by Drew Speier
On a 17-acre farm in Chandler, Indiana, you’ll find a man who has a passion for horses and teaching kids to ride, but it’s his other passion he’s most known for which just happens to be one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.
Captain Andy Hillstrand, The Time Bandit, says, “I’ve done it my whole life, I’ve been on boats since I was three years old , I mean that’s all I remember as being a kid.”
He’s also the captain of the custom built family vessel, The Time Bandit, and fishes for crab in one of the world’s most violent and unpredictable waters, the Bering Sea off the Alaskan Coast.
One day, while in port in Dutch Harbor, a crew from the Discovery Channel greeted him with a question.
Capt. Andy Hillstrand, says “Hey you want to go on the show next year? I go, sure we’ll go on the show.”
For the last two seasons , Andy and his brother Jonathan have been featured on the Emmy nominated show, Deadliest Catch.
They share skippering duties on The Time Bandit. Jonathan Captain’s the ship during king crab season while Andy takes over during opilio crab season.
Capt. Andy Hillstrand, says, “We’re definitely not Hollywood TV stars I know that. We’re just guys trying to make a living, we just have one crazy job.”
A crazy, and deadly job.
Capt. Andy says, “Yea, I’ve got probably four or five friends who have not made it and stuff, you know, fishing fault. One guy got drug overboard on the east coast, one guy fell overboard crab fishing right next to us, another buddy of mine that they’ve named a harvester memorial after, they rolled their boat over and sank.”
Which is why returning to Indiana during the off season to pursue his other passion is so very important.
Capt. Andy, says, “When I come home here, I’m ready to put my feet on dry land.”
Where captain Andy finds calm, peace and serenity by working with a different crew horses.
Andy and his wife, who was born in Evansville, moved from Alaska to a 17-acre farm in chandler, Indiana four years ago. Where Andy sheds his captain’s hat and sets his sites on other things less elusive than a dangerous catch.
Capt. Andy, says, “My goal is to become a really good horseman and good horse rider.”
Andy is also teaches horsemanship, he holds a day camp for kids three days a week
Capt. Andy, says, “I teach pretty much teach the basics all around on horses, how to stay safe, how to get them to stop, instead of having a runaway horse.”
Two contrasting lifestyles on the farm and on an ocean going fishing vessel, two passions separated by the Bering Sea but ones not without similarities.
Capt. Andy, says, “You can be on a bucking bronco before you know it, just like being on 40 foot seas, 50 foot seas.”
As captain of the Time Bandit, Andy can earn an income of over six figures in a few months, while deck hands average over $30,000 in just 90 days at sea., 20 hour work days onboard ship make life on the farm that much more special. Still, each year, on his birthday, September 25th, Andy answers the call from sea.
Capt. Andy Hillstrand, says, “It’s just what’s in your blood. You kind of miss it but I always know I’m going back so I get to have fun doing this, I just mellow out.”
Andy turns 44 this year, and says he may retire to the farm when he reaches 50, then you might catch him riding horseback. For now he’s content with his deadly job and his farm that takes him far away from it.
Capt. Andy Hillstrand/the time bandit “I wouldn’t trade my life for nobody else’s life, I’ve pretty much got the best of both worlds I think.”
Andy, and wife Sabrina, own hobby horse acres in Chandler and they specialize in natural horsemanship. Andy, by the way, in addition to being a commercial fisherman, is also a four-time world qualifier for the National Barrel Horse Association and four-time Alaska State Champion barrel racer.