Friday, July 16, 2010

Reflections on a Captain

You are reading this at least 24 hours after you should have. It should have been written on Wednesday evening, for a posting at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, It didn't happen.

I don't have a good excuse. Although I was at work, it was a rather mundane evening, one I was grateful for. Not only was it slow, it was rather unproductive. We watched the latest episode of Deadliest Catch, followed by After the Catch, which had both been recorded on our DVR in the day room. Not a good use of my time, but that's what happened.

I am sure many of you have seen Deadliest Catch. It has been on for several seasons and is the number one watched show on The Discovery Channel. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Deadliest Catch is a documentary  that chronicles life aboard crab fishing boats up in the Bering Sea.

The crab fishing lifestyle is one based solely on greed. The objective is for each boat to catch it's quota of crab in the shortest amount of time possible. This seems to be done with little regard to labor laws, OSHA or any other regulations except for those of the Coast Guard. There is a potential to make a lot of money in a short period of time, but it comes at a cost.

It makes for exceptional television. Extreme weather conditions, severe working conditions, unique personalities and the crab fishing sub-culture provide interesting material in every episode. Many of the boats are run by families, with sons, brothers and fathers on the same crew. There is no conflict like family conflict. It is displayed on the screen and adds to the already intense nature of the show.

Each boat has a personality. It appears that the captain sets the tone on the boat, whether intentional or not. The captain's personality is reflected in the crew that he hires and trains. As I watch each episode, I see traits in the boat captains that I see in the leadership of the K.B.F.P.D. Some of these traits I view as positive, some not so much.

On the episode that I watched last night, Phil Harris, the captain of the fishing vessel Cornelia Marie passed away from a stroke that he had suffered while in port, several weeks before the taping of this weeks show. All of this went down back in February and even though I knew it was coming, it wasn't pleasant to see. As a fan of  Deadliest Catch I have my favorite captains and though Phil wasn't my favorite, he was in the top three.

The reason I liked Phil was for a different reason than I like the captains who are higher on my list of favorites. Phil appeared to be a unique individual, one who lived life hard, both in work and in play. Phil was flawed and he recognized some of his own shortcomings. Despite his deep issues, Phil was a man who overcame much and achieved success in his world. He reminds me of people I care about and I see myself when I examine some of his issues.

Phil ran a balanced boat, he  treated his crew fairly and considered safety when appropriate. For me, the acid test is whether I would want my sons to work on a particular boat. I would feel comfortable with my sons working on the Cornelia Marie with Phil at the helm.

My favorite boat and captain on the show? The Time Bandit, captained at different times by brothers Jonathan and Andy Hillstrand. I just like the way they run their boat as compared to the way other captains run theirs. They are dialed in, balance production and safety, make sound decisions and they can work together. All of these abilities and several more lead to a well run boat, one that I would let my kids work on.

Eight point five million viewers watched this weeks episode, which for a cable show is pretty high numbers. Next week will be a two hour "Remembering Phil"  episode, one that I will be sure to watch.

The season is coming to a close, this will be the last one with Phil. It will be interesting to see what becomes of the Time Bandit and whether the vacuum of Phil's leadership can be filled.

Thanks for reading,


  1. Dear Captain Schmoe,
    I concur with you that the captain makes the personality of the team. I have noticed this in store management, too, that the concerns or omissions of the manager dictate the shape and appearance of the store. Not to mention the attitude and helpfulness of the crew.

    There are always mavericks on crew; they get in line or they eventually act out or leave of their own volition. Leadership is the highest responsibility, truly, because it affects so much.

    Ann T.

  2. I came to like Captain Phil a great deal. I couldn't watch that final episode with Phil's death. The closer it came to airtime and the more they advertised it, the less I wanted to watch it. I don't really know why.

    I also like the Hillstrands. If they were herding programmers instead of fisherman, I'd have no problem working for them (until the third day without sleep, anyhow).

  3. Hey Capt,

    I also have a lost evening with this week's episode. What great examples!


  4. Well, lets hope that Phil is at peace and that those who knew and loved him can recover from their loss.

    Thanks for commenting.