Capt. Keith Colburn says he’s lost many friends on the unforgiving Bering Sea but that doesn’t make the disappearance of the Destination fishing vessel any less perplexing, or devastating.
The celebrity sea captain, who is based out of Seattle, spoke with Ron and Don Friday about the shock he felt after the Destination crabbing boat was lost at sea on Feb. 11. The Seattle-based crabbing boat was believed to be carrying six crew members, including Washington-based fisherman Darrik Seibold.
Capt. Keith said was friends for more than 25 years with the Destination’s captain and engineer. He said there is still no known cause as to what happened on the ship.
“It’s a mystery is what it is,” Colburn said. “And this is not the first time that we’ve lost a vessel that literally just vanished.
“The only thing we can speculate is that something catastrophic gave way — a bulkhead gave way or something and flooded; maybe a weird wave and the vessel capsized instantly,” he added. “That’s all we can figure.”
Colburn found fame as the captain of the Wizard on the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch.” Colburn spoke about taking part in a charity event to benefit the Waterkeeper Alliance and said he would match donations for the F/V Destination Memorial Fund, in memory of the friends he lost at sea. Ron and Don helped push a GoFundMe page for Seibold’s 3-year-old child, Eli, last month.
Capt. Keith noted that there have been other fishing vessel disappearances over the years, including the Barbarossa and Pacesetter. But Colburn expressed surprise about how the Destination vanished, in part because he said the boat was well maintained and had a “very safety-conscious captain” and “very professional crew.”
“It’s hard to say what happened but I do know this … is it happened so quickly that they weren’t even able to get a mayday off,” he said. “That tells me that … somebody was on watch and when he ran to get the captain, by the time he got back, nobody could even get to the radio.”
Capt. Keith on impact on boating family
Colburn said he was shopping when he heard the news from a fellow captain about the Destination. Colburn said he may have come across as “callous” on the phone because he couldn’t process what he was being told.
“I couldn’t imagine or fathom that that had happened to that boat and that group of guys,” he said. “Like I said, I couldn’t process it. A few minutes later, after I’d gotten off the phone … I just went over in the corner and, I’ll be honest, I wept, uncontrollably for quite a while. It’s a hard thing to take, and it’s something unfortunately now in 32 years of working in the Bering Sea, I’ve lost some really, really close friends and good friends, and there’s never one that’s any easier than the next. But this tragedy here I think hits home even more because the fleet’s so much smaller now; it’s so much more professional. And the group of guys that are out there working, running these boats, for the most part, are all seasoned veterans.”
Colburn said the loss still lingers throughout the boating community.
“I just had a lengthy conversation yesterday, and then the day before, with two separate captains that were really also extremely good friends with (Captain Jeff Hathaway) that were still trying to figure it out,” Colburn said. “… I still haven’t really figured it out or come to grips with it. He wasn’t a family member, but at the end of the day, there’s a group of 30 or 40 of us captains that truly are pretty much like family. And just like family, sometimes we bicker and fight, and other times we give each other big hugs.”
When asked if the tragedy makes him consider quitting, Colburn said it’s actually had quite the opposite effect.
“I’m at this point right now, it’s pretty much engrained in who I am and I struggle with the thought of not being able to do it,” he said. “It’s something that I truly love — as miserable and hard and as dangerous as it is. It’s something that I’ve just kind of adapted to that’s, I think, part of who I am down to my core. And so the thought of hanging up my cleats is — I just don’t see it anytime in the near future.”