Deadliest Catch & Perfect Storms

April 6, 2011

I am not a regular watcher of the program but I know people who are. I generally enjoy anything associated with Mike Rowe. Last night I happened to catch a repeat episode as they are preparing for the new season launching next week.

The episode was the one in which Captain Phil Harris suffers a stroke and eventually passes away. Wow. It is a pretty intense episode. I’ll admit I was channel surfing and did not see all of it–needed a break for levity.

I understand the appeal of the program–it is something so foreign to the majority of people. It is a lifestyle and culture unique to itself. It is a hard and dangerous life. You’ve got to be passionate about it or want the money bad enough.

I don’t know how the program covers, if it does, the families left behind. I know in last night’s program several of the men talked about missing huge chunks of their children’s lives. All sailors feel this, no matter what part of the industry they are in.

But watching the show I can’t help but feel DH is kind of in the sanitized niche of the industry. Even as a chief engineer, his job is so very different from that of a deep-sea fisherman. I cannot for legal reasons say anything else in regards to what DH does or who he works for but I will try to make generalizations.

In comparison, the grueling hours on deck these men undertake is incredible. DH gets dirty in his own way–covered in fuel and grease; repairing broken parts and electrical problems; fixing equipment the deckies have broken on deck; and one day I’ll tell you about fixing raw sewage leaks on Thanksgiving Day. In my About Me Page I explain that engineers are/were called Snipes. Historically there has been tension between the deck and engine sides of the crew and initially, anyone in the engine was seen as a little lower on the totem pole. I guess though, grudging respect is bestowed when you realize without power the ship is going nowhere, and conditions for engineers are not so bad any more.

Oh but you’ll still have one side say the other is more important or works harder. Old rivalries die hard.

I have read and seen Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm. I feel the book paints a more objective view of what happened and why. The movie glorifies the mistakes people made and the lives that were lost because of those mistakes. That is a tragedy in more ways than one. A ship modified beyond its initial design specks is an accident waiting to happen. Staying out beyond the point of no return in the hopes of just one more haul… again, I can’t imagine living on paychecks like that and am grateful DH’s salary and payment schedule was changed early on.

I think about the lives of the Coast Guard rescue helicopter crew, lost because someone else made a poor choice during that fateful super storm. These are details the movie leaves out. I know, who wants to listen to George Clooney explain ship modifications when we can just watch him stand heroically at the wheel and go down with the ship?

I know DH isn’t on deck in conditions like these, but I have seen pictures of his vessel or similar ones going into similar weather. I’ve seen pictures of all the railings and pipes covered in inches of ice. I still worry when I hear there has been a tsunami. I am grateful for whatever reason my local news channels do not want to cover anyone else’s weather systems–DH just tells me after the fact.

A few years back, several of DH’s coworkers were having at-home machinery accidents or ones on board or even one passed away of natural causes. DH’s attitude and stamina about how long he would continue to sail changed. Oh, he’s always complained about his knees and says he’s getting old, but this was the first time I heard him ever utter “I do not want to be 50 and still sailing.” I support whatever decision he wants to make and this probably started me looking into substituting or some other employment.

Then DH had an accident of his own and in 3 seconds our lives could have changed forever. We would have dealt with it and we would have been strong, but it was a reality check. DH I think is now grateful for whatever the day brings and while the new position and the new ship are taxing and stressful, he isn’t approaching retirement with the same attitude. We are still preparing for it–which in this economy is probably a very smart thing to do, especially if he’s retiring right when T1 and T2 will be starting college–but the final years won’t be such a burden. I hope that makes sense.

I support DH in whatever he wants to do–he is after all supporting me and the children and making all the sacrifices. I have learned to check with him about what kind of cheer-leading he wants because I don’t want my good intentions to be misconstrued as nagging (and he’s being more upfront about that too).

We don’t live in a fishing town. DH doesn’t live from paycheck to paycheck. DH doesn’t work for a family owned company. Our children will most likely not follow in DH’s footsteps nor will they marry sailors. Sometimes I wish the children had other friends who go through the same thing, just as it would have been nice in the early years to know the other wives, but if the trade-off is a safer profession for DH I’ll take it.

Again, my hat is off to the military and the sailors who do such grunt work in such dangerous conditions. There is no comparison really.



  1. I will have to be careful about watching Deadliest Catch in front of the children. T1 walked in, saw the TV, identified the program and said, “Deadliest Catch creeps me out.” I immediately said, “Dad is not a deep sea fisherman. He doesn’t sail under those conditions and I’m glad he doesn’t.”

  2. […] reminded him that I didn’t go see The Perfect Storm with him. I was the one pointing out the inaccuracies in that movie to my sister because I had read […]

  3. […] See Related Post: Perfect Storm […]

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