“Deadly Seas” on Discovery Channel, will no doubt, attract the fans of “Deadliest Catch” and similar programs to the edge of their seats.
This episode is titled “Gulf of Alaska,” and as it opens, the announcer addresses the audience telling them that this area has the most powerful waves in America and with an average of three winter storms a week, in the last ten years, this area has taken over 150 fishing boats and the lives of 60 men. Seven hundred fishing boats are harbored on Kodiak Island in the gulf, and two boats are trekking out for cod in this arm of the Pacific Ocean.
Captain Ron Zwahlen of the 58-foot F/V Sea Barb is anxious to leave the harbor because of the impending storm that will hit tomorrow. The window closes quickly once the cod quota set by the Fish and Game Department is caught, so the race against other boats and the weather is on. The season usually only last about twelve days before the quota is hit, but storms that surge up from the Sea of Japan can challenge the fleet at any given moment.
Fortunately they are not alone in their journey; Kodiak Island has the largest sea rescue operation in America with a force of 350 Coast Guard on patrol and, so far this season, have made one air/sea rescue a week.
The boat that competes with the Sea Barb is the Irene H, still in the harbor repairing their pots that were abused by the weather; with little time to waste, they continue the repair at sea and head out to the southern shore of Kodiak. They bait the pots with sardine and drop the pots, similar to the ones used for crabs. As Captain Casey reaches his usual fishing grounds, another boat has claimed the area and now must move to unfamiliar waters.
As the Sea Barb is ready to pull in their first string, the waters start to get rough, and the crew is given a lesson in rock and roll. On the Irene H, one of the buoys was snapped off in the storm, and trying to retrieve the pot is not a feat for mortal man. After over an hour, the rope snaps and the pot is lost. On the Sea Barb, the winch that runs the block is leaking hydraulic oil, and fishing stops until the part can be located and repaired. Then their tank that holds both water and fish is overflowing, and the fish are all over the deck. When the tank is half full, the boat can tip over in rough seas as the water in the tank moves back and forth with the rolling waves and can cause the boat to capsize. Human error can cause a disaster, and this one was nothing but human error.
Captain Casey calls the Sea Barb to see how they are doing, but Captain Ron does not want to give up his information because it will bring him to their honey hole. The first offload gives them 87,899 pounds, and the Irene H has just 72,000 pounds and now must play catch up.
The second trip for both boats is something form a horror story. The 30-foot waves pounding the hull are just too much for the crew to be safe. The Irene H heads for shelter, while in the southern waters, the Sea Barb is pushing on through gale force winds and 30-foot seas. The crew is being pushed to its limits, but with the end of the season only days away, they must push through.
After 24 hours lost finding shelter, the Irene H is ready to offload, and the tender boat is unable to take the offload forcing them to have to come into port and waste more valuable time in the process. A 12-hour run into town and back out will not help their quota.
With another 83,612 pounds and a tender boat that came to meet him, the Sea Barb is racking up good numbers, and they are not done yet. With just about two days left, the next storm is on its way and the Irene H is hoping to get another catch, but freezing spray is making the deck impossible for the crew to navigate and ending their season.
The Sea Barb is still chugging away until they hear the announcement that the season is over, winning the title of best catch with over 450,000 pounds and over $180,000 in cod, but not after they had to fight the “Deadly Seas.”