Yesterday saw the passing of Captain Phil Harris, the captain of the Cornelia Marie, one of the stalwart and largest crab fishing boats on one of my favorite shows, Deadliest Catch. Captain Phil was a rough, tough, crude, chain-smoking, hard-working man who guided his boat to success through both the king-crab and opilio-crab fishing seasons in some of the worst working conditions imaginable.
Just a season ago, he was on his boat in the middle of the opilio season when he had a blood clot pass through his heart and survived it. Then a few weeks ago, again in the middle of the opilio crab season, Captain Phil suffered a stroke during an offload run, his body finally giving out after all the years of pushing it through the unbelievable stress of captaining a crab boat. He held on for a few more weeks, even giving signs of recovery, but unfortunately, he passed away yesterday.
His love for his sons and crew is probably one of the things I remember most about him. His two sons, Josh and Jake Harris both became crew members on the Cornelia Marie and their dad made them work for every penny and gave them no slack just because they were his sons. But even so, in all the conversations that he had with his sons that they showed to viewers were couched with affection and love for his two goofball sons. I feel so sad for them, knowing how much they loved him.
Probably one of the more distinct memories from the show that I have of him is on the very first episode of Deadliest Catch, when the derby-style of fishing was still employed, a crab boat went down in the first few hours of the season opening. And the Cornelia Marie and her partner boat, Maverick searched through the night with the Coast Guard for survivors, scanning the Bering Sea for any possible signs of life, forgetting about the fishing in order to possibly save lives. It was heart-wrenching and riveting, all at the same time. And showed the character and camaraderie of the captains as well.
It's weird - it's not like I knew Captain Phil personally, but by being willing to have his life taped on one of the reality shows that I love watching, he became "known" in a way to me. And so I feel genuine sadness at his passing.
I'll miss ya Captain Phil - praying that you are enjoying clear sunny skies and calm seas.
Some links on Captain Phil's passing: