Fans meet fishing crews: West Seattle writer’s CatchCon report

Editor’s note: West Seattle writer Jen Boyer covered the Deadliest Catch fan convention in Seattle this weekend; we’re publishing her coverage for interested fans.

Story and photos by Jen Boyer
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

They wanted their crab captains and they wanted them now.

More than 1,000 superfans of Discovery Channel’s crab-fishing reality show “Deadliest Catch” attended the sold-out-in-advance second annual CatchCon on Saturday at Pier 66, some coming as far as Scotland and the Netherlands to get up close and personal with everything Deadliest Catch.

“I still can’t believe I’m here,” said Deanna Sutton of Port Charlotte, Fla., who wore a Jolly Roger necklace to illustrate her preference for Fishing Vessel Time Bandit. “I was on the waiting list until 10 days ago when I learned I had a ticket. My husband didn’t make it so I came out alone. I couldn’t miss this opportunity. I got to hug Johnathan and Andy!”

Fans began lining up more than an hour before the doors opened. Once inside, the most popular destination was the store, where fans stocked up on everything from shirts and jackets to beer glasses and thermoses beforevsecuring a seat for the captains’ panel.

The captains didn’t disappoint. Captain Johnathan Hillstrand of the Time Bandit set the tone right out of the gate by asked the crowd “What’s long and hard on a crab fisherman?” (His answer? “The third grade.”)

The captains and show executive producer Jeff Conway each shared a special memory of Fishing Vessel Cornelia Marie Captain Phil Harris, who died last February after a stroke. (Here’s our coverage of their memorial for him on Friday night.) When the floor opened for questions, the diehard nature of the fan base became immediately apparent.

“How dare you attempt to take deck hands from the Hillstrands!” the first fan said to Fishing Vessel Wizard Captain Keith Colburn, referring to an incident in the first episode of the current season where Time Bandit Captain Johnathan Hillstrand confronted Colburn for offering one of his deckhands a job.

“The show has made things really confusing in my life,” Colburn (above) said during the media session before the event started. “If you get wrapped up in it, you can go crazy. Fans get really into one boat or the other and they’ll actually lash out at the people on the boats they don’t like. Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of great fans out there. But there are also these intense types.”

Onstage, Colburn and Hillstrand made a show of shaking hands and explaining to the crowd that they had a truce, and often in their worlds fights do break out and the next day everyone is buddies again. As for the fan with the harsh question, Colburn chose her to represent the Wizard in the “deckhand” relay, where each captain chose a crew of four deckhands to race against the clock on such tasks as crab sorting, pot baiting and jumping into a survival suit.

In addition to the captains’ panel and relay, attendees were also treated to a deckhand panel, several skill games such as crab sorting and pot baiting, a sneak peek at a future episode, the opportunity to board both the Wizard and the Fishing Vessel Northwestern to pose for photos with their crews, and lots of time with their favorite cast members.

“Last year the captains were shuttled away after their presentations and today they’re mingling the entire time,” Andy Robinson of University Place said. “There are also a lot more crew than were here last time. I think they’re realizing they’ve got their own groupies now too and they like sharing the lime light.”

As the day came to a close, fans talked excitedly about how the event surpassed expectations.

“This year was so much busier and more fun,” said Jay Ferris of Shoreline. “And they have a beer garden, which I think makes everyone happy. I can’t wait until next year.”

3 Replies to "Fans meet fishing crews: West Seattle writer's CatchCon report"

  • Silly Goose May 2, 2010 (10:39 am)

    All I can say is Johnathan Hillstrand OOH LA LA!!

  • JennyB May 5, 2010 (2:48 pm)

    Thanks for the coverage, WSB and Jen Boyer! Deadliest Catch is a favorite show in our house.

  • Ginger May 21, 2010 (8:25 pm)

    Did Capt. Johnathan announce to the CatchCon crowd that he’s had had a girlfriend? That rumor is on the gossip pipeline, and no one can verify it.

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