For those of you on the west coast, you can catch Greg and Ragnhild as grandmarshalls of the Mukilteo Lighthouse festival on Saturday, Sept. 8th at 11am, Mukilteo, WA. A “meet & greet” session follows in the afternoon. for more info, visit www.mukilteofestival.org.
Cathy Herholdt of the Journal Newspapers writes that Greg Moncrief began fishing soon after leaving the military, he went to Alaska, met Ragnhild, and fishing has been their chosen way of life since they married in 1989…
“I didn’t really think about it much,” said Ragnhild of marrying a fisherman. But Greg has been gone between six and nine months every year of their marriage. “I had forgotten how hard it was,” she said, reflecting on the early days when their two daughters were little.
These days, Ragnhild only joins Greg in Alaska every now and then, but it was her presence that likely sealed the deal for the Farwest Leader to be chosen by Discovery Channel producers. While touring potential ships they saw a photo of Ragnhild and asked Greg who she was and whether or not she would be on board. “Maybe,” he said. “They called a couple of days later and said, ‘you’re in.’ They loved her,” said Greg.
“I’m used to working downtown,” said Ragnhild, who works as a travel agent in addition to being a busy mom. “Up there you don’t have to worry about time, you just go to bed whenever … I’m kind of a perfectionist. I never have time for myself. Up there on the boat, you only have to think about yourself.”
But time to herself was about the only thing Ragnhild seemed enthusiastic about when it came to talking about her experience as a crewmember last season. “We’d already been fishing for cod for a month. I really didn’t have much desire to go back for snow crab, but I decided to try it. The weather wasn’t good, it was cold, long hours,” she recalled. “I was seasick and overwhelmed.”
Because of bad weather, Ragnhild spent more time in the galley than on deck. “It was hard cooking when you’re seasick,” she said. When she noticed the camera crew following her around, she finally asked if they wanted to film her getting sick. They did, and the clip aired for every preview of that episode. “I didn’t think they’d show that,” she said. “But the first episode, we’re sitting there watching me in the bathroom!”
Despite the inherent danger of fishing and being gone from home so much, Greg loves his job. “Every day is different. You have a lot of responsibility,” said Greg. “I love it. You pull those full pots up and it’s exciting.”
The fishing industry has changed over the years, and despite a huge emphasis on safety, it’s still dangerous. “There’s bad weather and the boat’s rolling … those crab pots weigh 800 pounds and are moving around on deck … you don’t know what’s going to happen. Some days it’s nice out, some days it’s not.”
When it comes to weather, it’s the captain’s decision as to whether or not to fish. “If there’s any doubt, I don’t fish. It’s just not worth it,” said Greg, whose main concern is the safety of his crew. However, “there’s a difference between bad weather and crappy weather. If you only fished when it was nice out, you’d never fish,” he explained. “You just have to see how the wind is blowing. If it’s kind of rough, we just keep the weather on one side of the boat.”
Greg says he’ll never forget his “worst day ever,” at sea. “It was Thanksgiving and it was blowing about 100 miles per hour with 50-foot seas. We ran over a net so we had no power. We were on watch in our survival suits for about six hours. Then the weather got calm and the stuff cleared out of our engine, and we went back fishing. That was the worst storm I’ve ever been in.”
He’s also experienced first hand the physical danger of his profession. “Lots of people have gotten hurt. I’ve had broken ribs and was (airlifted) out of there one time when ice fell from the rigging and hit the back of my neck and knocked me out,” recounted Greg. “I’ve had friends go over …I had a good friend about three years ago that didn’t make it. He had a heart attack in the water. He wrapped the line around his hand and it threw him over. It was only about three hours from the season being over.”
While filming “Deadliest Catch,” Ragnhild lost a bet and had to help with bait on deck. In that episode, the weight of responsibility intensified for Greg, who voiced his concern on camera, “I’d never forgive myself if something happened to her.”
But she was more concerned about getting doused by an icy wave. “You get completely soaked in salt water,” she said. “I don’t like that.”
Only sleeping a few hours at a time and trying to feed a crew of hungry fishermen with differing tastes were daily challenges. “Greg would wake me up at two in the morning and say ‘the guys are coming in now to eat dinner,'” she said. But often it would be two or three hours before they were actually able to get a break to eat. “You know how hard it is to cook and keep it warm for two or three hours? It would get all dried out.”
Tasks such as baking, doing laundry and even showering in rough seas pose challenges as well. “One day I baked a cake. The weather was perfect, but then it changed suddenly and the cake batter went over the edge,” Ragnhild recalled. The batter started burning and set off the smoke detector, sending Greg to the galley in search of a fire.
Having the film crew on board was fun, Greg said. “At first you try to kind of act … then it goes back to the way it really is. They don’t keep any of the footage from the first few days.”
” I heard some people suggest that some of it is not real,” said Ragnhild. “But it’s hard to fake it out there. They edit it, but everything is real. Sometimes they make it look good, sometimes bad. For the most part they made me look good.”
Other than the seasick episode, she said, “I haven’t really watched (the show). I can’t. I lived that,” said Ragnhild. “It’s weird watching yourself.”
Since being on the show, the couple spends much of their time in the off-season making appearances and signing autographs at events like the Evergreen State Fair and Nascar races. They were even invited to tour Jay Leno’s garage and watch a taping of his show-apparently Leno is a diehard fan of “Deadliest Catch.”
They also spend a lot of time responding to fan emails, having recently enlisted the help of a family friend to mail out autographed photos and their daughter, who maintains their MySpace site.