Auf Wiedersehen, Captain Phil Harris

I learned today that Captain Phil Harris, owner/captain of the Cornelia Marie, died after suffering a stroke on January 29th. He was only 53, two years older than me.

At least chronologically.

The Cornelia Marie is one of the fishing boats that is featured in the Discovery show “Deadliest Catch”. It’ll be eerie to watch the show this season, which begins in April, knowing Captain Phil is gone.

Capt. Phil had his problems. Two years ago, he had to be evacuated from the boat on the Bearing Sea because of blood clots in his lungs. Blood clots can certainly cause a stroke. But Phil had returned to his Captains’ chair last year, though he never stopped smoking, never slowed down, and likely never knew what hit him. Maybe that’s not so bad.

I’ve written before about “Deadliest Catch”. It’s one of those shows that depicts real people in actual jobs, though the presence of the television cameras distorts that somewhat. It’s far more about the people and personalities than it is about the endless baiting and tossing and hauling of 2,000 pound crab pots. Captain Phil was one of the largest of those personalities.

The show had wrapped taping for its latest season when Harris fell into a coma. Discovery says he’ll be a “big part” of the season then it returns in April. And there are plans for a tribute to Captain Phil, much as there was to Billy Mays after his untimely death. But while the revelation that Mays was using cocaine came as a surprise to most, it’s unlikely anyone will be terribly surprised that Harris has succumbed to his bad habits. And unlike “Pitchman”, “Deadliest Catch” can go on without Captain Phil … it just won’t be the same.

After 33 years on crab boats in the Bearing Sea, some might think Capt. Harris had lasted longer than he should have expected. If the depiction on the show is anything resembling accurate, it’s a very difficult life, but one in which Capt. Harris appeared to revel. He loved his sons, who came on board the Cornelia Marie, he loved his boat, and he loved his way of life.

We should all be so lucky to be able to say those things.

So auf wiedersehen, Captain Phil Harris. The Cornelia Marie will not be the same without your presence in the wheelhouse, And “Deadliest Catch” will not be the same without your presence.

Fair winds and following seas … and no ice.

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Filed under Deadliest Catch, Life, Television, Thoughts

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