Discovery’s Livechat from June 19th, 2008 was held with Capt. Andy Hillstrand of the F/V Time Bandit. When this skipper’s not out in the Bering sea, he’s on his horse ranch in Indiana–always maintaining a close relationship with Mother Nature! Read up on what Capt. Andy has to say about crab, fishing, and family. The Hillstrands have done alot throughout this last season–they created a new Time Bandit website, just completely over-hauled the Time Bandit this summer, and a few months ago–they visited their father’s grave for the first time in six years, and shared that visit with us on ‘Deadliest Catch’. Check out being a part of livechat for next week as they’re interviewing Capt. Johnathan Hillstrand on July 10th!
Andy Hillstrand: Hey, this is Captain Andy of the Time Bandit. I’m glad to be here. Last year’s chat was awesome, and I can’t wait to hear the questions this year!
Jenn: First, I want to say that I had the pleasure of meeting you at the Philly Deadliest Catch party and you were so great with the fans, thank you! My question is how did you become interested in training horses?
Andy Hillstrand: My daughter got into horses around 7 years old, so I was sort of like the tack dad. I took her to events, and from there I just fell in love with horses: the way they move and look and act.
Shake And Bake: Hey Captain Andy! I read somewhere that you practice Natural Horsemanship – any particular clinician?
Andy Hillstrand: Probably a friend of mine named Barry Cox. Clinton Anderson’s good, and so are Cleve Wells and Craig Cameron – all the guys nowadays are really good.
The Galway Girl: Hi Andy! I have two questions really: I’m a Parelli student and was wondering what level are you on and how, if at all, you work the Parelli games and principles into your Quarter Horse training?
Andy Hillstrand: I’m working on Level 3. I just work the program by being as natural as I can, using my body language, psychology, and having fun. I play with my horses, instead of making it a task.
Mandy: Hi Captain Andy! Was your home in Indiana hit by the floods?
Andy Hillstrand: No, 40 miles north got hit, but we didn’t. Thank God. We’ve had enough rain lately!
Sandi: Other than your wife and family, what do you miss the most while you are at sea?
Andy Hillstrand: My horses 🙂 And my dogs. I can’t forget my dogs. I have 2 miniature Australian Shepherds: Bait (because if he’s not good, that’s what he’ll be!) and Callie.
The Galway Girl: Which crab season is your favorite and why?
Andy Hillstrand: King crab is my favorite season because they’re just so big and beautiful and I don’t have to worry about being the captain, I can just have fun on deck. Horsing around, no worries.
Bwest: Captain Andy, thanks for chatting with us. Love your show. Could you tell me what caused the crab to die in the onboard tank? Thanks very much.
Andy Hillstrand: They can crack a leg and die in there, or they might be dead when they go in the tank and someone didn’t notice. When they’re dead, they excrete a poison, and that starts killing all the other crabs.
Llama: Hi Andy! I’d like to say thank you for signing the blue shoes my friends Freida brought to the Wiki party. How does living in Indiana compare to Alaska?
Andy Hillstrand: There’s no comparison really. Alaska is like a place out of a storybook. But Indiana has really nice people, and it’s a lot less extreme than Alaska in the weather. It seems to be easier on my horses in the summertime.
Capt Marlena: What’s with John being in the wheel house? Though we love him, we like to have you to ourselves. By the way, my friend Joanie thinks John is hot. Come warm up in Naples, FL.
Andy Hillstrand: (laughing) Well Johnathan will be going down on deck for guest appearances, so stay tuned! But since they downsized the whole fleet, there’s no other boats for us to run. That’s why I work on deck for king crab: he’s just too old to work on deck for king crab! (He won’t be back from Sweden for 10 days, so I’m OK saying that)
Chip2004: What is your favorite place that you have gone on tour?
Andy Hillstrand: I have to say New York City, because there are just so many different places you can go without ever seeing the same thing.
Chip2004: What is your favorite TV show besides Deadliest Catch?
Andy Hillstrand: There’s a horse channel on RFD, but I don’t get it, because it’s only available on satellite. I love Shark Week on Discovery. When we were in New York,I wanted a giant shark from the Discovery building, but they wouldn’t give it to me.
Aroostook: I read somewhere that Neal has 2 sons. Are they interested in fishing at all?
Andy Hillstrand: Yes, Neal has two sons, and no, they’re not.
Lhiiiz: Hi Andy! Whose idea was it to put the new bulbous bow on the Time Bandit, and what purpose does it serve?
Andy Hillstrand: I’ve wanted one ever since we built the boat, but my dad wasn’t going to help us put it on. It adds flotation to the bow, about 20,000 pounds of lift. So when we have our pots on and all of our tanks down, there will be less chance of sinking. It’s very good. We gain speed too, and save fuel. We’re going green!
Scfj654: While you are taking the helm, do you ever get tips from Johnathan on where to place pots?
Andy Hillstrand: Yes, even when I didn’t want ’em! On the first episode of opilio, we went to where he did good last year. And this year, we went to Magoo and landed on the mother lode. So in 12 hours we were pulling 700 crabs per pot.
Rocket-6: Hey Andy! Will there be more dates added for your book tour?
Andy Hillstrand: Yes, they’re talking about it. If you go to www.timebandit.tv, you can keep informed on all our appearances.
Eraywt: Thank you Captain Andy for spending time with us tonight. Please let us know your best crab season ever. What makes it the best – the most crab or the most $$?
Andy Hillstrand: My best crab season ever was 1999; I caught 1.7 million pounds of opilio in two months and one week. The guys made $72,000. It was one of those years where you couldn’t do anything wrong. I could drop a pot where I wouldn’t normally drop one, and it would be full. I was thinking like a crab 🙂 That was in open access days, before quotas.
LindaMae: Are you and your brother close the rest of the year too, or just on the boat?
Andy Hillstrand: We’re best friends as far as that goes, but we don’t get to hang out too much in the summertime because I have the horse ranch. And he’s the single ladies’ man. 🙂
Munchkin: So if you had no choice and had to do something else, what would it be?
Andy Hillstrand: I would work with horses. I love horses.
Cinarte: If either of your daughters were interested in becoming part of your family crab business, would you let them?
Andy Hillstrand: I’ve had my daughters go out cod fishing with me before, but they like doing other things. My younger daughter is a professional photographer.
Cat9: When Johnathan plays captain, you’re on the deck helping. When you’re driving the boat, he’s playing back seat driver. Why doesn’t he help?
Andy Hillstrand: He’s too old! Opilio is so demanding – they only weigh 1.2 pounds, so we need young guys to do it. That’s why I do king crab – because they’re big and I can still do that job. Russell’s our charity case – he’s 45, and normally we would try to have 25-35 year old guys because you can work them like dogs. (In a good way!) They have strong backs.
Crabluver: My husband and I were wondering why you didn’t use tempered aluminum pots to lighten the load. The only thing he can come up with is that it gets so cold that it might snap under the conditions you work in.
Andy Hillstrand: They need to be heavy because you have 40-60 foot seas that rip through the buoys that are connected to the pots. They would lift an aluminum pot right off the bottom.
McB: Hi Andy! I adore the Time Bandit! Your website rocks, by the way. What do the 3 buoys on the pot mean?
Andy Hillstrand: The 3 buoys is our way of being able to get the pot back in rough weather. We need to be able to grab the pots in 40-60 foot seas, so this just makes it easier.
Carnivalchica28: Hey Andy! Love you guys on the Time Bandit. On to my question – on an average, how long does it take to fill the boat?
Andy Hillstrand: Average for opilio, about 2 days if you’re on hot fishing. King crab is about the same, 2 days if you’re on hot fishing.
Jenn: The scene where you and your brothers and nephew visit your father’s grave was very touching. It was such a personal moment, and I was wondering if you guys are able to tell the cameramen that certain scenes or conversations are off limit, or is it up to the producers to decide what makes the cut?
Andy Hillstrand: That was really tough for us to do. They asked us if we could go to his gravesite and at first we said no. It was too tough for us, so we went back and did it in the most respectful way we could. That was so hard. I hadn’t been back to his grave for 6 years.
Jessiemay: I love to watch your boat in action. Is it difficult to get along sometimes during the season? Also, when are you coming to California for a book signing?
Andy Hillstrand: It can be difficult after a couple of months to get along, because everyone wants to get off the boat. Hopefully soon to California – check our website at http://www.timebandit.tv for a schedule.
BroncoTrav: Since your father was also a fisherman, did you and your brothers have to work on the boats or did you want to?
Andy Hillstrand: We wanted to ever since we were kids. We cried when he left and didn’t take us.
NHEMT: You guys are the kings at pranks. What’s the next one you’re gonna pull?
Andy Hillstrand: Johnathan has one figured out, but you’ll have to wait until next year. Don’t change that channel!
Tabi: Which job do you prefer, being captain or deck boss and why?
Andy Hillstrand: I guess I prefer being captain, just because I’m so damned good at it, I guess! That’s where I seem to fit in better, because my body’s getting old for the deck job. I can use my mind when I’m captain.
LAl57: Capt. Andy, just finished your book “Time Bandit” and loved it!!!!! Any plans for a sequel?
Andy Hillstrand: Well, a lot of people have been asking. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how well the first book sells. But thank you! Maybe you can buy another copy, and we’ll get a request for a sequel 🙂
BroncoTrav: We saw last year how you guys saved that guy from the other boat. How many other times or opportunities have you been able to save lives?
Andy Hillstrand: Johnathan saved 3 other guys’ lives on a little boat, and later one of the men he saved had the name of our other boat, Arctic Nomad, tattooed on his arm. Then we pulled a guy from the water after another boat tried to rescue him. Two hours of CPR, but he took his last breath as we pulled him out of the water.
Raegan123: Hi Andy, my question is does anyone on the boat ever get sea sick and what do you do about it???
Andy Hillstrand: Yes, Johnathan gets seasick on the boat, just when we first go out, then he gets over it. If the other guys get sick, we just tell them to puke in a bait jar. No crybabies.
Turtle: Does your mom watch the show and has she read the book?
Andy Hillstrand: My mom can’t watch the show, because she worries about us too much. She has read the book though and she says now she knows why she woke up at midnight and prayed for us all those years. Those are her exact words.
D Cal: I’m sure you’ve probably heard this question numerous times, but I was wondering why cameras or similar technology isn’t used in finding crab?
Andy Hillstrand: We actually had an underwater camera built that we used to find the crab. But with quotas, you don’t need them any more.
Polaris: Do you like Alaska, or is it just a place you have to endure for work?
Andy Hillstrand: I love Alaska. I was born and raised there, and that’s the reason I am who I am today.
Starshell: The Time Bandit crew is the cowboy of the fleet. We frequently see your boat near or in the ice pack. Is your boat’s hull extra thick to protect against the ice?
Andy Hillstrand: No, it’s not! And we actually just did $300,000 worth of boat work. We added the bulbous bow, and that got rid of some of the damage that happened last year. We don’t go looking for the ice, but it seems to find us.
Little Norske: Does it bother you to have “Big Brother” watching over your shoulder?
Andy Hillstrand: Nah. He’s been there my whole life, and I wouldn’t change anything. Sometimes it gets annoying, but I just give him a hard time right back. I’m glad I have a brother like Johnathan.
Catch22: Hey Andy! I love the show! What’s the worst injury you’ve ever had and how did it happen?
Andy Hillstrand: Worst injury I’ve ever had – I fell carrying a computer, of all things, and it cut my chin open and I had to get 18 stitches in my chin. I’ve had fingers smashed, but I’ve been really lucky (knock on wood) that I still have all my fingers and toes attached.
NHEMT: What scares you the most being out on the Bering Sea?
Andy Hillstrand: Fire on the boat. The ice is a bad thing too. And 100 foot waves, of course.
Lukepupster24: Hi Captain Andy; my dad and I love watching you and your brother fish on the Time Bandit. You guys are wicked funny. How do you keep your sense of humor when you know how big the risks are? Congrats on the great opilio season we just saw on TV.
Andy Hillstrand: I’ve always been a really happy person anyways, so with the brothers that I have and the guys that are around, who wouldn’t be able to have fun?
Jojo: Andy, where is your Penn State hat??
Andy Hillstrand: (laughing) It’s right behind my Notre Dame hat. I got in trouble for wearing the Penn State hat from all my Hoosier friends. I found out that if I live in Indiana, I’m not allowed to wear that hat.
Jeremiah: How long have you and you brother owned your boat?
Andy Hillstrand: 18 years now.
Ray: Hey Andy, I read in your book that you have 4 other brothers. Where are they now?
Andy Hillstrand: Well, Neal and Johnathan and I are still on the boat, and my brother Mike is a doctor. And our oldest brother Dave works on the North Slope, drilling for that oil.
Bobman32: I still don’t understand the “co-captain” dynamics between you and your brother, perhaps u can explain.
Andy Hillstrand: Basically when we first started fishing back in 1991, there was 2 king crab seasons, as well as seasons for bairdi, opilio crab, hair crab, and tanners. We were working 10 months a year, so if we split it up, we could have lives. I spent over half of my life on the water. And I wanted to stay married 🙂
Daves: Captain Andy, I have a question concerning crab fishing on the Bering sea…I notice that the coils of rope do not appear to be that great. What is the average depth of the Bering Sea where most of the fleet crab fish?
Andy Hillstrand: For king crab, it’s about 40 fathoms, which is 240 feet. For opilio the average is 70 fathoms, or 420 feet.
Shane: How much more dangerous on deck is it with missing deckboards? Are they easily replaceable or do you have to wait till you get back to Dutch?
Andy Hillstrand: It’s twice as dangerous without a deckboard. You definitely have to try and replace them, without being electrocuted. You just have to cut them depending on the weather, then fasten them down without getting shocked.
Trentry: When did you first captain a boat?
Andy Hillstrand: About 25 years ago. I’ve been running skiffs and small boats all my life, since I was 12. I ran bigger boats when I was about 20, then in ’91, I was a fulltime captain.
LauraC: I love your sense of humor and easygoing nature. Where are you now, and do you have any vacation plans this summer? Thanks for chatting with us!
Andy Hillstrand: I’m in Indiana now, or AN-diana, as Johnathan calls it. I would love to go to Florida, or to the Bahamas to go scuba diving, down that way. But right now the plan is just to hang out with the horses, do summer camp for kids, and train my horse Rio to be a really good reining horse.
Eileen: Do you guys have crab dinners when out at sea?
Andy Hillstrand: Oh you betcha! King crab breakfasts too – crab omelets, or crab muffins (English muffin with crab, and cheese melted all over it). Ain’t nothin’ like that!
EtsyBay-3: Hi Andy, thanks for joining us. When other ships have problems, do you find out about it right away? Or do you find out when you’re back ashore?
Andy Hillstrand: If one of our buddy boats has a problem, they try to call us to see if we have parts. But if anybody ever needs help and they call us, we always help them.
WWE luver100: Do you have a fav band?
Andy Hillstrand: It’s got to be AC/DC if I have to pick one. “Back in Black,” baby! And Bon Jovi was right up there too.
SeattleTexan: Captain Andy, do you hope someday to make your horse business your primary job? Or is it more of a hobby for you?
Andy Hillstrand: I would love to have it as I get older to be able to play with horses. It’s a full time job that I have right now, running the ranch. We have horse camps going all summer, and training horses. And then I go fishing.
Seadogstat: Hi Andy, congrats on the big numbers in tonight’s episode. My question is, when you hit a biomass, do you ever rebait and drop the same pot you just pulled up in an effort to get the pot right back on? Is that even a viable option? Thanks…
Andy Hillstrand: Oh yeah, we did that this year. We dumped back because in 12 hours, I’m right on them. Found the mother lode 🙂
Llama: Have you considered a cookbook? Crab muffins sound delish!!
Andy Hillstrand: Yes we have actually, and our brother Neal is taking to people right now about having a Time Bandit cookbook. Neal is the cook on board, and he does “guy food” excellent. He makes clam chowder like you wouldn’t believe. He likes to throw salmon in it too sometimes, but even the plain clam chowder is amazing.
Lane: Last season when you took care of getting line out from around your rudder, it looked like you might scuba dive. If so, where do you like to dive?
Andy Hillstrand: Yes I scuba dive. I went to Costa Rica for Christmas and New Years, and that was the first warm water I’ve ever dived in. Otherwise it’s 38-40 degree water. I like to dive anywhere where it’s 84 degree water.
Kim: I think u r so cute!! Here is my question: I see all the other captains on the other boats get upset with their crew. I have seen them yelling at them also. I never see you and your brother upset. Are you always as happy as you seem? Or do you get upset?
Andy Hillstrand: It all depends on the crew you have, whether you get upset. Last year Johnathan got upset with the guy we called Caveman. But normally I only get upset if they almost get hurt or do something stupid. But I try to hire guys I don’t have to get upset with. I don’t like to hire greenhorns or people that are just abrasive. So I try not to put my self in the position where I have to get upset, because you don’t want to see me go captain on anyone’s ass. They call me the Axeman for a reason!
Trixton: Between the two of you, who has been the most successful during a season?
Andy Hillstrand: I was in the top 5 for opilio. We’ve never gone head to head for king crab to king crab or opilio to opilio, but we both say we’re the best. If you’re the captain, you have to have that attitude and be the best that you can be. I respect my brother as captain, and he respects me.
Tina: How badly are the high US gas prices impacting the crab fishing industry?
Andy Hillstrand: As of now, with the prices having just gone up, we don’t even know what’s going to happen. The prices have shot up so extreme over this last year, and I don’t know how the whole US economy is going to suffer. It’s not good. We’ve got real problems.
Polaris: As a captain, what would qualify as “totally unacceptable behavior” from a deckhand? Ever experienced that and/or fired someone for it?
Andy Hillstrand: Usually “totally unacceptable behavior” would be trying to hurt someone on the boat, or getting drunk on the boat. I had to fire a guy who got drunk on the boat because he was a closet alcoholic. Like the guy on the Wizard last year who ran up to confront Monte – totally unacceptable. That’s like mutiny right there. You can tie up a guy and flog him for that. Maritime law hasn’t changed since the 1600’s so you can still do that. That guy was going to get violent with the captain, and you just can’t have that on a boat.
Sonoma: Hi Captain Andy! I love watching you on the show. I’m loaning my Time Bandit book to my friend when they visit her brother in Anchor Point next week. My question is if you knew in advance what effect the TV show would have had on your lives, would you still have agreed to the cameras?
Andy Hillstrand: Most of the time, yes. The fans are the coolest things in the world – everyone’s been really nice. There hasn’t really been a downside to it yet. Stay tuned and we’ll let you know if it becomes a problem. If it gets to the point where the paparazzi won’t leave you alone, then it might be a problem. But with just normal people – no problem.
Gerebear: What year did crab quotas start?
Andy Hillstrand: I think it was 2005.
3: Will your nephew be staying on the boat?
Andy Hillstrand: He will for now. He’s back. We love to have him too – Scottie’s a good guy. I love him like a son.
HopeEternal: Would you ever consider having John work with you on your ranch?
Andy Hillstrand: (laughing) He doesn’t like horses. Not that he hates them; he just likes his Harleys. And he thinks I’m crazy. He loves Squawky though.
Jennic421: Hi Captain Andy, what would be the worst weather you have been in and were you the captain at the time?
Andy Hillstrand: The worst weather I was in was the 100 foot seas. I was on the wheel when we took the 100 foot wave, so I was the captain at the time.
McB: Are there different sized crab pots? Sometimes on the show it looks like someone’s pots are bigger than someone else’s.
Andy Hillstrand: Yes there are different sizes of crab pots. The Northwestern and the Time Bandit have the biggest pots, along with the Wizard. Ours are 7 feet wide by 8 feet long, and the Cornelia Marie has 6 1/2 feet by 6 feet. So yes, we only fish with all big pots on our boat.
Melodie: Andy, how close are you to the other captains? Is there one you are close to other than Johnathan?
Andy Hillstrand: As I’ve gotten to meet the guys off the show, I’ve always known and liked Phil. Sig grows on you like a fungus like you wouldn’t believe. He’s a good guy. The more I get to know him, the more I like him. He’s got the swagger of a captain, but when you get through all that stuff, he’s a good man and considerate of his brother. It surprised me; I didn’t know.
Rascalra: How often do you have the opportunity to contact your family back home while out on the Bering Sea?
Andy Hillstrand: With the satellite telephones, I can talk to my wife every day if I want. I normally try to contact her at least every other day, to keep in touch with the world.
Gerebear: Capt. Andy, how does it feel to be a celebrity?
Andy Hillstrand: (laughing) Well, I just wrecked my Maserati on my way to rehab 🙂 We’re not these super rich celebrities; we just make most of our money crab fishing. I guess that’s one of the biggest misconceptions about the show. We’re really just normal people.
Texas Peach: What do your daughters think of their dad and uncles on TV?
Andy Hillstrand: My youngest daughter was mad at first, because she didn’t want to share me with the world. My oldest daughter thought it was pretty cool. Now the youngest daughter likes it too.
My GF luvs Andy: Do all those seagulls become annoying after a while?
Andy Hillstrand: Yes they poop on you all the time. We’re always cleaning the windows.
TX Kirk: How come ya always get the good greenhorns? I mean you never have trouble with them.
Andy Hillstrand: We had trouble with Nate last year, the guy we called Caveman. But there are so many good guys who lost their jobs to quotas, so we live in a fishing town with good fishermen.
Jake: Who is your favorite to play pranks on?
Andy Hillstrand: It’s got to be Phil because he just gets so worked up. But I thought his jaw hit the ground when he saw the truck. We got him good! That was a totally green truck – no engine, no transmission, no nothing. It was just a shell. That’s why we did it.
Nittanybeth: Hi Capt Andy! What is it like for you when you get off the boat and return to day to day things like sitting in traffic? Is it hard to change gears from being a Captain on the Bering Sea to being back in “civilization”?
Andy Hillstrand: Oh yeah, it’s really tough. You have to get used to being back in civilization with thousands of people around you instead of your small group of guys. You get in traffic and you get something that’s almost road rage. They’re talking about a Time Bandit monster truck, so we could just drive over traffic! But you just have to breathe, and get on with your life.
Headin2Alaska: How about the Deadliest Catch groupies – what do the wives and girlfriends think about them??
Andy Hillstrand: My wife doesn’t like girls that want to hug me and stuff like that, so I’m not allowed to sign body parts. That’s our little compromise 🙂 But the groupies, everyone’s been pretty nice so far ,so we haven’t had a problem with people doing weird stuff.
WinterEagle: Captain Andy, I just started going to school to get my “six-pack” captain’s license to start charter fishing with my ’97 Sea Sport 2744 WA Cuddy. I would eventually like to move up to what you and Andy do for a living. Do you have any advice?
Andy Hillstrand: It’s going to be really tough to get a job as a crab boat captain. I’d suggest going up to a 97 foot yacht and running that for the rich people. Make a lot more than crab fishing.
Gerebear: Capt. Andy, how many more years do you plan to fish?
Andy Hillstrand: Probably until my bones and my body won’t let me do it any more.
Discovery: Andy, thanks for being here tonight to answer so many fans’ questions! Anything you’d like to add, before the chat ends?
Andy Hillstrand: I’d just like to say thanks to all the fans who come out to the book signings. They’ve given us such positive feedback on the book, and we appreciate it. If you want to know anything about the Time Bandit, you can go to our website at http://www.timebandit.tv to find out where we’ll be. Without the fans watching, the show wouldn’t be successful, so thank you and thank you. And don’t miss After the Catch – it’s going to be a good one!