As you know the Discovery Website has interviewed a featured fisherman from ‘Deadliest Catch’ every week for season 4. The latest interview posted is the livechat held with Sten Skaar of the F/V North American on May 13th 2008, one of the most unique fishing vessels and crew from this season! This crew was in a unique position this last fishing season as they hadn’t been crab fishing for some time so they were not “crabbing-ready” like the other crews. For example, they had no crab pots, they borrowed theirs from the F/V Rollo, and for that reason, Alaska Fish & Game only allowed them a two week window of opportunity to catch their 90,000 pound quota! (Not the easiest task to accomplish). Another hurdle they overcame this season is the lack of sodium lights. (All crabbing vessels have them so they may fish throughout the night). Crab fishing in the dark is no easy task but the North American crew carried on and accomplished their task! Learn more on this unique skipper and crew by reading what Sten Skaar has to say….
Sten Skaar: Thanks for calling in everyone. It’s good to be a part of a great show like Deadliest Catch. I can’t wait to start watching it, so glad to be onboard.
(Photo courtesy of Discovery)
stormsbrew: I want to congratulate you on the comeback. Why did your family retire the boat in the first place??
Sten Skaar: Well, I think my father has been in the fishing business for so long, when they went to this rationalization you actually made more money by leasing the quotas out. Now that a couple years have passed the quotas have increased, so now it’s more feasible to take the boat back out fishing. There’s also less much risk when we were leasing, for liability reasons.
Brad: How long have you been fishing?
Sten Skaar: I’ve been fishing for 20 years. My first king crab season was in ’87.
chip2004: Were you surprised when you were asked to be on Deadliest Catch?
Sten Skaar: Actually, Deadliest Catch had approached us four years ago to do the show. We turned it down. Then I talked to Sig Hansen about it. I wish we’d had the opportunity to be a part of it sooner, but I’m very glad to be a part of it now.
crabber girl: What was your reaction when the Wizard crew gagged you with the outhouse?
Sten Skaar: I was in total shock. I didn’t know what it was. I looked over the rail and I saw this big blue thing. I didn’t know what we hauled up. He totally punked me, I have to give him that.
metaldan485: Are you gonna get them back for playing that prank on you?
Sten Skaar: Well, anything’s possible, you know. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Michelle1976: Hey Captain! How do you feel about being the first “green” boat (eco-friendly), and what impact do you think it will have on the other boats following in your lead?
Sten Skaar: With the way the world’s going right now, everything we can do to make the world a better place is better for all of us. With the Gen-tech system onboard the North American, we save fuel and we reduce emissions in the air. We plan on also going more green, all green products. Just make it totally a green fishing machine.
mama nutmeg: Welcome back to the Bering Sea. It’s nice to see a fresh face! Curious, how do you tell the difference between the male and female crab? And did it take A LOT of convincing to get the boat back on the sea?
Sten Skaar: To tell the difference between a male and female crab, underneath the crab, the male is shaped like a V. And a female crab is more rounded, like a circle.
SGT Bradshaw: Just curious, why is the captain of the Rollo on your ship, and why did he loan you his pots? Was he not out there?
Sten Skaar: We were late arriving to Dutch and we had sold our pots, so we had no pots. I asked Eric if we could lease some pots, and at the same time I figured why not have him go onboard and make a little extra money. It worked out great for both of us.
Robbie from IL: I love the show. This is the best show on TV. Was wondering if seasickness is ever a factor for anyone on the ship?
Sten Skaar: That would be me, I still get seasick out there. It’s something hereditary. I was told it’s mind over matter. That’s not the case, though. It’s genetics.
Headin 2 Alaska: Who do you consider the top captain in the fleet? Excluding yourself, of course!
Sten Skaar: There are a lot of good captains, but I would have to say one of the top ones is another Norwegian, Sigmund Andreassen.
Jeffro: What are your expectations being back for the first time in three years?
Sten Skaar: My expectations are to obviously produce, keep everyone safe onboard, and go out and have some fun.
Koala: Do you throw everything back that isn’t a crab or save it all for bait?
Sten Skaar: We retain the cod fish for hanging bait for the pots, but the other fish we discard.
river captain: I am a pilot on a towboat on the Tennessee river. How hard is it to get a license on a crab boat, and do the rough seas make you nervous?
Sten Skaar: A license is a big process. It’s a lot more difficult today than it was before. Always respect the sea, because it can bend steel. There’s nothing more powerful than it, as we’ve seen with Thailand. Just have respect for it and know it’s more powerful than we are.
Novice: Any hair-raising stories that you could share with us as skipper?
Sten Skaar: Back in 2004, the king crab season, I was hauling a string and I took a rogue wave. The boat leaned over so far that I took water in the wheelhouse, and my crew was on deck. I thought I’d lost them all in the ocean. So, the boat came back and I just went to my knees and thanked God for saving us all.
sissyann39: How are you going to like the cameras onboard while fishing?
Sten Skaar: When we first got started, it was a little awkward. I was a little tight. After a while, it was as though they weren’t even there.
XanMan: My mom said that the really little crab and the really big crab you have to throw back. Is that true?
Sten Skaar: No, you just throw back the small crab, the undersized crab.
Mikkel5: Hello, I’m Mikkel and I’m 5 years old. How do the crab find the bait? Do they smell it?
Sten Skaar: They smell it. They follow their nose, just like Froot Loops!
Brandy: I was wondering … would you ever let a woman on your crew?
Sten Skaar: It’s been known to say it’s bad luck, but I would never rule out the possibility of it
Angelo: Must have been depressing those first three strings?
Sten Skaar: Yeah, I was a little nervous the first three, but in fishing that is fishing. They don’t call it catching. You just have to be patient and don’t give up; keep trying.
Shane: How much fuel does your boat hold?
Sten Skaar: Our boat holds 48,000 gallons of fuel. That is a lot of fuel. With today’s prices, multiply that by three; that’s a lot of money.
(Photo courtesty of North American website)
Catch Curious: Thanks for your time tonight. We’re curious why you can’t put transponders or other tracking devices on the too-small crabs and then find them again when they’re grown. Also, why do we never see you eating crab onboard?
Sten Skaar: That would be torture to put those devices on the crab. We wouldn’t want those things on our bodies. And we do eat crab onboard.
Emilie Lintner: What is the economic reward for leasing your quota versus actually fishing (on average)?
Sten Skaar: In the beginning, the lease rates were high. I believe it was a 70/30 split. So the harvester just retained 30 percent, while the leaser got 70. As time has gone by, the lease rates have gone down and the quotas have gone up, so it’s a 50/50 split now. So, we at least about break even.
Jean Marie: Have you ever been out in the North Atlantic rough seas? If so, which one is rougher, Bering or North Atlantic?
Sten Skaar: I have never been up in the North Atlantic.
titanic092: Hey Sten, what was the fastest speed of the North American?
Sten Skaar: I’ve had the boat up to 13 knots.
Carr Kicks Door: Are there any particular superstitions you follow when fishing?
Sten Skaar: The only one I really follow by is I don’t leave on Friday. I left on Friday the same trip I took that rogue wave. So, I’m not going to mess with trying to beat that date. I will wait.
mama nutmeg: When you decided to get back in the game, did you already have a crew or did you have to recruit? And did you have a lot of people asking to be part of the team?
Sten Skaar: Yeah, right now a lot of people were out of jobs after rationalization. I needed a crew, but I felt very blessed with the crew I got. I think I got one of the best crews in the Bering Sea.
Norwegian footballer: Are your and John’s roles ever reversed … John the captain, and you the deckhand?
Sten Skaar: Yeah, John ran the boat, but it’s just not for everyone. Everyone has their roles, and John felt more comfortable being the deck boss than skippering the boat.
Lita: What was your boat fishing for when it wasn’t fishing for king crab during the past three years?
Sten Skaar: We were doing some oil research work. We were doing some fiber optic-exploring for oil.
Jim Fla: I’m Norwegian as well and love to fish offshore even when it gets dicey. I guess it is in our blood. Any thoughts on that, especially considering the Norwegians seem to be involved with fishing in these conditions and do well? In other words, what on earth is wrong with us — ha ha?
Sten Skaar: There’s nothing like being in the sea. Our body is made up of water, 80-90 percent. It draws you in like a magnet. There’s something about being on the ocean; there’s a sense of tranquility and calm.
nsusweets: Why did you not get into the season earlier? Six weeks is a long time to be behind everyone else.
Sten Skaar: It took a lot of convincing for me to get my father to take the boat back, so I was behind the eight ball. But we got it done, and it’s great to be back in the Bering Sea.
chip2004: Did you know any of the captains — as friends — before you were on Deadliest Catch?
Sten Skaar: Yeah, I knew Sig Hansen and I’d met Keith because he leased our quota from us. But I just had met Phil and Johnathan for the first time last king crab season. They’re pretty cool cats.
sissyann39: Is your boat one of the newest ones made, or did you build that model?
Sten Skaar: The North American was built in 1975. It was built by Marco Shipyard. The Northwestern was built in ’74, but they have lengthened their boat and also put a new wheelhouse on, which I would love to do someday.
Norskellunge: Sten, great to see another addition to the Deadliest Catch! It seems like you know the Rollo and her crew very well; how did you become friends?
Sten Skaar: I’ve known Eric for over 20 years, and when we were fishing in Alaska we were partner boats — worked together, fished together, helped each other out. I consider Eric a true friend and one fine fisherman.
Headin 2 Alaska: Didn’t your family introduce the Hansens to fishing or was it vice versa … or maybe I have it all wrong … lol?
Sten Skaar: My dad actually got a job with Sverre as engineer, and that’s how that got started.
Headin 2 Alaska: I want to say thank you for having an eco-friendly boat; we can no longer avoid environmental issues. Do you participate in other environmental activities?
Sten Skaar: We recycle. And we buy green products, laundry detergents and dish soaps.
Gina’s Mom: Do you work elsewhere off-season? What do you do when you’re not at sea?
Sten Skaar: In the summertime, I salmon fish up in Bristol Bay. I like to play soccer, I golf and I love to travel when not at sea.
pirouette: Are your family and Sig’s close family friends? What kind of relationship do you have with Sig?
Sten Skaar: My father and Sig are from the same town in Norway. I met Sig fishing. I would call it a friendly rivalry; we love to tease each other, but in the end it’s all fun.
drawn butter: How long do you see yourself with the fishing industry and at sea?
Sten Skaar: That’s a good question. I would always want to be involved in the seafood business. I just don’t know how long I’ll be skippering the boat. But being involved with seafood in some capacity. I just take one year at a time.
Novice: If the Gen-tech system shuts down are there backups?
Sten Skaar: Yes, we have a backup auxiliary. We would just shut down Gen-tech if something went wrong with it, and we’d use the auxiliary to get electricity and power.
Jim Fla: Sten, how did it work out with the lease with the Wizard and the Rollo pots? Didn’t really understand how that works.
Sten Skaar: Well, Keith leased our quota, so when we brought the boat back fishing we took our quota back from Keith. We’d already sold our pots, so we needed gear, so when I leased pots from Eric it was in order to fish.
Shane: Does the North American have any partner boats?
Sten Skaar: I would say the Rollo and also the Silver Dolphin. The Bering Sea is awfully big, so we have partner boats that we can communicate with to narrow down the hunt for the crab. Because three brains are more powerful than one brain, and we can zero in on those little bugs.
tabletop390: What has been the biggest issues with turning your boat into a green boat?
Sten Skaar: It was a pretty easy installation. We’re just trying to find out ways to save fuel and reduce our carbon emissions. With this Gen-tech system we’re eliminating another auxiliary, because we’re taking our power off the main engine. In essence, we’re killing two birds with one stone.
Headin 2 Alaska: What is the strangest thing that you have ever seen pulled up in one of the pots?
Sten Skaar: That port-a-potty is probably the strangest thing I’ve ever pulled up.
Deadman: I understand that not all the captains and boat owners also own their own share of the quota, but how many companies are there that own the majority of the IFQs?
Sten Skaar: I’m not really sure.
Angelo: Do you plan to be there for the opilio crab season?
Sten Skaar: Absolutely, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I enjoy king crab, it’s kind of the granddaddy of them all. It’s like the Rose Bowl or Super Bowl. Everyone gets electric when it comes king crab season. And it’s not as cold.
FLVFD Fire mom: Did your modernizations save in fuel costs for the ship?
Sten Skaar: Yes, we save about six gallons an hour.
deeblek: Are the Hillstrands as wild on shore as they are on ship?
Sten Skaar: Yeah, they’re fun guys. I had a chance to meet them this last fall; they’re definitely characters.
Nick: Hey Capt., in your opinion, how hard is it to become a greenhorn/deckhand if you have no family in the fishing biz?
Sten Skaar: I think it’s very hard today. The jobs are so limited — 1,500 jobs were lost during this rationalization. A lot of it is the buddy system, it’s who you know. This greenhorn that I have for opilio had never fished or been to Alaska, and I hired him because he’s one of my best friend’s brothers.
Norwegian footballer: How many years did Erling captain the North American before you took over? How many other captains has Erling had?
Sten Skaar: My dad started running the boat; he bought it brand new in 1975. He skippered it for I believe four years. Then he’s had a few other captains in the meantime. The main captain that was there was Tim Vincent. I was a greenhorn when Tim Vincent broke me in.
Jeffro: Do you find fishing in the Bering sea more a job or more sport? It seems that the challenges you face make your job both exciting and dangerous.
Sten Skaar: There’s never a dull moment in the Bering Sea. That’s what I love about it, because it’s always different. And you wake up not knowing what you’re going to get. It’s like a box of chocolate, as Forrest Gump stated.
cammy: How much sleep do you get in 24 hours?
Sten Skaar: Well, I like to let the gear do the work, I don’t drive my guys too much. If we do need to drive, we do. I believe in being patient and letting the gear do the work for you. I like a structure, so I try to give the guys a good six hours a night.
BAMAdane: With the popularity of the show, have you noticed a lot of inept people trying to work for the fleet?
Sten Skaar: Yeah, there’s been a big following. Everyone wants the adventure and excitement; those chances are just hard to get, because there’s just not the jobs out there.
Koala: What is the coldest temps you’ve fished in, and how many layers of clothes do you wear out in the elements?
Sten Skaar: With windchill factor, we’ve been in -20 (windchill). Layers of clothes? Three. Because once you start moving you get hot. So, the key is to keep moving and keep warm.
Carr Kicks Door: How much time do you spend off the boat a year?
Sten Skaar: Off the boat? We spend about six months off the boat.
Jimbo: Looks like it took Erling some convincing to get back in the fishing game — what finally sold him?
Sten Skaar: I wrote him a letter about how I felt. I’ve fished in a family business for 20 years, and I was a little disappointed that he leased out the quota. But I’m glad we’re back now.
Catch Curious: Was being on Deadliest Catch any part of the argument for or against bringing the boat back out?
Sten Skaar: I’m very flattered to be on Deadliest Catch, but I still wanted to go fishing with the boat. That’s what I’ve been doing. I was really glad to see Discovery wanted us to be a part of that great show.
Montauk tuna: Where’s your sorting table?
Sten Skaar: Our sorting table we have for opilio. So, you’ll be seeing that during that season. King crab, we didn’t have time; we had so many other things going, and it wasn’t as important because they’re so much bigger, there’s less volume.
Wizette Mystic: How would you describe your style as a captain?
Sten Skaar: I’m just the coach of the team. I would say I’m just the coach of the soccer team, I try to treat people the way I’d like to be treated. You’re going to get more results that way, and people are going to go that extra mile for you.
Jimbo: What’s the best prank that you have pulled off in your fishing experience? Go Norsemen!
Sten Skaar: LOL, that’s good! I haven’t done too many pranks, to be honest. We did do a prank, last king crab season. My crew snuck onboard the Time Bandit and unscrewed the ceiling in the wheelhouse. They shoved about 100 marbles in the ceiling. So when Johnathan left harbor, he heard the rolling and didn’t know what it was. He thought it was a screwdriver or something. It took him about three weeks to get all the marbles out.
Jean Marie: Are you married and/or have any kids?
Sten Skaar: No, I don’t. I’m single. So, maybe I can get on The Bachelor! I have been married before. It is a difficult lifestyle. It’s not for everyone; it takes a very special lady to put up with a fishing-style life.
BAMAdane: Do you ever see any Canadian fishing boats during the season?
Sten Skaar: No, I don’t. I don’t believe they can fish in the U.S. waters.
Kelley: Did you know the crew/ship that sank just a few months ago?
Sten Skaar: No, I did not. My heart goes out to the families.
Pixie: Why don’t deckhands wear survival suits all the time? Hasn’t anyone been able to invent one that can be flexible enough?
Sten Skaar: That’s very difficult to do. You’re dealing with the heat issue too when you’re moving with the flexibility. I’m sure it’s been thought of, but they haven’t come up with anything suitable enough.
Robespierre: What’s your favorite meal, on the North American, and off it?
Sten Skaar: I like it all! Seafood!
Poppa-ratzi: How have you managed dealing with becoming such a celebrity by being on Deadliest Catch?
Sten Skaar: Well, it’s been early right now — we just got on the show tonight. I’m a little excited, a little nervous. Not many people get an opportunity like this. I’m just going to enjoy it. Ride the wave.
Mikkel5: Are swells and waves the same?
Sten Skaar: A swell is more of a ground swell, it doesn’t have that break. Waves will break.
tacky Glue: What are the worst and best parts of what you do?
Sten Skaar: The worst part is the weather. You get afraid of endangering your crew and what the sea can do to a boat. The best part is the camaraderie with your crew, the teamwork, working together toward a common goal of catching crab.
tabita: Why are they called greenhorns?
Sten Skaar: It has to do with the cowboys, I believe. When they got started out, they called the new cowboy greenhorn.
randall: If you had a son, would you want him to follow in your shoes? Or would you prefer he get a job that’s safer?
Sten Skaar: I would want him to do whatever would make him happy. If he wanted to fish, that would be wonderful. If he wanted to be a golfer, whatever – as long as he’s happy, I would support him.
deeblek: Do you ever feel bad for the crew when they are on deck and the weather/waves are horrible, and you are in the wheelhouse?
Sten Skaar: Yeah, I do. I do feel bad. I empathize with them, I’ve been there myself. Your crew’s the one hauling in the pots for you. I do my best to keep them out of the weather, keep it on the port side. I tell them, anything I can do to make your trip more enjoyable. They get a kick out of that. I’m here for you: Jerry Maguire.
mathman51: How many boats fish for crab?
Sten Skaar: I believe king crab it was around 80 boats.
Jimbo: What is the hardest “crop” to fish for in your opinion?
Sten Skaar: I would say opilio’s the hardest. You’re dealing with the elements.
rickie: How often does the ship go back into port? What items are most necessary, to make sure you have plenty in case you get
Sten Skaar: It depends on the season. King crab, we came back to port twice, and opilio, we came back to port three times. We come back in for groceries and fuel, and bait. I try to eat healthy on the boat. I’m a lot healthier on the boat than at home. I like green tea, carrots and celery sticks. They smoke, I eat carrots.
Henriette: How does your mother feel about you coming out of retirement?
Sten Skaar: She’s a little nervous when we go up, but she knows this is what we do for a living. I think she just wants us to be happy. So, if we’re happy doing that, then she’s happy.
Jimbo: What’s the worst injury you’ve seen as part of a crew or being captain?
Sten Skaar: I had one of my best friends with me, and he caught his hand in the bait chopper/grinder. His hand got cut up pretty bad and we were out at sea. So, we were 40 hours out of Dutch and we got him on the plane. Luckily, it didn’t develop gangrene.
Gerry: What are your favorite movies?
Sten Skaar: I would say Shawshank Redemption, Jerry Maguire and Rocky.
234: Hey Captain, what do you think is the big draw to this show?
Sten Skaar: I think it’s the adventure, the waves crashing on the boat, and seeing those crabs alive on the sorting table. It just draws people in. This last king crab season, which the people will see was my favorite, because I’ve never had those kind of numbers of crabs in pots before.
Discovery: Capt. Sten, thanks for being here tonight, and for answering so many questions! Anything to add, before the chat ends?
Sten Skaar: I just want to thank everyone for getting on the chat room. I hope you guys enjoy the show. I’m looking forward to it, I’m really excited.
Discovery: Send a shout-out! Call the guys toll-free and leave a message for your favorite crew.
Don’t miss next week’s live chat! Log on for our next guest, Capt. Sig Hansen of the Northwestern, on Tuesday, May 20, at 10 p.m. ET. And don’t miss the next episode of Deadliest Catch, Tuesday, at 9 p.m. E/P.