell, who was on watch, was deep in slumber. The men were soaking up every bit of sleep they could get in anticipation of the long, hard hours of work ahead. As I approached the helm Russell continued staring straight ahead. Aside from the usual roar of the engines the boat was silent. Neither of us wanted to break the peace. I looked over Russell’s shoulder at the navigational computer. We still had 11 hours of steaming to go before we would drop our first string of pots. I looked forward just as our bow impacted another wave and sent spray flying a hundred feet in the air.
Back downstairs I contemplated walking out onto the deck for a second to clear my head of sleep. As I began to open the sea door I stopped short. We are all supposed to tell someone else when we go out on deck. Last year, our Time Bandit cameraman Patrick Cummings stepped outside this very door for “just a minute” without announcing his plans to anyone. Within moments he found himself “swimming underwater across the deck” after he had been hit by a wave that was over his head. He later told me that he had a “moment” himself. As he fought in the whitewater, he feared that he would be washed overboard and nobody on the Time Bandit would even have known.
As I crawled back in my bunk I thought of how lonely it would be to see the boat steaming away from you with nobody aware that you were in the water. I thought again of all the men who were lost on the Ocean Challenger and of the other fishermen that have been lost just during my four years in the Bering Sea. With the sinking of the f/v Ocean Challenger the number of these unfortunate souls has grown to nine men. I felt around in the dark for my camera, always by my side and ready. Reassured that everything was as OK as it could ever be aboard a Bering Sea crab ship, I wrapped my arms around my survival suit and headed back to sleep.