FORT WORTH, Texas April 22, 2014 — Captain Grant Harris may not be a household name, but for those who watch Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel the name is certainly familiar.
The retired skipper is the father of the late Captain Phil Harris and grandfather to Josh Harris and his brother Jake. A Seattle native, he had been a mechanic at the Ford Plant in Bothell, Washington when he started the Harris fishing dynasty in the early 1960’s. Despite the fact that he had never been on a boat before, he knew it would increase his income, so he gave it a shot.
Grant Harris was born during the Depression. His father left before he was born. From the time of his birth,his mother worked long hours to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, and it was from her example that the young Harris developed his work ethic and belief that hard work never hurt anybody.
In high school, he met and dated a pretty young lady named Phyllis. They later married and had their only son, Phillip Charles, born in 1956.
Grant and Phyllis had a happy life together until cancer took her at an early age. Devastated, the grieving husband decided to take Phil fishing with him. The Skipper said that he wouldn’t pawn his son off on relatives and Phil had already lost his beloved mother; he didn’t want his son to feel the loss of another parent. Grant worked it so they fished when Phil was out of school and home during the rest of the year.
Harris was a captain by then and fishing was a lot different than it is now. For instance, fishermen used to avoid the Bering Sea, favoring Kodiak instead. Crab pots were round and not square like they are now. Boats used to leave the dock without lights, cranes, survival suits or rafts. He fished before GPS and other electronic hardware that are staples of the fishing industry now.
What does it take to be a good captain? Harris says a person must always be aware of what’s going on in and around the vessel. Being a good leader is a must and to do that you have to know how to work and get along with all kinds of people. One has to know how to delegate, counsel, be firm but fair—and that’s when sailing is smooth.
A good captain is also a psychologist, doctor, mechanic, cook, cheerleader, disciplinarian, small business owner, accountant and teacher. When the weather gets hairy a good captain must keep a cool head while knowing the whereabouts of his crew, what’s happening in and with every part of the ship as well as equipment functions all-the-while trying to keep on the safest course possible while dealing with icebergs, winds in excess of 100mph, waves taller than buildings and yet somehow stay the course until the storm subsides.
This author saw the same mindset in the level one trauma surgeons she worked with in her days as a Certified Surgical Technologist. The responsibility is tremendous.
These days Captain Harris bides his time between North Dakota and Seattle. When in North Dakota he lives in a small, close-
knit community from spring until the fall. There, he has spent the last couple years building a large garage with bays for working on cars and other items. And although he had help putting the larger pieces of the structure up, he has taken the time to do a lot of his own electrical and finishing touches on the inside.
From late fall to early spring Grant spends his time in Lake Stevens, Washington. It is close to where Captain Phil lived, enabling the elder Harris to remain close to his son before his untimely death and to visit with his grandsons when they weren’t fishing or traveling. In his spare time Grant loves to see his great-granddaughter Kinsley, visit with friends and is in the process of restoring an old 1955 Ford truck. Phil’s friends also keep in touch with and look out for the father of their cherished friend.
When asked about Josh and Jake taking the helm of the F/V Cornelia Marie, Harris says he wishes them all the best. He hopes they do what it takes to properly care for the ship and her crew. That would mean putting in the hours of work necessary to learn as much as possible whether it is crab season or tendering in the summer. They certainly have big shoes to fill.
Grant says he watches and enjoys Deadliest Catch too. He will surely be watching tonight as the hit series kicks off its 10th season. Would he want to be on the show? Harris has been on After the Catch, a wrap-up show that airs at the end of Deadliest Catch’s TV season, but is otherwise happy right where he is.
Deadliest Catch premiers tonight on the Discovery Channel at 9:00pm EST/ 8:00CST.
Many, many thanks to Helen Ruckman for all her help in making this article possible and helping me to bring it to fruition.