The episode, The Darkened Seas starts the first of several episodes to chronicle the Jan. 29 stroke and Feb. 9 death of Captain Phil Harris, 53.
Josh Harris recently spoke with People magazine, “Seeing it all happen again, it freaks me out a little bit,” Josh says. “I can’t tell you how many people just sat there, crying, when we watched this in the bar. I had already seen the footage and I started crying again.” Josh is speaking of the episode, Blown Off Course.
It’s been a difficult and trying time for Josh, 27, and his brother Jake Harris, 24, as they settle their dad’s affairs and go forward with their own lives.
“I am going to take care of my family and the six companies that my dad started,” Josh says, “like the coffee company. That was one of his pride and joys, so I’ve got to take that over, along with the boat, and all his endorsements he had.”
The Harris boys also want to also to buy the fishing vessel, the “Cornelia Marie,” outright. “I will try to get it back up and running at full strength, and be the full owner, and my guys can keep their jobs,” Josh says. “I will achieve my goals. One way or another, it will happen. There is no failure in a fisherman.” The fishing vessel was owned 50% by Phil and 50% with a partner, Cornelia Marie Devlin.
In the episode, The Darkened Seas, it chronicled a very difficult time for Jake, as he revealed to his father about his addictions. . “You got to go to treatment, man,” Phil told Jake. “At least you’ll have a fighting chance…I’ll go with you.” Phil hugged his son and Jake told his father, “‘I love you, Pops.’” But, it was evident that things were a little tense as Phil planned to cut their fishing season to early halt.
Recently, Josh participated in an AOL interview. Read below.
With last night’s episode beginning the stretch of a lot more sadness and drama to come, what kind of mind state are you in knowing the whole world will be watching it unfold?
Actually, my dad kept that little part [Jake's pill stealing] from me, so I didn’t know. Discovery hasn’t shown me the footage they’re using. I got a heads-up that it happened, but my dad never informed me about this little situation that took place, so last night was the first time I got to see it. It’s always a shock. Everyone’s got their trials and tribulations. Luckily my brother has had the opportunity to go through treatment and everything, so that’s been a big help. We’re not perfect people; we’re just normal people in the world trying to make it.
He’s doing a lot better now. It’s hard. Every time I see my dad on TV, I keep think he’s going to pop up around the corner and it will be some sick joke or TV thing. I really know it’s not, but I just keep telling myself maybe there’s some hope that it is.
You didn’t know about Jake’s problems at all?
I had an idea there were problems, but I didn’t realize that occurrence had happened. They didn’t tell me about that because I would have flipped out on him. I’m like the mother of the family. That’s my job, to keep the family in line — the mediator, the mother and sometimes the father; because that’s just the way we roll. We’re fishermen.
Looking back, were there warning signs to Jake’s problems?
Yeah, there were. But, we’re fishermen. We get home and live life to the extreme, because we never really know if we’re going to come back. In a sense, we live every day like it’s the weekend and every weekend like its New Year’s. We’re extremists all the way around, because the typical story of the fisherman is a guy who goes out and busts his ass for three months and comes home and blows all of his money in the first three weeks because he might not be coming back. You want to live life to the fullest. No regrets, balls to the wall. Live hard, play hard.
Jake has gotten treatment, you said?
Yeah, after this whole incident Discovery and Original Productions got together and really have been stepping it up for us. They helped get Jake to rehab. It’s made a big impact in his life and it’s really helped him out, and hopefully he’ll continue living the straight life because we need him more than ever now. There’s a lot of decisions that need to be made. We’re not just in it for ourselves anymore. We’ve got families to look after.
So you and Jake are planning on keeping the Cornelia Marie and keeping the business in the family?
Oh yeah. We are definitely planning on continuing on. We got some investors to help us … and we are most definitely going to continue on in the old man’s legacy, and we’re going to learn to captain it. I’ve always done business when I was off work, and was really good at doing it. Now with the old man gone unexpectedly, I can’t just let the boat fail because this was his dream that he put together and I’m going to make sure with every last breath that I’ve got that it keeps going on. It’s what I’m supposed to do. It’s what I was born, bred and corn-fed to do.
Starting next week, your dad’s health problems that eventually led to his death are going to air. Have you seen the episodes? Will you watch?
No, I haven’t. I really don’t know what they’re going to air. It’s very important to me. It’s going to be really hard reliving this. It’s hard enough to have my father gone, but to actually be able to see everything happen … He had the pulmonary embolism to start with, then two years later he had a massive stroke. His brain went without oxygen on one side for 12 hours on the right hand side. They ended up cutting the whole right portion of his skull off. That was very traumatic. He was getting better, making medical history on the fastest recovery for someone of that nature. The doctors didn’t understand it. They said it was going to be 2-3 weeks before opening his eyes, an hour later he opened his eyes. They said it could be a couple months before he could breathe on his own, the next day he ripped the breathing tube out of his throat. They said he’d probably never be able to eat, and the fourth day into it he started swallowing ice and being able to eat. They said he’d never walk, he started shuffling around walking. In the end though, it was a pulmonary embolism that killed him — the blood clot — and that was all caused by smoking. One artery, say you hold up your pinky finger… that would be the size of a normal artery. One of his looked like a toothpick. It was all caused by smoking, 100 percent without a doubt smoking killed my father.
Me and my brother have gone into this wellness kick. I’m going to promote not smoking as best as I can throughout the US. If I can save one life, I don’t want anybody to have to go through the s–t we just went through. It’s the most horrible thing ever.
Smoking seems to be a part of the crab fisherman’s lifestyle and culture, no?
When I was 10 years old, my dad put a cigarette into my mouth and told me if I’m going to be a fisherman, I need to be a man. Smoking is part of a job. Then throughout high school, that’s what you did to fit in. If you could have seen my dad and spent time with him in real life and known what a wonderful person he was and how much fun he was, those type of people belong on this earth. They make the world a better place, and if I could change just one life, that would be sufficient enough and I’m going to use whatever power I’ve got to do that. I’m not going to stop, and I’m going to do all I can to inform people that life is a precious thing and you never know what’s going to happen next.
The outpouring of sympathy after your dad’s passing was overwhelming. Did you have any idea how many people were emotionally invested in your family?
No, I didn’t. It’s been amazing. I can’t explain to you how shocked I was. 10-11 months of the year, we’re out in the ocean killing stuff, then we come home for a month and everyone thinks we’re these superstars. We’re just normal guys with car payments and house payments.
Have you and Jake grown closer in the months following his passing?
Yeah. We’ve grown closer in a lot of aspects. I know more about business than he does, so he lets me take the reigns on a lot of it. I’m looking out for him now because before we both had our eye on our father. Now it’s all on my lap. Jake’s out fishing right now, so I’m here with the aftermath of all this stuff. Jake’s been taking care of himself and I’m really proud of that because it’s not an easy task. I’ve been doing the best job that I can with getting everything put together and making sure my crew has a job.
It’s just been a wild ride. You’ve got to grow up really fast. We went from the peckhouse to the outhouse really quick, but now we’re back, baby. We’re back. My dad was my inspiration, I’m not going to let his dream die.
Josh told reporters that his brother has since moved closer to him and is getting better. “He just went through rehab and everything is going real good,” Josh says. “I have my brother back in some aspects. It’s still a battle, though, but we talk about things a lot, decide things together, and he’s thinking a lot more clear-minded.”
Now, Jake is away fishing at the moment, Josh is trying to quit smoking with the help of electronic cigarettes. “It’s one of the hardest battles of my life,” Josh says. “It’s even harder of a battle than fighting the Bering Sea. But I’m on a wellness kick now, going around the U.S. and promoting health.”
Josh and Jake expect to be back to fishing in October, where they will be paying their last tribute to their father by releasing the rest of his ashes into the Bering Sea. “Yes, we will be releasing the rest of him back into the area where he spent the majority of his life, which is the Bering Sea,” Josh says. “It will be a rough time, but we’ll finally let the rest of him go.”
Our best wishes to Josh and Jake. If you already don’t (which seems unlikely), watch Deadliest Catch Tuesday nights on the Discovery Channel at 9/8p CST.