Thursday, March 26, 2009

What I'm Reading Now-Time Bandit: Two Brothers, the Bering Sea, and One of the World's Deadliest Jobs

Time Bandit: Two Brothers, the Bering Sea, and One of the World's Deadliest Jobs by Andy Hillstrand, Jonathan Hillstrand, and Malcolm MacPherson - This book made me laugh out loud, mostly at the antics of the Hillstrand brothers during their childhood, growing up in Homer, Alaska and on the Bering Sea, but also some of their adult perspectives on life.

Andy Hillstrand on his reputation as the guy who can fix things:
I can fix things. It is as simple as that. And I can outwit, most of the time, the humble crab or the predictable salmon. I fix stuff all the time; I get it running good again. I am doing that all the time. People need me. [...]I fix what I try to fix. Like if I have to fix my wife I say, "You look good, honey. Those pants look great on you."
"They make me look fat, don't they?"
"Oh, no, honey." See? I just fixed something.

There are 5 Hillstrand brothers, and I can't believe any of them made it past the age of about 10. One super-glued his eye shut, a couple of them have shot each other, one was in a tree so the others chopped it down, etc. I guess this sort of devil-may-care approach to life is what's needed if you are going to grow up to be a captain of a crab boat on the Bering Sea.

Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch" is a show about crab fishing. I don't like crab. I am scared of the ocean. Fishing's ok, but I definitely have no interest in living on a fishing boat for weeks at a time. I hate the cold, and, overall, I'm a fairly girly girl. By all rights, I should have no interest in this show, but I LOVE it. You know how some people love being scared to death on a roller coaster? That's sort of how I am about this show. It combines all of my worst nightmares-30-,40-,even 50-foot seas, freezing temperatures, 36-hour work days, fish guts, 800-pound swinging metal crab pots, and a boat full of unshaven men who smell like fish guts-and rolls them all into one fascinating look at life aboard a crab boat. Time Bandit is one of the boats featured on the show, and two of the authors, Andy and Jonathan Hillstrand share the responsibilities of captaining the ship.

The book alternates narration between Jonathan and Andy and an occasional 3rd-party anonymous narration, which is kind of strange. Jonathan has gone out fishing on a small fishing boat and has lost power and is drifting at sea. As he tells his story he also tells about life aboard the Time Bandit. Andy has been informed of Jonathan's potential missing-at-sea status and his narration also goes back and forth between his present-day activities on his ranch and his thoughts about their time on the Bering Sea.

If you've watched the show, you will be familiar with a lot of the stories from the crab boat, particularly the two rescue attempts in which the Time Bandit was involved, racing against time, trying to pluck men out of the icy water before they died of hypothermia or drowned.

Overall, this was a quick enjoyable read, but I felt like it was sort of a patchwork of stories-"Let me tell you about this one time...and then there was this other time...and another time," etc. In the end, it all flowed together alright, and I imagine that's a lot how it would be if you actually sat down and talked to either one of these guys, but it didn't make for a very seamless reading.

If you like the show, you'd probably like the book, but I think the show is more gripping. If you've never watched the show, you should watch the show. Although the Hillstrands do a good job of describing life at sea, it's just hard to do justice to a rogue wave washing over the deck of a ship in 50-foot seas. It's much more impressive on-screen. Here's a peek at some of the nonsense these guys put up with:

This next clip is a bit of a spoiler if you're planning on reading the book, but still worth watching in my opinion. It's not like it will ruin the book, but this is the story that they are building up to toward the end of the book, so the book probably loses a little bit of its punch if you have already seen this...sooo...your choice.


Heather J. said...

Hubby, Kiddo and I LOVE this show. Like you, I hate cold, open seas, huge waves, hard work, and lots of other things (but I do like crab!) and yet I am entranced by the show. I've heard of this book before but I'd forgotten all about it. I'm heading over to right now to see if there are any copies available - I'd love to read this, and I know Hubby would as well.

Dreamybee said...

Isn't it a great show? Entranced-that's the perfect word! The book was a fun read-Jonathan is probably my favorite captain, so I enjoyed learning a little bit more about him. Some of his stories about Alaska are pretty crazy. I hope you find a copy!