By Rachel Belle
The third episode of the new season of Deadliest Catch airs Tuesday night. But in reality, The Wizard is done for the season, resting up in Ballard, awaiting repairs and a paint job. I met up with Captain Keith for a tour of the 155 foot crabbing boat, that was built for WWII in 1945, and to gossip about the show.
“I’ve done this 27 years and the most difficult season in 27 years was this year. The weather was brutal, we’ve had a record, beyond anything that’s ever been measured before, for the ice coming down on top of us. It raises the danger level exponentially and puts the boat, the crew and everything at risk.”
I asked the Captain why he thinks the show is so popular.
“Before the show even existed, people were always really interested when they found out what I did because there was this perception that it’s a really dangerous job. People are captivated by the ocean. Ultimately, the show is successful because they’re blue collar guys. They just work hard, do their job. We’re not that complex. We’re pretty simple, straightforward guys. It’s real, it’s raw and it’s real dangerous.”
Which, if you’ve seen the show, sometimes means conflict.
“We actually work 20 hours a day, so the fatigue, the pain, the misery, the exhaustion: all of that is real and it takes you right to the edge of your nerves. That’s why you do see confrontation periodically. Although, I’ll be honest, I’m not a real big fan of the editors of the show. There are times when they may take things a little bit out of context. They’re not going to show the whole story. They’re gonna show the blowup, but they’re not gonna show why you blew up. More times than not, when I get upset, it’s because someone is putting somebody at risk.”
For example, the famous episode where Captain Keith got into a fight with a cameraman.
“That was a young, green, Hollywood type pushing myself and my crew to the edge, time and time again. Finally it came to a head after about seven days of some the most severe weather I’ve ever had to work in. Your legs are numb from the waist down, you’re hanging on to the most wicked white knuckle ride of all time. Picture ten feet of green water coming over that rail, and what it’s gonna do to you and the guys. You run downstairs, you have 30 seconds to get that cup of coffee, and the camera guy is drinking the last cup and says, ‘Dude, I got stuff to do!’ Then he gets edgy and starts getting in my face!? Oh, they didn’t get that on tape. Then he gets in my face the second time. The third time? That’s strike three. It’s game over. It’s time to go to your room. In the Bering Sea, that’s how we send guys to their room.”
Captain Keith also has a softer side, which came out when I asked him if he keeps any lucky charms in the wheelhouse.
“I’ve got my boy’s first baby shoes right there next to me in the wheel house. I’ve got my lucky little Ichiro bobblehead doll. I probably have too much. I’m a superstitious hoarder, I’m kind of bad that way. But, you know what, if it makes you comfortable, and it works, don’t change it.”
In a single fishing trip, the Wizard might collect 400,000 pounds of crab. But Captain Keith assures me that there’s absolutely no risk of overfishing crabs.
“The Bering Sea is the most well maintained and managed fishery in the planet right now. So, our 90 million pounds that we caught this year, as a fleet collectively, represent one to two percent, literally, of what’s actually on the bottom for snow crab. There’s billions of snow crabs on the bottom.”
Get a tour of the Wizard with Captain Keith! See where the crew sleeps and eats!