5/22/07 Discovery LiveChat:
Captain Phil Harris & Josh Harris of the F/V Cornelia Marie
Discovery: Welcome this week's Deadliest Catch chat. Our guests tonight are Phil Harris, Captain of the Cornelia Maria, and his son Josh Harris. Jake Harris isn't able to be with us tonight, as he's out working on the boat. In Phil's 30th year of crab fishing, he is joined by his sons on the Bering Sea and it's a bumpy ride in more ways than one. Ask the Harris clan about life aboard the Cornelia Marie.
Phil Harris: I'm very happy to be here, and hopefully I can answer everyone's question who wants to know what we're up to.
Chico2007: I know fishing is your life. Has there ever been a thought of doing anything else, like when you were younger maybe?
Phil Harris: One time about 25 years ago, I decided that I wasn't going to fish any more, so I got a job in construction for about a month and a half. It was a real job where you get paid every Friday like a big person. After that month, a friend called me up one morning and asked me if I wanted to go sport fishing on the Sound. I jumped on the boat, and at that point decided that it's too hard to have a normal job. The thought of having to be someplace every morning at 7am and doing the same thing over and over, I just didn't think I could do it. I don't think I could have a real job.
Joyce: Capt. Phil, how many years did you work as a deck hand before becoming a captain? How many years a captain?
Phil Harris: I started in 1976, and I was on deck for about 5 years. The opportunity came on my 25th birthday to run a boat for the first time. I was the youngest skipper to run a boat. So I ran it a little bit, and worked on deck the rest of the time. Over the next 4-5 years, I got more wheelhouse time and less deck time until I became strictly a captain and that's been 21 years now.
1mddcfan: Josh, what do u guys do in your spare time?
Josh Harris: I meet people. I just go out and have a good time. You fuckin' gotta live life to the fullest, so that's what I do.
Drinkr23: Who's the toughest of the 3 of you? LOL
Josh Harris: Describe "toughest"! I don't know - we've all got our parts. Jake is tough and you can't break his spirit. Dad will take a bite out of a shot glass to show you how tough he is. Then there's me - I'm sort of in the middle. I get a bit wild and crazy, and we keep the Harris thing going, that's for sure.
Flygoddess: How long can the crab stay in the holding tanks, before you have to offload?
Josh Harris: They can be in the holding tanks for up to 3 weeks, although we try not to make it more than 2 weeks. We have to deliver live crab. Dead crab does not equal money.
Julie8193: Do you guys ever blast music over the deck while you are working, to break up the monotony?
Josh Harris: Insanely loud! It's beyond insane. The music is so loud you can't even hear yourself think and your ears could start bleeding at any time. But it keeps us awake. We listen to everything from Paula Cole to anything but county and opera. I tell you, a 60 gig iPod can barely hold enough music for the season. It's madness, I tell you!
Liz1450: Hi guys, you have a lot of fans. Phil, how is your blood pressure?
Phil Harris: I'm taking some pretty heavy duty medication for it, and I think it's getting a lot better. I haven't had it checked for 3 days now, but I think it's hovering around 170/120 or something.
Kaiaa: Hey guys, thanks for being here tonight! Phil, what has been your scariest moment at sea.. and what was your best prank besides the pipe on the NW's pot?
Phil Harris: I've been scared on the water about 3 times in my career, and every one is a bit different but equally scary. We were at the Pribilofs and it was blowing in the area of 150-175 knots, maybe 100 foot seas. We came off a comber and there wasn't any water on the other side and the boat just free fell about 100 feet. The boat weighs around 700 tons, so it just blasted all of us. It just ripped things off the walls inside the boat - the microwave and stereo went flying, dishes all over the place. We blew off one of our rudders too, and all the alarms were going off. We didn't know if we'd punctured a hole in the boat or what. We were sideways at this point in 100 foot seas, We got it spun around and I knew I'd done something to the boat because it wouldn't steer properly. It took a few minutes to get all the alarms shut off. Guys were checking the engines in the engine room to find out if there was structural damage. At that point we were going the same direction as the seas and the waves were so big that I was just terrified. A friend called to see how it looked and for 4 hours, I didn't even turn around to look. I knew if I did, it would probably give me a heart attack. It was just too big. The pranks - they're all good, it just depends on who you're doing them to! The one we did with Sig was funny because he's Norwegian and I was trying to think of something rare. We've put toilets in pots, we've dressed a mannequin in rain gear and put him in the pots. It just goes on and on - it's just endless that we do back and forth. That was probably one of the funniest ones though.
Rwalter: Phil, when are you going to quit smoking? Your cough sounds terrible. Come on boys you want your dad around for a while don't you?
Phil Harris: You know, I've actually thought of quitting smoking recently. I have slowed down considerably. My divorce is over, and the girl I've been dating is really pushing me so I'm at least giving it some heavy duty thought and have cut it down quite a bit.
Sswanson: Hey Captain Phil, how did you break your back twice?
Phil Harris: I didn't exactly break it twice - I broke it in two places at one time. I was in the wheelhouse and we were loading some big hose. The guys looked like they needed a hand, so we all picked up this hose and I heard a snap. I went back to the wheelhouse and sat down, and 10 minutes later I tried to get out of the chair and couldn't. I could barely walk. The guys had to help me get into bed, and then I couldn't get out of bed. Some guys thought they knew what it was - they thought it was a kink in my back, so they walked on my back to straighten it out. That didn't do any good, so I flew to Seattle. A buddy who's a surgeon gave me some good pain pills, and I wound up in the hospital and they did an MRI. The guy at the hospital started laughing and said, "You're a crab fisherman?" I said I was, and he said "Man oh man, you guys are tough! Your back is broken in 2 places!" I was afraid I'd be paralyzed, and in fact 95% of people with that injury do end up paralyzed. I was just lucky.
DealJay: Josh, would you like to follow in your father's footsteps and captain a crab boat?
Josh Harris: You know, the possibility is there. Each time that I go out, I learn a bit more. But I'm still undecided.
Concentrate: Phil, what did you think about Jake and Josh's spending spree earlier this season? Did they get any more punishment than a tongue lashing from you?
Phil Harris: No, they didn't get punished. They've got me wrapped around their finger! But designer rain gear and all this fancy stuff they think they have to have - it's nonsense. When I worked on deck, we had one pair of boots and one set of rain gear. But they have to have several pairs of boots, several sets of rain gear, designer this, designer that. They can spend their money the way they want to, but when they're spending MY money, it's a slightly different story!
Twp20: Do you guys feel like you're missing out on college life etc.? Do you think you'll ever go?
Josh Harris: Yes, at one point I think most of us will go to college. But right now I don't feel I'm missing out on anything. There's great fishing, we come back and can vacation anywhere in the world we want and have a great time. So I'm having a good time right now.
Kitten007: Hi Capt. Phil, Jake and Josh. I wanted to know what your favorite memory on board is?
Josh Harris: I'd have to say just hanging out with the family and continuing the family tradition. All the Harris clan together - it's quite something.
Phil Harris: Wow. You know, I really don't have a favorite one. To me, it's all work. There's some fun things that happen, but it's not a situation where you can really relax and enjoy things. A good memory to me is when it's calm out and you're hauling pots and they're full. Having my kids on board is a fond memory. But things are just way too intense to just sort of sit back and think about what's fun.
Itcusn: Josh, is it really that hard to work for dear ole dad?
Josh Harris: (laughing) When we're on the boat, he's not really Pop - he's the captain. I like working for him. The only other person I'd work for is my grandfather.
FishNRings: Josh, what do you think you learned most from your father about crab fishing?
Josh Harris: How to stay alive. That's probably the biggest thing. A lot of old school stuff. It's all about being smart on deck, and staying alive. The man knows this stuff - he's been doing it for years.
Whitelion: Josh did you ever get the hang of the opilio season?
Josh Harris: Oh yes, I got it very well. It ended up working out pretty good. It was confusing at first, but the season lasted so long - longer than king crab - that I got the hang of it.
Flipper: Do you have a girlfriend and what does she think about your job?
Josh Harris: I had a fiance, but unfortunately the job has kind of taken precedence right now, so that ended just recently.
JakeisMyMan: Hello Phil, Jake, and Josh! I absolutely love you all. You make every episode hilarious! Have you heard that your family dynamics are being compared to the Simpsons? What is your opinion of that comparison?
Josh Harris: Wow! (laughing) That's definitely an interesting comparison, and I haven't heard that yet. But I guess with all the humor running in the family, it's definitely comparable.
Phil Harris: Well, I think that's a pretty good comparison. We have my dad, the more serious one that keeps us in line. Then there's me, and I'm a bundle all by myself. Throw Ding and Dong in there, and besides making my life a living hell, they gang up on me. You have to take it with a sense of humor or it would drive you absolutely batty.
Gcgrad05: How hard is it to work with both of your sons in such close quarters?
Phil Harris: It's hard sometimes. As you've seen on tonight's episode, the kids are both so different. If he wants something, Jacob will bug you and bug you until it drives you insane. Joshua is more like his mother - he has to get the last word in and always has something to say. That drives me absolutely haywire too. So between the two of them when they get going, I don't know whether to shit or go blind, to be honest.
Rwalter: I know the TV show covers the season for king crabs and opies, but is there a tanner season or what other crabs do you fish for?
Phil Harris: The Cornelia Marie mainly fishes for king crab and opilio. In spring we tender herring, and that's what the boat is doing right now. In summer, we catch salmon with the boat.
Tgilstrap: Do you guys watch the show? Is there anything that you are embarrassed of on the show?
Phil Harris: I don't watch every episode. I'm kind of embarrassed about my language at different times. But this is real. They don't script us on the show. Everything you see is really what's going on. So I'm embarrassed about my language at times - I think it could be a lot better.
Josh Harris: Yeah, sometimes we have time to catch an episode or two. I'm not really embarrassed. But it's funny to watch sometimes - it feels like a dream to be watching something that happened months ago.
Tgilstrap: Do you ever go fishing with a rod and reel for fun?
Josh Harris: I haven't in a long time, but I enjoy it as long as it's a big fish. It takes the fun out of it when you're fishing for trout, I can tell you that much.
Phil Harris: I love sport fishing. I used to take the boys out as kids. I just love fishing all the way round.
Crabby Mom: Evening guys, thanks for being here. Josh, I'd like to know if the pressure is a little more intense being the skipper's son.
Josh Harris: Yes. When you first step on the boat, you're a marked man. Not only do you have to be good, but you have to be really good. You get harassed by the guys. If something goes wrong or if my dad says something to me, I'll get harassed on deck because of it. But it's all part of the learning process, I guess.
Mystic: Howdy Harris family. Capt. Harris, does having your boys on board affect your decision making in any way, i.e. are you more cautious when it comes to weather, for instance?
Phil Harris: No, having them on the boat doesn't change my thinking process. I have my 2 boys, but the other guys on the boat have been with me for years and years. I kind of relinquish my power over the boys when we're on the boat to make it fair so no one can say they're the skipper's kids. I leave it to Roger and Murray to leave them alone. I don't play favoritism at all - it wouldn't be fair to the guys or to the kids. I just have to go with whatever I'm dealt with and treat them the same. I dearly love everyone on that boat.
Kdewberry: Are you tougher on your kids than the crew members on your boat?
Phil Harris: I think I probably am tougher on the kids because I want them to be able to walk off that boat being a half share guy Meaning I want them to be able to work on my boat and work for me, and I can teach them so if they went on another boat they'd be a full share guy. So yes, I am tougher on them than I would be on somebody else.
Patty: Is it tough to train a greenhorn?
Phil Harris: Training a greenhorn is probably one of the toughest things on a boat. 99.9% of the guys can't do it in the first place and they get scared. And seasick, of course - I think a lot of that is just being scared. They're out there and away from mom and dad and family and friends, and nobody can help them. They're alone out there in the real world of crab fishing and they have to make it or break it. A greenhorn will do a lot of squirrelly things because he's scared.
Bassga831: Hi Phil, are you still building custom bird houses since your big TV success?
Phil Harris: They are bird feeders, and I haven't had a chance in the last couple of years since my divorce because I don't have space to do it. But it's very relaxing for me to go in the garage with the dog, turn some music on, and create something from wood. I'm not a carpenter inclined type of guy, so I'm amazed at how they turn out.
Drerab: How many months are you out to sea per year?
Phil Harris: For the last few years, we've been spending a lot of time because of the way the seasons are structured. Right now, it's probably 8 months out of the year.
Fulbright: Hi Captain Phil, why would shaving bring better luck?
Phil Harris: I have a thing - I'm superstitious. I'm not fanatical, but I never used to shave in the middle of the trip because I believe that shaving brings bad luck. We were in at dock when I shaved my beard and things were going so haywire that I figured what the heck, it couldn't hurt.
Patty: We're from New England and we were wondering if you have ever visited or fished here before?
Phil Harris: No, I've never been east of North Dakota. Tomorrow morning I'm flying to Charlotte, NC for the NASCAR race, so I get my first visit to the east coast and I'm really looking forward to it.
Jim: Capt. Phil, did you question your father as much as your sons seem to question you?
Phil Harris: You know, my father and I have a great relationship when it comes to fishing. I don't question him as much as try to pick his brain because he's so knowledgeable when it comes to fishing. He's already been there, done that when it comes to fishing, and he's exceptional when it comes to taking the time to teach me the right way to do things. I do try to learn and pick up some of his knowledge. He's forgotten more than I'll ever know about fishing, so I'm very lucky to have his input on things.
Shmaw: Do any of you have a MySpace page or other site where you post updates?
Phil Harris: I have a personal MySpace page, and the Cornelia Marie has a website, www.corneliamarie.com. I think there's one floating webpage for me - I don't know, because I've never been to it. Joshua and Jacob have their own MySpace pages too.
Bonnie: Josh, I know your dad drives a pick up. What kind of vehicle do you drive?
Josh Harris: All sorts. Import cars, and a Four Runner SUV. An interesting collection!
CaliGirl: Hey Josh, how old were you when you first started fishing?
Josh Harris: I was ten years old. Summertime, to earn money for my school clothes.
Kelz: How has your life changed since "Deadliest Catch"?
Josh Harris: I go to the supermarket now, or if go to have a beer at the bar, everyone's, "Hey, I've seen you before." It's kind of funny - I'm just an ordinary guy, a crabber with a serious case of boat mouth!
Phil Harris: You know, we're recognized a lot for what we're doing, and it amazes me that people are interested. I've been doing it for so long, and I've tried to explain to people how close we are to living on the edge all the time, but people couldn't understand unless they 'd been there. And now, BANG - we're a big deal and people are interested in it. I get to meet a lot of people that I normally couldn't. A lot of doors have opened up to me through the show. I like meeting people. I like the fact that people come up to me on the street and want to introduce themselves. I think it's important to talk to them and visit a bit, because if it wasn't for the fan base, we wouldn't have anything. They're sweet people, and I try to treat them with respect. I guess that would be the funnest part of this.
Rhoberta: Phil, were you shocked by what the boys say about you when you are not around?
Phil Harris: I don't know what they say when I'm not around. I see the eye gestures and stuff, but I don't know if I've ever actually heard what they say when I'm not around. I know what they tell me. But I tried to raise them with some respect, and it's very important to me to spend time with my father, and it's important that the boys get to spend time with their grandfather. This family went to great lengths to make sure we could stay together. One of these days, my dad won't be with us any more and I want the kids to know they got to spend time with him and with me. I hope they raise their kids in that fashion.
Dee: What is the process of finding greenhorns and what is the number one reason you would hire one?
Phil Harris: I don't usually find greenhorns; they seem to find me. But generally I'll take a guy that is referred to me. We don't do that very often, because we don't need to. We have the same guys on the boat all the time. But the few times I have hired a greenhorn, I'll try to get someone I've heard of or who has good references. If you get a guy off the harbor in Dutch, he may be up there looking for a job for a reason - he may have been discarded from another boat and generally those guys are sue-happy.
Taz: The last two seasons the Cornelia Marie seems to have had a lot of mechanical problems. Is this typical what with the weather conditions, etc. or just bad luck?
Phil Harris: When you think about it, we actually haven't had that many problems. There were engine problems on Season 2, and the second time it happened was because it wasn't quite fixed properly the first time. The propeller problem we had: we'd taken the propellers off the boat and had a gentleman work on it intensely to make sure they were in top shape and properly tuned for the boat. That gentleman made a mistake, and did the whole procedure wrong. The propellers on that boat are very high tech, and he obviously wasn't in tune with the kind of metal that they're made of. So it wasn't the boat's problem; it was a problem with the guy putting in his two cents' worth. Generally we don't have problems like we did that second season.
Krystalseer: You are involved in a lot of rescues. Have you have ever lost a crew member of your own?
Phil Harris: Yes, I lost a guy about 20 years ago off my dad's boat. I have been in a number of rescues. One year I picked up 22 guys, I think, out of the water. I've been in numerous situations where I'd have to grab hold of a boat to keep it from going on the rocks, or involved in a search and rescue, looking for survivors or bodies.
Bamagirl73: When you were approached about doing this show, did you really think America would be so hooked on watching you fish for crab?
Phil Harris: Absolutely not! I was surprised that anybody would care what we're doing and how we're doing it. To this day, every day that goes by, I'm just amazed that people are interested in what we do and how we do it.
BKelly: What tastes better in your opinion, opie or Alaskan king? Or are you so sick of crab by the end of the season that you don't even bother?
Phil Harris: I don't like crab, king or opies. I think it's because I ran a catcher processor once and I had to eat crab every day. There are machines to control the salt and get the taste right, but we still had to taste it to make sure everything tasted OK. So now I'm so sick of crab. Give me a steak any day!
Firedawg: Phil, I'm in the USAF and fly the GPS Satellites. It's really cool to see how you use the positioning from them to not only navigate but I'm sure that's what you use to determine where your pots are. Just wanted to tell you that after being deployed to the desert a few times I still think what you do is a heck of a lot dangerous. Hats off to you guys.
Phil Harris: For starters, my hat is off to you and my thoughts and prayers are with you guys in Iraq. The guys that are the real heroes are the guys that are over there defending our freedom. I really mean that. We use the GPS like people use food. That's our main everything. We have GPS for the radar, GPS for all four computers that are in front of me, and we have a tracking system that goes straight to the government so they can follow every move we make. If there was one piece of equipment we lost, the most devastating would be to lose the GPS. We'd be out of business.
Tblaise: How do you set up the pots to catch different species of fish or crab?
Phil Harris: Interesting question. The pots generally are the same: 6 1/2 feet by 7 1/2 feet, and 33 inches deep. There's a tunnel ring in each side where the crab can come in, and hopefully not come out. We can change the size of the tunnel ring. For king crab, the tunnel rings are wide open. When we fish opies, we block part of that opening so no king crab can get in. The opening is 2 or 2 1/2 inches high so an opilio crab can scamper in there, but a king crab couldn't.
MesoB: Phil, what lesson do you most hope that Jake and Josh learned this season?
Phil Harris: I don't know if there's one lesson, but in general, if I died tonight and was gone, I hope they'd have the integrity to do what they say, be honest, and do honest work for an honest wage and not short change themselves or anyone else. To be honest about how they live and work. Don't sidestep things or try to cut corners. Do an honest hard job, and do it to the best of their ability.
Discovery: Thank you for being here tonight to answer all our questions about life aboard the Cornelia Marie! Do you have anything to add, before we have to close tonight's chat?
Phil Harris: I'd like to thank everyone for their participation, and for watching the show and being interested in what we're doing. It's probably the most flattering thing that will ever happen to me in my life - to have people come up and shake my hand and tell me they're interested in what I'm doing. That's as flattering as anything could be, and thank you very much everybody.
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