Anchorage, Alaska — A crab boat captain who dodged danger for decades in the Bering Sea succumbed to a more common American ailment.
Phil Harris, 53, made famous on a Discovery Channel reality show, the “Deadliest Catch,” died Tuesday. Harris suffered a stroke last month at a remote Alaska port and was flown to Anchorage for treatment.
Family members had reported he was making progress. His sons, Josh and Jake Harris, who accompanied their father on fishing trips aboard the Cornelia Marie, released a statement that Harris had always been a fighter and continued to be until the end.
Phil Harris acknowledged that steering a boat into some of the planet’s most hostile waters was not for everyone.
“You’ve got to be a little bit twisted to do this job,” he said on the eve of one departure.
The raspy-voiced skipper, often filmed with a cigarette in hand, suffered cracked or broken ribs in the show’s fourth season when a storm tossed him out of bed and onto the sharp table corner.
He left the Cornelia Marie for treatment and was recorded recuperating in Seattle, spitting up blood, the result of a blood clot that had passed through his heart. He wistfully noted he might have to find something else to do.
“The bad part of it is, I don’t know if my fishing career is over, and that’s going to be a devastating thing for me if it is,” he said on camera.
Harris was back on the Cornelia Marie last month when he suffered a stroke Jan. 29 in port at St. Paul Island, the largest of the five islands in the Pribilofs, 300 miles off Alaska’s west coast and 750 miles west of Anchorage.