The success of the longtime Discovery Channel flagship Deadliest Catch is simple: In a world of laughably fake reality TV, it is real—sometimes brutally so. Sig Hansen, the star and captain of the FV Northwestern, pilots his 125-foot fishing ship through the roiling Bering Sea in search of King and Opilio Crabs and invariably finds hardship and obscenity-laced dialogue. That’s just how fishing goes. And after ten years, Catch and Captain Sig are still chugging away. The Hansen family, including Sig’s two brothers, deck boss Edgar and deckhand Norman, have become fan favorites and now the show’s cast is expanding: Sig’s 18-year-old daughter Mandy has joined the Northwestern as the first ever female greenhorn to go out during the extra-deadly Opilio crab season in the dark of winter.
When Maxim caught up with Sig and Mandy for breakfast in a Midtown Manhattan café—about as far as you can get without a passport from roughneck Dutch Harbor, Alaska - Hansen was jovial, profane and prickly. Mandy was blonde, pixie-ish, sweet as heck, and ready to get out of the city.
Sig, you’re tan!
Sig: My oldest daughter, Mandy’s sister Nina, just got married in Hawaii. They did it right on the beach and I actually wore a suit. You could wring me out when we were done.
Mandy, you’re 18 years old and a reality TV star. How’s that feel?
Mandy: It’s absolutely terrifying! (laughs.) I don’t like it.
Sig: She keeps yelling at me, “I didn’t sign up for this crap!”
Compared to the Bering Sea in January it’s terrifying?
Mandy: Yeah. I just want to go fishing and then all of sudden we’re doing all of this kind of stuff, with people like you, and on TV shows. I don’t like it. Not for me.
No offense taken! But you had to have known it was going to happen.
Mandy: Never. I just finally got to get my chance out there with the guys. It took forever for my dad to let me. I didn’t think about these consequences.
Sig: Yeah, I gotta admit, that’s one thing that I didn’t think about either. You know when she was bugging us to get on the Northwestern my wife and I were like, “Fine, she can’t get out of school anyway.” Well, then she did get out of school. So she kind of pulled the wool over our eyes and then you know. And that’s okay, I get it. She’s got the bug.
So the producers of the show didn’t rig it to get a woman on board?
Sig: Well, when they found out there was a possibility she would go up, of course they went nutbags. When it started happening, I felt really bad. Had I know what a pain in the ass it would be for her afterwards, I would have said forget it.
Couldn’t you have just said no?
Sig: I did say no! But she’s devious. She told us if we didn’t let her on she was going to get a job on a charter.
Mandy: I told them I was going to go to Mexico.
Sig: Yeah. I didn’t like that idea. And her grandfather just about hit the roof. You gotta keep them where you can see them, you know?
Well, Sig you started when you were 14 years old.
Sig: I’m a guy! I have a dick! It’s a little different. So knock it off.
Fine. Twenty years ago, before helicopter rescues, back when it really was the most dangerous job in the world, would you have let her fish the opie season?
Sig: I think being a dad I would have took her anyway just for the experience. I did it every summer when I was a kid. I fished blue crab, went to Norway and fished salmon and cod. I would leave school early work all summer and come back a couple weeks late. How many guys do you know that when you go to visit your grandparents in Norway pack your raingear and boots?
So you figured what’s good for you would be good for Mandy.
Sig: Well I’m not going to have my kid resent me for not letting her do it.
Mandy, you watch the show. You’ve seen the fistfights, the drug problems, all the nightmarish shit that happens out there. Opies are hardcore.
Mandy: I’ve been watching these guys on the show for years. They’re my heroes.
They seemed to take it easy on you.
Mandy: It wasn’t easy. And I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I hadn’t experienced anything like it. So I wasn’t gonna expect anything. I just busted my ass.
Photo Courtesy of The Discovery Channel
What was the most surprising thing?
Mandy: The pain. I thought it was going to be more mental. But it was really just the pain was excruciating. You have so many muscles in your hands you don’t know about, and you just tear them apart from your fingers to your elbow. Trying to do anything to get rid of the pain. You hit your hands against the wall.
Sig: Even when you’re sleeping, you just start beating your arms against the wall. You’re just so fucking tired. And we started off a little easy with her, but my brother was like, ‘Let’s teach her what it’s really about.’ She got the real deal. But I let her run the boat a little bit.
And that pissed Jake Anderson off.
Sig: Well, fuck Jake. I only had a short amount of time with her. It’s memories for me. Jake can run the boat later. What an asshole. Think about it. It’s my daughter. He acted like a little prick.
Mandy you know all the other guys in Dutch Harbor?
Mandy: I know them all.
What’s the deal with Eliot, the captain of the Saga? He brought his girlfriend along on the boat during opie season.
Mandy: Yeah, that wasn’t cool.
Sig: You know what, I’ll give him one thing. A guy like that you can tell him, ‘This is the right way to do something,’ but Eliot is going to do his own thing. But I really didn’t care for him bringing his girlfriend on board. Nobody would, his crew, nobody. I think the owner of the boat has a soft spot for him. I don’t know. Sometimes I feel bad for his crew. But we all make our own decisions.
Mandy, you’re going to get lured by the fame and fortune that has lured all these other captains.
Mandy: No way. I’m just going fishing. I hate this stuff. I don’t want to be in New York.
Sig: Put it this way man, this kid walks out of her bedroom with a fucking shotgun. Me and momma are in the hot tub, I go where do you think you’re going and she goes, “I’m going shooting.” Thanks for the heads up. Then she goes and buys me a shotgun for Christmas.
Mandy: I thought you liked it.
Sig: Well I haven’t got to use it yet because I haven’t been home. I’ll shoot it when I get home.
Sig: Thank you sweetheart. It was a great gift.
Photos by The Discovery Channel