6/12/07 Discovery LiveChat:
Russell Newberry of the F/V Time Bandit
Discovery: Welcome to this week's Deadliest Catch chat. Tonight's guest is Russell Newberry, a deckhand aboard the Time Bandit, captained by Andy and Jonathan Hillstrand. Russell is new to the Time Bandit this year, but a veteran of the Bering Sea. He's been crab fishing for 20 years. Find out about life as a deckhand and this season of fishing aboard the Time Bandit.
Russell Newberry: Thanks you guys for taking some time to make some questions, and I'll certainly try my best to answer them!
btowngal: Hey Russell! I was just wondering what is the best thing about working with John and Andy? Russell Newberry: The two brothers - there's actually 3 - are totally professional. Collectively, they get stuff done on the boat and come up with decisions that are best for the boat and best for the crew, which is everyone involved. Collectively we come to a decision that hopefully will make some money for the boat.
Kathy: Hi Russ. I've enjoyed watching you on the Time Bandit this season. Makes me wonder where you were during seasons one and two. Were you crab fishing? Considering all your charm and personality, how did you escape the camera? Thanks, Russ. Russell Newberry: I was on a different vessel. Unfortunately when the IFQ system came in, the vessel I was on got sold. It qualified for buy back so I was out of crabbing for one year. Then in 2007 I was lucky enough to land a job on the Time Bandit.
MsterNoodles: You've been a deckhand for 20 years - have you learned any new tricks or ways of doing things from watching the show and seeing how they do things on the other boats? Russell Newberry: Absolutely! Just because I've been on a boat for 20 years doesn't mean there aren't other ways to tie knots and do things in different situations. So I'm always looking for a shortcut or a more efficient way of doing things.
Abby: Hello! Thanks for being here! I know people are always saying "it's in my blood...my father did it and his father did it...it's the only lifestyle I know," but do you ENJOY fishing? Russell Newberry: My grandfather was into tugboats, and my father was in the Coast Guard. As far as enjoying it, I enjoy the mobility of the job as far as I go out, work hard for a month, make some money, then I'm able to take some time off. But as far as having it in my blood, it might be, but I'm out there to make money.
Abby: Let me just say that you are soooooo dreamy, do women swoon over you? Russell Newberry: (laughing) Well I wouldn't say THAT! Normally I have to introduce myself. and make them laugh somehow or another. I'm not sure how women treat me! I don't think they swoon ;-)
TXgirl25: Love watching you on the Time Bandit. What do you do when you're not fishing? Russell Newberry: When I'm not fishing on the Time Bandit, I'm fishing on my little gill netter called The Wildcat, which is my summertime income here in Alaska. When I'm not doing that or crabbing, I'm normally taking care of my 6 year old daughter or visiting my family or going to Disneyworld.
TXgirl25: Hi Russ, where are you from? I've noticed you have a serious accent when you say 'boat'. Russell Newberry: Well, I was born in Virginia, but when I was 7 I moved to Homer, Alaska and I have lived here since then, which is over 35 years. As far as my accent, I like to think I don't have an accent, I just talk the way the words are spelled!
Fish: I noticed you seem to use the crab pots to catch cod, do you put bait in the pots to get the cod in the pot? Russell Newberry: Absolutely. We use mainly herring because that's what seems to attract codfish. We can haul cod pots which are crab pots turned into cod pots, and we can haul them every 4 hours. Hopefully, if there's a school of cod, we can catch them.
KukieJar: Just want to let you know you are my favorite besides Johnathan. As a deckhand about how long does it take to adjust to being on the sea after being on land? Russell Newberry: I'll tell you - every time I get on the big boat, if I've been on land for any length of time, I get seasick. Normally I'm queasy for a couple of days, then I get over it, and I get my sea legs back.
fishladyfla: What has been your scariest moment crab fishing? Russell Newberry: I've had several. I was on a vessel called the Debra D, with Jonathan as skipper. We took a wave that rolled the boat over on its side and all the bait shifted from the port side to the starboard side and it gave our boat a 30 degree list. I was lying in my bunk at this time, and when I got to the wheel house, I heard Jonathan say, "I've never seen the boat do this before." I went straight for my survival suit! We then went through our necessary steps to put the boat back on an even keel, and the way we did that was by taking 2 pots and hanging them off the port side off of the crane. But at that point, we were laying on our side until we got the even keel. We thought we might have to go through our Abandon Ship drill.
Patty: What kind of a person does it take to be a crab fisherman? Russell Newberry: It takes all kinds of people! Adventurous. It's fast, it's working late hours. You have to be a happy person, an optimist to be any kind of a fisherman. And I am all of these things.
Seahawk: What was your biggest accomplishment? Russell Newberry: My biggest accomplishment was when Sophie, my 7 year old, was born in 2000. As far as other accomplishments, I'm over 40 years old, I have a house, I pay my taxes, I'm on top of my bills, and I'm proud that I vote every time.
Irsheyes: Hi Russ. You're to be commended for your role in saving Josh. Tell me, what went through your mind when you were faced with the possibility of having to jump into that icy water to rescue him? Russell Newberry: I tell you, I got mad. The first thing when we did the man overboard drill, because I had to get my survival suit and I actually thought, "I'm going to have to get into the Bering Sea." I didn't know what shape Josh was in - was he conscious, did he hit his head? So in the 25 seconds it took me to put on the survival suit, I had thoughts about how I was going to act when I saw him off the side of the boat. When I saw him, and saw that he was conscious and able to talk to us and was still in his right mind, it was apparent when we threw him the life ring that he was capable of doing the Spiderman, and getting on our boat. You should have seen him on the side of our boat!
TXgirl25: Thanks for chatting with us. I have to ask because I'm curious, what kind of underwear do crabbers prefer? Boxers or Briefs? Russell Newberry: I'm sure a lot depends on whether you're the skipper or a deckhand! I personally like to wear briefs when I'm on deck, just to keep myself together. When I'm in town, I like to wear boxers.
purplearcher: What is the biggest difference between the captaining styles of Jonathan and Andy? Russell Newberry: Actually, there's not much difference. You can see their father coming out in both their styles. They both have a different way of doing things, but it's fun to watch them confer with each other and then come to a decision.
newbedford07: In Georges Bank off the coast of Cape Cod, MA Northeast winds are the worst for fishing. What's the worst wind for fishing there? Russell Newberry: (laughing) All of them! Anything over 35 knots out of any direction can be fatal 300 miles off shore. Actually, I like the southerly winds because it's raining. When it's blowing out of the north, it's usually snowing which means it's freezing out and the boat freezes sooner. So we're usually hoping the winds are going to blow southerly.
sarahinoc: How many pots on a string? Russell Newberry: There's no rule book, it depends on how the skipper reads the bottom of the ocean. We've had as many as 80, and we've had as few as 2. It just varies by where you think there's a little school of crab on the bottom.
ChrisSitek: Hi Russell, considering how valuable the crab is, not to mention the expensive pots, is there much of a problem with theft of crab and gear? Thanks for the awesome show! Russell Newberry: There used to be, 20 years ago. It was so easy to rob other people's pots, but not a lot of it now your boat is posted on the radar. Now with new technology you know where all the boats are at. Unfortunately you can't see what pots they're hauling, but mostly I think people pretty much stick to their own gear.
abner: Do you guys break in greenhorns as hard as some of the other boats we see on the show? Russell Newberry: You know, every boat's different on how to treat their newcomers. But there's a fine line between riding him like a horse, and treating him like a human being. Nobody's born with experience; it's just who can pick it up fastest. If I tell you something, I don't want to have to tell you 3 or 4 times.
white lion: What is your favorite thing to eat between strings? Russell Newberry: Whatever is accessible! If I had to say my favorite thing, it would be a steak or chicken dinner. But mostly we're in a hurry, and it ends up being a pocket pizza or something microwaveable.
OUhockeyfan: Russell, thanks for sharing your time with us! Can you tell us a little about your individual initiation experience as a greenhorn? Is there an initiation process for each f/v that you've worked on? Russell Newberry: There's no actual process. Each boat has their own little pranks that they do to first-timers on the boat. For instance, when I first got on the boat I was told to do an anchor watch. When they tell you to do that, you go up to the bow and watch it, and depending on how naive you are determines how long you actually look at the anchor. But normally, you have a new guy on the boat, and he does all the cleaning, the baiting, all the stuff that nobody else wants to do.
PETER: How long are you usually out side setting pots? Russell Newberry: We work roughly 3 hours on deck at a time. Depending on whether we're hauling or setting gear. Depending on how far the next string is is how much of a break we'll get. Sometimes it's one mile, which is ten minutes. But most captains like to keep the pots close, because the more pots we pull, the more money we make.
jnc019: How close have you ever come to falling overboard on being on a sinking ship? Russell Newberry: Fortunately for me, the vessels that I have worked on have been sound vessels and I haven't had to worry about the actual ship sinking from underneath me., I have scared myself a couple of times - one time being up on the stack, then being on an icy deck. 3 seconds away from total disaster, several times.
zach071591: What is the best prank you yourself has played on a greenhorn? Russell Newberry: Well, the easiest one to do on a greenhorn is to make him do a watch then make him do a double watch by setting the clocks backwards.
jess08: Has there ever been a fist fight on board any of the boats you've worked on? It seems like it can be really tense at times. Russell Newberry: We've gotten in fights, lots of times because there's always someone who thinks they're working harder than someone else. But mostly, we try to be grownups and work things out. In fact, the biggest fights we get into on a boat is who's going to do the dishes. We can go out and work on deck for hours and hours and watch each other's backs, but when it comes to washing the dishes, we act like little babies :-)
Texas gal: What is the most crab, in weight, have you caught? Russell Newberry: Things are different with the quota system, but during derby style, you could catch 100,000 pounds. As far as opies, the vessel I was on, I caught 1.3, 1.4 million pounds one winter. On the Time Bandit, Andy got 1.7 million pounds. That was a good jag for everyone that year.
Palmer: What job do you have in the off season? Russell Newberry: I don't have any jobs in the off season, except for my little gill netter that I do in Cook Inlet. It sustains me for the summer months, then in the winters I go crabbing.
YourobxpalWH: Is it true that Jonathan wears his boxers with his leather jacket in the wheelhouse? (Had to ask) Russell Newberry: (laughing) And his hat on backwards, with his cowboy boots on. And if you're lucky, you'll see his 45 strapped to his side!
jess08: Hey Russell, love the Time Bandit! You guys are hilarious and seem like a lot of fun. Just wondering if you are friends with the camera guys aboard. They seem like they'd be just as crazy as you guys! Also do you and the crew ever just relax and have a drink on the boat ? I would definitely need one after seeing what you guys do everyday! Russell Newberry: We get along great with the camera guys. In fact, I have two new friends because of these camera guys. They were fun to work with. They worked around us, we worked around them. I still talk to them today, and I'll probably talk to them for the next 25 years. As far as drinking on the boat, that is seldom. At the end of a trip, when we're done crabbing, we'll have a couple of beers. But as far as having a big old party out in the middle of the ocean, we tend to wait until we're back in town.
nsusweets: How many layers of clothing do you wear when it is really cold out? Russell Newberry: In the winter, this is what I wear: My briefs underwear, fleece leggings, a polypropylene long sleeved shirt with a cotton T shirt over top of it. Then a hooded sweatshirt, a baseball hat, my safety glasses which keep the salt water out of my face, then my fishing rubber boots. I have shin pads, catcher style, and I put my rain gear over all of that. With my knife belt on last thing, making sure there IS a knife in the sheath. And I still overheat! You're cold initially when you step out on deck, but as you start working, you inevitably work up a sweat.
MELid1970: The Time Bandit has been my favorite from the start. I think you guys are awesome and watch the show faithfully. Have you experienced a rush of new found fame since being on the show? Russell Newberry: For me personally, no. I still have to introduce myself to people and tell them who I am before they realize I'm on a television show.
vtjumpr: How do you know how much food to bring, and do you ever run out? Russell Newberry: That's a good question. We go to the store at the beginning of the season and we try to figure out how long we'll be gone, so what are we going to eat in that time period? We always get more than what we need. There's always food left over, because we don't want to run out.
KHelms: Hey thanks Russell for the great show! When is the best time to visit Alaska? Russell Newberry: For me personally, March is my favorite month because I like to go snowmobiling. It's not as crowded here, and nice to go from winter to spring. But for most people, the best time to come is either June or August. They are the best weather months, even July. And in summer, it's daylight all the time.
Isaac38305: How much sleep do you usually get at a time? Russell Newberry: What we do on the boat is when we get out and it's time to work, we try to get 18 hours on and 6 hours off, or 20 hours on and 4 hours off, with short breaks - an hour here or there - a couple of times during the day.
Flnanap: Russell, my family watches the show faithfully, and we each picked our boats, and your boat happens to be mine. You always seem to be in a good mood although you're beat. What keeps you in such a good mood? Russell Newberry: The fact that when I'm out there, it's almost over! Mostly when we're out there, we're making some money. Everybody wants to be a highliner, but it's nice to be above average anyway.
southeastern: My uncle says the pots are made from chain link fence material but I say they're made of a kind of netting ... am I right? Russell Newberry: Yes you are. They're made out of web.
DCFan622424: How has the safety of crab boats changed, for better or worse, since you started crabbing? Russell Newberry: Amazingly much better. When the Coast Guard comes to our boat and does inspections, they're very thorough. We do drills repeatedly now, when we didn't practice them much 20 years ago. All the technology has made it not super safe, but certainly a lot safer.
bdaman1131: What is the hardest job on the boat? Russell Newberry: Being the skipper. If he's put his gear where there's no crab, then it's a lonely spot. As far as physical work, anything on deck is hard work. But the skipper's got the toughest job trying to look after his crew and make them money. We're all in on a team effort.
tautog: Hey what do you bring on a trip as far as personal belongings? How many packs of smokes, how many energy drinks, pairs of socks, or random ... etc? Russell Newberry: You know, I don't take anything personal any more. I just take my rain gear, gloves, the stuff I'm going to wear on deck, a couple of photos of my family and my daughter, my computer. But as far as any coffee or energy drinks, we get that on the boat collectively. I just want to make sure I have my gear for working on deck in all kinds of weather.
abner: When you get caught in the ice flow, can it do real damage to the hull of the boat and will it cost you all of your catch if you take too long to get to the processor? That was scary when you guys got caught in it. Russell Newberry: Absolutely. The ice is the biggest enemy out there. Our vessels aren't made to ice break through the floes, nothing like the Coast Guard or Navy has. Our vessels can get crushed like a tin can out there. Any ice at any speed is like hitting a rock. As far as going to the processor, you have to deliver your crab live. A crab will live on your boat anywhere from 12-18 days, so you have a couple of weeks' leeway to get to your processor.
YourobxpalWH: Hey Russ! I figured it out! Has the sockeye salmon season started yet? Also, just wondering since they've been putting cameras on the pots and in the water as far down as the ocean floor have they figured out a way to prospect for crab that way yet or is it just not an economical option? (I was saving this question for the Chat!!!!) ~Whitney Russell Newberry: First of all, the sockeye are running and it's the beginning of the season. The Copper River Reds are in. And soon the rest of the state will be booming with sockeyes. As far as looking for crab with a camera, it has been done. The Hillstrand brothers have one that they've dragged around the bottom, and they seem to catch a lot of crab. So any advantage is not to be overlooked.
Fran: Russell, thanks for talking to us. How do you feel about global warming and the effect it has on the Bering Sea and crab fishing? Russell Newberry: I'm no scientist, but I know the ice pack is diminishing which is causing warmer weather. Hopefully the seafood will adjust to it, and it will not be a problem.
LisaTX: Hi, Russell! I think you are so brave! Especially when you donned that suit to help save Josh! Have you ever had to save or almost save anyone else like the Discovery cameramen? Russell Newberry: No, that was my actual first 911 man overboard situation. As far as the cameramen, they always seem to set themselves up in precarious spots on our boat, and I constantly had to keep my eye on them to make sure that a swinging pot wouldn't hit them or a rogue wave sweep them overboard. They are putting themselves in dangerous situations to get good footage so America can watch us.
dream catcher: Hello, Russell, when you signed on to the Time Bandit what were your thoughts about having your every move followed by a camera crew? What does your family think of the show? Russell Newberry: I felt confident getting on the Time Bandit because they are professional, and this vessel has a great catch record. The cameramen were friendly, and I didn't know they were there half the time. They recorded things I don't even remember saying!
jess08: I noticed that when you guys get a big catch Jonathan does a little crab jig and Andy has done a moonwalk dance. Any special talents you'd like to share? Russell Newberry: (laughing) I'm just glad we're on the crab. As far as my little superstitious dance, I'll leave that for the owners of the boat.
southeastern: Hey Russell...how would I go about getting hired onto a boat? What would I need to do? Russell Newberry: Send your resume in! The best way to get a job on a crab boat (and nothing is guaranteed) is walk the docks in Kodiak, Dutch Harbor, or King Cove, and hopefully your fortune would be someone else's misfortune, as far as someone getting hurt on a vessel and they need help right now. Jobs right now are hard to come by because of the rationalization.
DCFAN424622: How does it feel to be trapped in an ice field that is supposed to be open water? Russell Newberry: I'll tell you - it was NOT pretty. I never had any thoughts about actually dying because I knew we could deploy our life raft onto the ice floe. So I wasn't scared that way. What I was scared about was the vessel getting crushed under us and forcing us to do just that. Fortunately we broke through the ice and made it to open water, but it sure was scary for a while.
Kelly RN: How long does it typically take to work up the ladder from greenhorn to skipper? Russell Newberry: Normally if you can get one full season, a king crab season and then an opilio season, the next year you would step up into a full share on deck. As far as becoming a skipper, that's pretty far fetched because there are so few boats and so many owner/operators.
LuckyBambu: Hey Russ. Thanks for taking the time to be here. If you could have *any* other job in the world, what would it be and why? Russell Newberry: I don't know - I like being self employed. So I would continue to be self employed in something. I just happened to get into the fishing business, and it seems to support my kind of lifestyle as far as living here in Alaska, taking care of my child, and being able to come and go as I please during the off season.
Brown: Have you ever hoped of being a captain? Russell Newberry: I have had opportunities over the past 15 years. When I was actually qualified after 5-6 years, I declined because I knew there would be changes in the industry. It was easier for me just to work on deck, take my money, and run, so to speak, and not have to worry about the paperwork and licenses, boat owners, and what not.
chasra: Hi. Do you have any traditions that you do each time before you go out? Russell Newberry: No. I don't have any traditions or superstitions. We usually go out and have a few cocktails the night before we leave. That way, I'm not so grumpy in the morning :-)
T_B_Lover: What other boats have you worked on besides the Time Bandit? Russell Newberry: I've worked on several other vessels, one called the Diamond Head, the Susitna, off and on on different cod boats. I Dungeness crab fished when I was a teenager. So I've worked on ten different vessels anyway over my career.
Ohio Mom: What do you like to do best, throw the hook, bait, or sort? Russell Newberry: It used to be an ego thing throwing the hook but I've gotten older now to the point I'd rather sort crab and stay away from the rail. Not that I'm scared of it, but I'd rather just sit back and let them get the pot on board. The most dangerous part is transferring the pot from the block to the pot launcher. A lot of bad things can happen at that point.
Kelly RN: Does everyone that fishes on the Bering Sea usually live in Alaska as well, or do some people just come in for the season? Russell Newberry: Of course, people come in for the season. A lot of boats are registered in Seattle and Oregon. I don't know the percentage, but I do know that our vessel is registered in Alaska.
zach071591: Hey Russ do you stay in touch with Andy and Jonathan during off-season? Russell Newberry: Absolutely. Jonathan has a gill netting operation in the same area as I do, so I see him even on my off times. He's in and out of Homer all the time. Andy lives in Indiana, and my mom and dad are in Tennessee, so it's just a short hop from there. I've been threatening to go see his horse operation so at some time I'll be able to do that.
_20racer: What are snow crab called? Russell Newberry: They are called opilio crab. They are one and the same. I don't know how they got the name "snow crab" - maybe it was just easier to say.
keng_RI: How long have you known the Hillstrands? Russell Newberry: They've been coming up for the summer since I moved here. We didn't go to high school together, but I've known who they are for 25 years probably. But since I started crabbing 15 years ago, they were on a boat and I was on a different boat. So I've been around them since we were teenagers.
san: Does your daughter express any interest in fishing? How does she feel about her dad being a crab fisherman? Russell Newberry: At this point, I think she's still young enough that she doesn't know all the dangers that go on out there. She likes to see me on TV, and she goes with me on brief trips on my gill netter. Little boating stuff. She seems to have an interest in it, and what little kid doesn't like seeing fish flopping around. Now my mother is a whole different situation!
DCFan622424: How many amenities (like DVDs/comfortable beds) do you have on board? Russell Newberry: I tell you, the Time Bandit is set up! It is a comfortable work vessel. Their entertainment center and DVD collection - they have no qualms about going out and buying 10, 20, 30 DVDs at a time. Sometimes we have a 2 day boat ride, and the bunks are set up in such a way as to make it very comfortable. It is a nice boat!
sexisade2: Hello I want to know are most of you guys single or married and if single is there a reason for it? Russell Newberry: (laughing) Well again, I don't know the percentages. Me personally, I'm single .I've had several relationships, but my fishing escapades seem to get in the way. It seems it's hard for a woman to be patient and wait for these crab vessels to come home. Sometimes we're gone for 2-3 months, and that can wreak havoc on a relationship.
mynamehere: Do camera men ever help out on the boat? Also do they have a say in the kind of food that is brought on a trip? Russell Newberry: They do help on the boat. You've got to remember that we are living in the same house, so to speak. So they have to pick up after themselves, they have to take a turn, do their own dishes and laundry. We're actually living together. As far as food, they usually eat what is cooked, or they cook themselves, or they go to the grocery store and bring whatever goodies they like to eat. The biggest thing was paper towels - the camera guys had to wipe down their equipment so we used a lot of paper towels.
siggirl: Hey Russell! If we wanted to send fan mail and make sure you or the other vessels get the mail where would we send it? Russell Newberry: I'm not sure what the Time Bandit's home address is - you'd have to check online at www.timebandit.tv .
Discovery: Russell, thanks so much for being here to answer our questions! Is there anything you'd like to add, before we have to end the chat? Russell Newberry: I'm glad that you guys watch the show and that people are interested in it. I've been waiting a long time, showing home videos, and I hope America continues to watch the show and they continue to eat more seafood! Thanks for giving me the opportunity to show you what I've been doing for the last 20 years. I find it interesting, and I hope everyone else does too.
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