Captain Phil Harris: The Legendary Crab Fisherman, Our Hero, Our Dad

Captain Phil Harris: The Legendary Crab Fisherman, Our Hero, Our Dad

3.9 11
by Josh Harris, Jake Harris, Blake Chavez, Steve Springer

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The exclusive, authorized biography of the late Deadliest Catch star, written by his two sons: “outrageous tales of a man who lived without restraint, like a modern-day mythical figure” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

The electrifying behind-the-scenes story of the Deadliest Catch star, from his own two sons

Prior to his


The exclusive, authorized biography of the late Deadliest Catch star, written by his two sons: “outrageous tales of a man who lived without restraint, like a modern-day mythical figure” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

The electrifying behind-the-scenes story of the Deadliest Catch star, from his own two sons

Prior to his untimely death in 2010, Captain Phil Harris was the larger-than-life star of the Discovery Channel’s hit show Deadliest Catch. An ace Alaskan crab fisherman, he led his crew through hurricane-force winds and four-story-high waves, hauling in millions of pounds of crab and raking in millions of dollars. Phil worked hard, but he played even harder. With his thunderous motorcycles, tempestuous marriages, and drug-fueled parties, his life on shore could have served as a reality show in itself. But as wild as Phil could be, he was a loving father, a devoted friend, a steadfast captain, and a hero to audiences around the world. This is his story, as fascinating and outrageous off camera as it was onscreen.

Editorial Reviews
"Juicy is an understatement"
Publishers Weekly
A star of the reality show Deadliest Catch, Captain Phil Harris was, by all accounts, a memorable person, who lived every day on the edge until his unexpected death from stroke and heart failure in 2010. In this engaging, no-holds-barred biography, his sons, Josh and Jake, with the help of Springer and Chavez (Hard Luck), pull back the curtain on Harris's almost-too-wild-to-be-true life. From the family's first forays into fishing with Harris' father Grant, to Phil's own adventures, the authors unapologetically detail all of Phil's excesses, addictions, and quirks; a larger-than-life nautical rock star persona conveyed in a captivating, freewheeling style. His tempestuous marriages, epic parties, run-ins with the law, brushes with death, successes and failures are all here, leading up to his time on Deadliest Catch, which brought him fame, fortune, and a whole new level of indulgence. It's also a fascinating look at the origin and behind the scenes of Deadliest Catch, bringing the open sea and crashing waves to life. Even those who never watched the show will find themselves captivated by these outrageous tales of a man who lived without restraint, like a modern-day mythical figure. Agent: Robert Guinsler, Sterling Lord Literistic. (May)
From the Publisher
"[Captain Phil Harris's] sons . . . tell the story of a tough but loving father and his tough and tempestuous life." ---Library Journal
Library Journal
The star of the Discovery Channel's popular Deadliest Catch, Phil Harris is here honored by his sons; originally scheduled for July 2012.
Kirkus Reviews
A candid narrative deconstructs the turbulent personal and professional life of the late Deadliest Catch star Phil Harris. Told by Harris' sons and written with the help of journalists Springer and Chavez (co-authors: Hard Luck: The Triumph and Tragedy of "Irish" Jerry Quarry, 2011), this biography of the reality-TV star captures the gritty details of his high-speed life, declining health and death. Harris surely personified the prologue's statement that, "Pound for pound, crabbers are the toughest bastards on earth." With a history of fishing in his family, Harris, who as a high school kid was voted least likely to succeed, became a living legend in this dangerous job undertaken in one of the world's harshest environments, the Bering Sea. Revered as a skilled seamen, Harris' onshore behavior was notorious. Numerous escapades fueled by alcohol, copious amounts of various drugs combined with womanizing and a bizarre family life meant Harris was pegged as "a rock star even before he was a TV star." A turbulent marriage produced two sons and plenty of pain. Alcohol took a toll on his relationship and his work. A second marriage proved more disastrous, especially for Harris' two sons. In 2005, the Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch debuted, and Harris was on the road to becoming a reality-TV celebrity. In 2008, he was at the height of his TV fame, but his bad habits began taking a toll, and his health deteriorated. In 2010, Harris suffered a massive stroke. With his consent, Harris' last hours were filmed by the show's producers, with 8.5 million viewers tuning in to watch. An unflinching portrait that will surely satisfy Harris' fans.

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
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5.50(w) x 8.37(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

Captain Phil Harris

  • The mystic northern lights dance a scintillating, supernatural neon jig in the Alaskan sky.

    God’s country.

    But stray farther to the southwest and the stark beauty of this little corner near the top of the world can lose its appeal to all but the hardiest of travelers. The terrain is rougher, the area barely habitable, the surrounding water even more menacing.

    These are the Aleutian Islands, bordering on the Bering Sea, where the brave souls who challenge the harsh conditions share the area with polar bears, sea otters, and bald eagles, just a sliver of the population that includes twenty-five varieties of marine mammals, hundreds of invertebrate species, 110 million birds representing forty species, and 450 different kinds of fish.

    Most of the people who venture into this frontier are part of the fishing industry. Some work in one of the area’s many processing plants. Others man the fishing fleet that braves the notorious Bering Sea.

    The fishing vessels are not of the ilk favored by commercial fishermen on the East Coast of the United States. Crab boats on the Bering Sea are more than 100 feet long, some stretching to more than 180. East Coast boats are normally one-quarter that length. The larger size is necessary to face waves that can soar as high as a four-story building.

    Suffice it to say that a different breed of men fish the Bering Sea.

    The crab fishing grounds encompass much of the 884,900 square miles of the Bering, the third-largest sea in the world. It is the northernmost region of the Pacific Ocean, bounded by Russia, Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, and the Bering Strait, beyond which is the Arctic Ocean.

    The Bering has long been an enigma to those who ply her waters, a sea with a split personality. On any given day, the water may be as smooth as glass with a gentle breeze stirring the call of seagulls in the distance. On these occasions, the sea is nothing less than majestic. Sea otters float lazily on their backs, a whale swims in the distance, and seals, sea lions, and porpoises play as dolphins, a good omen to many sailors, race alongside an intruding fleet.

    Within hours, though, the calm can be shattered, the beauty of a natural aquarium overshadowed by a deadly display of nature’s power. A single arctic storm can range over a thousand square miles. The fishing fleets sometimes face hurricane-force winds, the strongest ever recorded in the Bering Sea reaching 159 miles per hour. Sets of waves, the highest ever seen estimated to be over 100 feet tall, can bring tens of thousands of gallons of water crashing onto the decks. Then there’s the burglar of the sea that strikes when it is least expected: the rogue wave. It’s a monster swirl that caves in against the grain of the sets rolling in, erupting in a wall of water.

    And, as if the wind and water weren’t trouble enough, there’s the temperature. It can drop to forty below in winter, the prime season for crab fishing. When the mercury drops to such menacing levels, even the ocean spray freezes, and the deckhands are flayed with splinters of ice. Something as simple as urinating can be an adventure. When the crab boat crew does so outdoors under those frigid conditions, the urine freezes before it hits the deck.

    There is ice everywhere on the boat: on the bow, the deck, the 800-pound crab-catching steel cages commonly known as pots, the ropes, the winch, even on the crew’s moustaches. The layers of ice can weigh tons, which serves to make the boat top-heavy. As the ice builds up, the vessel becomes more and more likely to be rolled onto her side, a virtual death sentence for all aboard.

    To avoid such a fate, the deckhands must break off the ice with sledgehammers. The crew can spend hours in the tough, urgent work of de-icing the boat. But often, once the ship is safe and fishing has commenced, the ice returns and the same chore must be performed again just hours later.

    Boats on the Bering are mandated by law to keep a supply of outfits known as survival suits on board at all times. Crews are routinely tested by the Coast Guard to ensure they know how to put on this gear in a timely manner. Doing so in less than a minute is crucial to staying alive in the event that the craft sinks.

    There is a general understanding between the Bering Sea and those who fish her: fall into her waters without a survival suit and you die.

    There have been exceptions, but they are rare indeed. Anyone who tumbles into the water in subzero conditions can become paralyzed, as hypothermia sets in almost instantly. The vital body organs fail and the unfortunate soul finds himself in the throes of death within minutes.

    That’s usually not enough time for a rescue operation. Because of the great size of most crab boats, it takes the vessel almost ten minutes to maneuver a U-turn and come back. And if the seas are high or darkness has set in, the search for a lost crew member becomes even more difficult.

    There are still more hazards to avoid. Rough seas and icy temperatures are the ideal conditions for the killer whales of the Bering Sea to go hunting. Nothing chills the soul like watching a whale just off the bow as it feasts on a great white shark.

    Then, there are the icebergs. The Titanic didn’t survive even a single confrontation with a mountainous mass of ice. Crabbers, in much smaller boats, face those huge killers every season. Sometimes the crabs congregate near the ice floes. And crabbers go where the crabs are.

    Just being on board a crab boat is hazardous, but nobody is ever just on board. The fishermen are there to work, and their work is grueling. Take the brutal and seemingly never-ending task of stacking the eight-hundred-pound crab traps. Though a winch lifts the pots and delivers them on deck, they must be grounded so that the stacks are even and don’t collapse onto the crew. Positioning the pots becomes a matter of muscle because they don’t respond much to finesse. Even when they are properly stacked, the pots can tumble when they become caked with ice.

    The bodies of crew members take a beating from head to toe. A crabber can expect to have his tailbone rubbed raw from slamming against the pots as he works. A bloody back and hindquarters are just part of the job.

    The extreme changes in weather and temperature tend to wreak havoc on a deckhand’s complexion. The toughened facial skin peels off in strips when exposed to extreme cold on such a regular basis.

    The hands of a Bering Sea deckhand make those of a professional bull rider look manicured and pampered in comparison. Many deckhands are not able to retain all the digits on their hands. The fingers that survive grow gnarled, swollen, and misshapen. A crab boat deckhand sews his own stitches as readily as a carpenter applies a Band-Aid.

    The dangers of such a job are reflected in data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that ranks commercial fishing as the occupation with the highest fatality rate: 121.2 deaths per 100,000 workers, thirty-five times greater than the average for the overall American workforce. Loggers rank second with 102.4 fatalities per 100,000, followed by pilots and flight engineers at 57.0. The death rate for Bering Sea crabbers, in particular, is even higher still, at 260 per 100,000, according to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Eighty percent of those Bering Sea fatalities are due to drowning or hypothermia.

    Pound for pound, crabbers are the toughest bastards on earth.

    This is the life that our father, Phillip Charles Harris, was destined for when he was brought into the world on December 19, 1956.

  • Meet the Author

    Josh and Jake Harris are Captain Phil’s two surviving sons. Both followed their father into crab fishing and are now Deadliest Catch stars in their own right. In late 2012, they accomplished a dream by purchasing Phil’s famous crab boat, the Cornelia Marie, which they now co-captain on the Bering Sea.

    Steve Springer is a veteran journalist for the Los Angeles Times, an award-winning sportswriter, and the author of ten books, including three bestsellers. He currently lives with his wife in Woodland Hills, California.

    Blake Chavez attended California Pacific School of Law and achieved success as a business executive before becoming a professional writer. His previous book with Steve Springer is Hard Luck. He lives in California with his wife and daughter.

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    Captain Phil Harris: The Legendary Crab Fisherman, Our Hero, Our Dad 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    As some one that watched the show it was disappointing when i read most of the book vould have been found by watching the show. The middle part about his marriage was the only part i ajready didnt know. It kinda ran dow his charter.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Captain Phil Harris was a Great Captain and Father. Love the show while he was there have not watch since this wonderful man when to heaven. Sure miss those beautiful eyes and that laugh it just filled the room !! Was so happy when my book arrived but there was just awful , sad and hateful things written about this wonderful man. The Mom ( Joshua & Jake's) just wrote horrible things about Captain Phil. Was so hoping that it was about his time on the Cornelia Maria. He was one the most decent Captains. He built bird cages and tried to make a different in his sons life. The books just goes on and on about his drinking, drug use and his bad treatment of woman. But their is always two sides to a story !! Poor Captain Phil does not get to tell his side !!
    GIjim More than 1 year ago
    This is a must read for anybody that considers them self a Deadliest Catch fan. Especially if you miss that special relationship with Captain Phil! It will help you to better understand what was going on behind the scenes with Phil and his son's. It really let me see how I mistook what was happening with Josh and Jake. God bless them both, but especially the strength exhibited by Josh!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This is a fantastic book and EVERY fan of Capt. Phil Harris or his sons should read this book. It brings their lives into prespective.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Best book makes you cry and laugh and it a great book to read
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Loved this book. It is well written, exciting and informative. My heart goes out to Phil's boys, his passing must be a huge loss to them. He wasnt always the best father to them, but deeply loved his sons and I wish them tremendous success in the crabbing world.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Poorly written, and full of inconsistencies, as stated by those who KNEW the captain.   Reads like something written to cash in on the late Captain's name,  rather than salute his life.  
    chesshire More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I was so glad we could pre-order this, I wanted to make sure I got mine. Thanks a million.