David Nes, of the F/V North American was inteviewed by Discovery on their weekly livechat series on June 3rd, 2008. David talks about the North American, King crab and Opilio, his family background, the recent loss of his brother’s life while season 4 of ‘Deadliest Catch’ was being filmed, and more. Learn more about what it’s like to be a deckhand on the only Green boat in the Bering sea crabbing fleet….
Polaris: Davin, thanks so much for coming online with us. Your family has paid a dear price to the sea. What is your feelings towards the sea? Love her or hate her?
Davin Nes: You know, I still love the sea even though my brother was killed in a tragic accident. It’s because I’m a third generation fisherman, and that’s all I know. But I miss him dearly.
MissHalo: Davin, my condolences on the loss of your brother Jeffery…does this change your mind about what you do?
Davin Nes: You know, after it first happened, I hated Dutch Harbor and crab fishing, period. But time heals, and you get back to what you do. This is all I know, and I’m never going to get over it but I have to deal with it. It’s all I know.
(photo courtesy of Discovery’s ‘Deadliest Catch’ Wiki)
GreenL420: how long ago did you go on your very first king crab or opillio season?
Davin Nes: My very first king crab was the summer of my junior year of high school, in 1984 when I went out crab fishing with my dad. When my father told me it was time to go out and start hauling gear, I cried! I hated it so much. It’s the weirdest thing – I was 17 years old, and I would cry to myself. But the paycheck brought me around : -)
Erika: What was the scariest moment out on the Bering sea for you?
Davin Nes: I jumped in to retrieve one of the crew members who had fallen in the water. When you’re in the water, the boat looks very big and I thought it was going to come down on me. And that’s the truth – that was the scariest thing I’ve ever encountered. I witnessed my brother fall overboard too, so that was just as scary.
Polaris: What are your plans for the day you are done fishing? What would you like to do after that?
Davin Nes: My plans for the day after fishing are to go home and be the best father I can. I am going to parenting classes, and I want to be the best father I can to my girls. I looked into buying a boom truck, since I know about hydraulics, I thought it might be a good thing to get into. I’m still thinking about it, but when you’re home the time just goes by so fast. Before you know it, it’s time to go back fishing again.
WizetteMystic: Davin what is the most demanding aspect of Bering Sea crab fishing from the perspective of a deckhand?
Davin Nes: The most demanding aspect of Bering Sea crab fishing is to make it through the day even though you’re so tired, and it’s cold, it’s miserable. You go string by string. If you look at the whole big picture, oh my God, we’ve got 2 weeks of this. But if you go string by string, to me that helps out, looking forward to the last string so you have a ten-minute break.
Lhiiiz-2: Davin, I’m sorry to hear of your brother. As far as a question, how much harder was it fishing without your table and sodium lights, etc?
Davin Nes: For me the sodium lights didn’t bother the deckhands at all, it just gave us more time off. Sorting crab is easier with king crab because they’re bigger than opilio. You sure don’t want to sort opilio without a table.
Nght0661: What inspired you to join the deadliest catch?
Davin Nes: I was in Alaska, not making too much money at all and Sten called and asked if I wanted to go with him crab fishing. I was fishing pollock at the time, and not making any money, so I said absolutely.
GoGoGators: Where are you now?
Davin Nes: Right now I’m sitting down in the basement of my house, in the rec room. I’m in Edmonds, WA.
NorwegianMafia: Davin, thanks for chatting with us! In virtually every scene you’re in, you’re at the rail. Did Sten make you stay there the whole season?
Davin Nes: You know, I’ve gone on 8 different crab boats, and in every one of them, hauling and setting is a little different even though it looks the same on TV. That’s the way the North American does it, and to be honest, I really like being at the rail.
Tasha: what is the difference between opilio and king crab?
Davin Nes: The difference – for one, king crab has a richer flavor. With king crab, you can have one leg and it will fill you up a lot faster than opilio. Opilio is harder to shell, and it takes a lot more to fill you up. If I had a choice, I’d much rather eat king crab but everyone’s different. Some people like tanner or bairdi more than king crab. But for me, I like king crab much better. The bairdi doesn’t have as many spines as a king crab does, so you go through a lot of gloves sorting king crab. Opilio is just a lot more work. Even though they have fewer spines, they’re flatter and more compact, harder to grab. Opilio are just a lot more work than king crab, period.
bryan: Besides you and your brother, do you have any other family in the business?
Davin Nes: Yes, I have another brother, John. Jeffrey was between John and myself. My father started king crab fishing. He was one of the pioneers of king crab fishing in Dutch Harbor. He started in the Merchant Marines when he was 14. He started fishing in New Bedford for cod, and when the cod fishery crashed, he moved to Seattle, and they started fishing crab in Alaska. My father got his first skipper job when the skipper of the boat he was working rode off in a rowboat and was never seen again, so my father got his first skipper job. At one time, he owned 29 crab boats.
Brian_G: You guys have been on the quota system for a while now. Ever wish they would go back to rally style fishing?
Davin Nes: Yes you know, we do. All the crab boats out there have a big quota, but the North American has .8% of the quota. But that’s our very own quota, not leased. So it’s really not bad. A lot of guys lease their quota, and we may do that this year so we get a higher quota.
AlexisM: How can you tell which ones are male and which ones are female? Do you throw back the females?
Davin Nes: We throw back the females. You turn them over, and look at their abdomens. The belly flap on the underside on a female king crab looks like a fan and covers most of the underside. On a male, it looks more like a point. The female king crab has more spines, so you can see them off the bat. They’re also fatter and uglier.
KRABBY KAT: Hey Davin, this week was an awesome show, but it looks like the weather was really bad. Does it ever get so bad you can’t fish?
Davin Nes: Yes, it gets to the point you can’t fish because of the risk of someone getting injured on deck. But that’s a good point, because during nice weather we all like to fish but in really bad weather, we still like it because it’s exciting. But the in between weather, nobody likes it. Well, that’s me anyway. : -)
Michigan07: What do you like to do during the off-season?
Davin Nes: I like to work on my house, and I enjoy water sports. We go to the lake and I like to be with my family as much as I can.
Rendell: How dry does the rain gear really keep you?
Davin Nes: It doesn’t keep you dry at all! It depends on what you wear underneath. You may look soaking wet, but it’s the sweat and condensation. When I take my rain gear off, I’m soaking wet underneath.
GreenL420: Has a king crab ever clamped down on your fingers?
Davin Nes: Yes it has, and usually the only thing you can do is hang them up in the air and they fall off. A big mistake people make is to rip the claw off, but the muscle continues to contract and keep pinching. So you have to hang them up to make them let go.
Trishnay: What type of measures do you take to stay safe on the boat?
Davin Nes: Common sense. I always look behind my back. Before I tie a pot down, I look to see if a big wave is coming. Never trust the man running the hydraulics – stay out of the way until you’ve made eye contact with him. The hydraulic now will get you hurt more than anything else. When you’re tying a pot down, always look behind you.
Kayla222: Davin Nes, who do you think you get along with the best on the North American?
Davin Nes: I tell the guys what they want to hear, and I’m sure they tell me what I want to hear, so we all get along pretty well.
ChefDeMer: What’s your favorite way to cook (or eat) crab?
Davin Nes: You take the biggest pot you can find, and put in 3 inches of water right out of the crab tank. Bring it to a boil, toss the legs in, cover with tinfoil, and cook for 18 minutes typically. After it’s cooked, we take the pot and it’s almost like boiling an egg – you have to put the legs in cold water so the meat shrinks away from the leg. Otherwise, it’s too hard to get the meat out. So you have to immerse it in cold water right after it’s cooked. Then I eat it with butter and a sprinkle of garlic powder.
Xan: Do yall hang out when it isn’t fishing season?
Davin Nes: Before I was married, we used to hang out all the time but since I got married, it’s been few and far between.
KylanBMX: Why does the Bering Sea get so terrible?
Davin Nes: The Bering Sea has a big edge that is relatively shallow, and outside of the crab grounds it’s very deep, so the weather coming up against the edge is what makes the sea conditions so bad.
ConradLL: Are you planning on fishing king crab this fall? On the North American, or do you know yet?
Davin Nes: Yes I am.
OhioGuitarist: Out of all the deckhands I’ve seen on the show you look to be one of the best I’ve seen. That being said, how long have you been a deckhand and have you ever thought about becoming a captain?
Davin Nes: I’ve been a deckhand since 1984. I have had the opportunity to run boats: I ran one called the Bristol Mariner and that was like being a bus driver, but I was never a permanent skipper. So I keep moving on to try to find that skipper job, but I keep making the wrong choices!
Rob: Have you ever thought of wetsuits? Wouldn’t they keep you warmer and be less apt to be bulky and catch on things?
Davin Nes: That’s another good question. A lot of guys don’t wear life jackets because they’re cumbersome. The human body can get used to anything. The guys never think they’re going to fall over. But I don’t think a wet suit would work because you’d sweat too much. Even when it’s really cold there, you sometimes have to take your hood off to let some of the heat escape from your body.
Tbronco: How often do you have to change clothes in a day?
Davin Nes: After every string, so I change my clothes about 5 times a day.
KRABBY KAT: How long does it take for a crab to reach legal maturity?
Davin Nes: People tell me that after 6-7 years, a king crab is of legal limit. I couldn’t tell you for sure. I know an opilio molts about 2-3 times a year, and the king crab does it once a year (I think).
Brian G: The camera crew on the boats seems first rate. Do they ever help at all? Maybe cook a meal for you guys?
Davin Nes: When the camera crew is on the deck and we’re working, they’re supposed to not be noticeable. Whatever happens on deck, it’s supposed to go on like they’re not there. But one of the camera guys, Doug Stanley, would go in. He knows the crew gets really tired and their blood sugar gets low, so he’d make burritos or slice Snickers bars and give that to us. Just one spoonful is enough to get our blood sugar up. One time he cooked up some rice, and I was so hungry that all I could smell was his hand! I pretended like I was chewing it, and when he went by I spit it out.
Polaris: What is your favorite “deckhand” power meal when fishing?
Davin Nes: Honestly, a Snickers bar and an apple. It keeps me going. Or a big spoonful of peanut butter. You can make it through a string that way. Usually late at night when we’re setting a deck load is when I get it the worst – you’re so dizzy from low blood sugar that it almost feels good! But then I eat a Snickers bar and I’m good to go.
Rednek4real: How do you manage to stay in your bed when the seas are that rough? (When you do get a chance to sleep!)
Davin Nes: It’s only when you get seas on the side of the boat, where you tend to roll out. But typically when it’s that rough, there’s someone on wheel watch, jogging into it).
Seaeagle821: How do you cope with seasickness?
Davin Nes: I’ve never been seasick, so I don’t know. The best way to cope is to go in the wheelhouse where you see the movement of the boat, and eat crackers and get some fresh air.
Sheeya: What’s with all the birds hanging around the boats?
Davin Nes: We take the bait jugs after each pot that comes up, so the chopped up herring bait floats for a while and the birds eat it.
Therod: Do you wear designer raingear?
Davin Nes: I would like to be called a GQ fisherman! My brother John was the first guy to venture off and wear that Red Ledge windbreaker, and we called him the GQ fisherman because he was different. The Grundens rain jackets will bog you down. You have to work harder to lift your arms up, as opposed to a Red Ledge jacket.
GreenL420: Do you have different quotas for opilio crab then king crab or is it generally in the same range?
Davin Nes: There are specific quotas for king crab and opilio depending on what Fish & Game has come up with. The quotas vary.
Bethany: What would you think and say if your kids ever decided they want to crab fish?
Davin Nes: LOL You know what? When I first started crabbing with my dad, all my elders told me to go back to school. And I’d do the same thing.
Linda: Have you watched yourself on TV yet? What did you think?!?
Davin Nes: Yes, I watched myself on TV and I was very embarrassed because of the argument we got into, and it was the first time I’ve seen myself on TV and heard my voice. It really was embarrassing.
PennyT: Do you have washing machines and dryers on board? If everyone’s changing clothes 5 times a day, that’s a lot of laundry!
Davin Nes: Yes we do have washing machines and dryers. What the guys do is just throw their clothes in the dryer, and dry them off instead of washing them each time. The salt water makes the cuffs of your sweatshirt shrink, so a lot of guys will hang them up in the engine room so they dry slowly, and the cuffs will keep their elasticity.
Meghan: Is there a shower on board? What kind of survival supplies do you pack for when you’re out on the sea?
Davin Nes: A typical crab boat has all the amenities of home. As far as survival gear, you don’t have survival suits – they’re called immersion suits now. To be honest, if we ever had an emergency, like the boat rolled over, you wouldn’t have time to get your immersion suit on. Once when a boat, the Northwest Mariner, did turn over back in 1995, they found 2 crew members wearing only their underwear in the crew room. We have the training and do the drills for survival.
Marlena: Looks like a pretty messy job! Especially the baiting! Who has to do all of the cleanup?
Davin Nes: Typically the greenhorn. My motto is “do your crappy job good, and you’ll get a better one.” Doing bait is probably the hardest job on the boat.
Angelina: How long did it take you to get your sea legs?
Davin Nes: When you first leave Dutch Harbor, it takes a day or two to get back in the groove. I tried a construction job, and I roll my ankles all the time, but when I’m on the boat, it never happens. It’s a weird thing.
Serena: What is the best advice you got as a greenhorn?
Davin Nes: The best advice was a combination of things. When you do your crappy job good, the crew will give you motivation to do it even better. One time when I first went fishing with my dad, I went to the wheel house around noon, and asked him what time lunch was. He said I’d left lunch in Seattle. He told me not to complain, to keep my mouth shut, and do what I was told. And I did that, even though there have been times when the deck boss would yell at me and I’d be there shaking in my boots.
Randall: Have you ever pulled any pranks on anyone?
Davin Nes: Oh yeah! Most of these boats are over 200 tons, but they have dunnage doors to keep them under that weight. I’ve taken the doors off and poured water on the guys sleeping. Or you’re talking ghost stories when you’re going home, and then you go and say “BOO!” to them. You take the greenhorn’s boot and stick a bit of water in it, then put it in the freezer so it freezes. Then when he puts it on, the boot is too small.
Michigan07: Hey Davin! What’s the worst injury that you’ve ever suffered, and how did it happen?
Davin Nes: Gosh…I just got a little mark on my shin from running to the rail and slipping on some seaweed. It just opened the skin down the bone, but didn’t break anything. It wasn’t so good when my boot filled up with blood, though.
Frasier: What are confused seas and are they common?
Davin Nes: Confused sea is where you’ll be jogging into a sea and you have another one coming right down the side. Or the seas aren’t just coming in one direction; they’re coming in all directions. It is common. It’s dangerous in the sense that you’re going through your routine and all of a sudden you have another wave coming down the side so it can kind of catch you off guard.
Sally: Are girls allowed on a crab boat?
Davin Nes: Well, I really am superstitious and I don’t think it’s a good thing. Nowadays we have observers, and about 70% of the observers are women. So they are allowed on the boats. But as far as working, I’ve only heard of one girl who was a really good deckhand. Girls have a lot harder time as far as showers, hygiene, etc. Also, when you have a woman on board, there are always one or two crew members who are fighting for her love, and it’s nothing but problems. I’ve never worked with a woman myself.
Samanth: What do you think you would be doing career wise if you hadn’t chosen crab fishing?
Davin Nes: (laughing) Some kind of uneducated job! A job that doesn’t require college or anything like that.
ConradLL: Are your girls old enough to watch the show? If so, what did they think?
Davin Nes: My two oldest girls, Karin and Natalie, watch the show, and they love it. They’re 7 and 5.
AriCat: How many layers of clothing do you wear when working on deck?
Davin Nes: What I wear on deck for king crab is a pair of sweat pants, a T shirt, a sweat shirt, and a jacket. For opilio, it’s thermal underwear, a t shirt, a hooded shirt, sweat pants and my rain gear. It doesn’t matter what you put on – you’re going to be wet and cold. A lot of guys will sit there in their wet clothes and just keep working. But for me, when I change my socks and put on dry ones, I feel like a new man!
Milligan: Who do you look up to? Do you have any role models or idols?
Davin Nes: I look up to my dad. I don’t know if he uses psychology on us, but nothing is ever hard, and the word “can’t” isn’t in his vocabulary. I just follow his example. There’s never a job too tough for him.
Fred: Did you really think crab fishing was as dangerous as it was going into it? Or did you think it was exaggerated? I think it’s craziness!
Davin Nes: You know what? They brought in all this IFQ crap, and said it would be so much safer for the guys. But we still have to go out there in crappy weather, it doesn’t matter, in order to catch our quota to get our delivery dates for the cannery. And if you don’t make your delivery dates, you’re screwed because you have 10 boats in front of you and you could have a week or two before you can offload and the crab are dying in the tanks. It’s all a big scam for the canneries to get all this quota.
Searunner: Who handles first aid on board? Are you all trained to do it, or just one person?
Davin Nes: Every crab boat has to have a certified first aid and CPR guy who’s been through the 8 hour course. I’ve seen a lot of guys go overboard, and when that happens, everyone panics.
Reba: How hard is it to keep a relationship being in such a dangerous job and being gone for so long?
Davin Nes: It’s very hard. I feel I’m very fortunate that I married Kristin, my wife. She handles it very well. That’s what she’s used to. But for a lot of relationships, it’s hard. Very hard.
Therod: What is the tallest rogue wave you have seen?
Davin Nes: The tallest was an episode about bairdi called Black Sunday when 2 crab boats went down. Since 1990 I’ve not seen any waves bigger, and the biggest one I’d say was 35 feet.
Polaris: Any rituals you do for breaking bad Ju-Ju on a season?
Davin Nes: No, just don’t believe in ’em!
KylanBMX: Do you see the northern lights when out at sea?
Davin Nes: Sometimes. We used to, when opilio fishing used to go into July and August when it was daylight all day. But we don’t see it any more.
Lilmommyofdcfans: When is a greenhorn not considered a greenhorn anymore, and why aren’t they allowed to work the rail?
Davin Nes: A greenhorn is not allowed to work the rail because he absolutely does NOT know what’s going on. He’s just a number out there, period. When he’s allowed to work the rail is when he does his bait job with a passion and putting his heart into it. When the guys see he’s working, and not complaining, that’s when he gets moved up to another job. It’s funny nowadays – I’ve had guys on the show, greenhorns, who say they’re a five year guy so they think they can run circles around you. I say they’re a one year guy, because that’s the amount of time they’ve actually worked, and they still don’t know what you’re doing. Five seasons is about as much time as one full year, and I was a greenhorn for two full years.
Dan: How do you keep yourself going for so many hours at a time??
Davin Nes: Just the fact that you’ve signed on for the job, and even though the guys get cranky, you just have to man up and do what you signed on to do.
FirefighterGeek: When you come home, isn’t it awkward having to re-fit into the family schedule again? They’re continuing to do what they do, then suddenly you’re there in the middle of it again, yes?
Davin Nes: Oh yeah. When you come home after spending 3-4 months in Alaska, you are absolutely a social retard! I took my girls to school once after I just got home,
and I didn’t know their teacher’s name, their room number, anything. It takes a while to get used to all that again.
Rindy: Have you ever taken a cruise on vacation?
Davin Nes: Never. But I would like to. My wife loves going out on boats. To watch people work is really relaxing! If I was on a cruise ship, I could watch the guys doing all the work with the lines etc. and that would be very relaxing for me!
Discovery: Davin, thanks for being here tonight, and for answering so many questions from Deadliest Catch fans. Anything you’d like to add, before we have to close the chat?
Davin Nes: I’m very thankful to have an opportunity to be on the show. What happened with Jeffrey – for someone to be killed that way and really not know what happened to him – to me, it really made me hate the place. I just about quit. But I think Jeffrey would want me to keep on going.
Discovery: Got more questions for the captains? Call 877-442-2824, TOLL-FREE and leave a message! Your question could end up on this season’s After the Catch program. http: //dsc.discovery.com/fansites/deadliestcatch/audio-messages/audio-messages.html/ Tune in for the next episode of Deadliest Catch, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. E/P.