Deadliest Catch fans have followed the crews featured on Discovery’s Emmy-winning reality series through a lot over 11 seasons — from fun prank wars, greenhorn ball-busting, and “crabalanches” to heated arguments, medevacs, and heartbreak. When Yahoo TV published an early preview of Season 12 (premiering March 29) last month, it was already clear that there was, once again, no shortage of drama on the Bering Sea. And on March 2, news broke of some more: the stress had caught up to fan favorite Capt. Sig Hansen, who’d suffered a heart attack in the wheelhouse of the Northwestern while cameras were still rolling.
Now recovering at home in Seattle, Hansen spoke to Yahoo TV on Friday about what he experienced, how it will affect his life moving forward, and, proving he hasn’t lost his sense of humor, whether he’d accept an offer to be a Viagra spokesman.
What was happening before your attack?
It was basically the end of the trip. Let’s just call it the final hour. We’d gone through quite a trying season already. We managed to damage the bow because of the first storm we went through. We managed to dodge an electrical fire, which was in the engine room. Fire is your biggest fear, and [my daughter] Mandy was on the boat, too, when the fire happened. That was a potential life-and-death situation, plus the insurance and all the things that come with a fire — the Coast Guard, and trying to get the boat back to the shore safely. And then the weather and the fishing itself. I went through a lot of god—- s–t this year.
It was a strange heart attack. It wasn’t like you see in the movies. I had this really sharp, sharp pain, like a knife, right behind my chest plate. It just kept pushing, and it was making me more angry.
Mandy wasn’t aboard when you fell unconscious. When you came to, you actually wanted to keep on fishing, but the Deadliest Catch crew convinced you to head to Dutch Harbor?
Yeah, I wanted to keep going. I was in denial. It was more denial than anything else. We got the boat in, and I was in Dutch Harbor for, I think, two hours, and they were doing their tests, because it was a sneaky one. Then we found out it was a full blown heart attack, and then we did the medevac to Anchorage. I think what saved my life was the shot you get for any blood clots. There was a blood clot lodged in one of my arteries, and it dissolved it. And then, of course, you get treated for the heart attack, if you need stints and all this other stuff. But I’m a pretty lucky guy, because it was right there on a wishbone, and had it gone the one way, down the widowmaker, there would have been no chance. It got lodged right up there, so pretty lucky.
Were you concerned about the cameras?
After 12 years, I don’t really worry about those guys too much anymore. They were kinda just doing their thing. They know this is serious, and when to step in and when to step out.
How much are you anticipating them showing on-air this season? You’re okay with it?
It’s okay. I suppose they could probably really twist it if they wanted to and exploit that, but I don’t think they would do that. I think they’re gonna show what’s happened. That’s the deal. [Some people] look at our show like some Housewives of the Bering Sea. [Laughs] But remember, it’s a god—- documentary. That’s why I still agree to do it. That’s what they show.
I remember how well producers handled Capt. Phil’s stroke.
I thought they were respectful of Phil. Behind-the-scenes, they were really concerned about the boys, and still are. TV is one thing, and that’s a business. We all know that. But behind-the-scenes, you’ve got this big team of people and they really did worry about Phil, and his boys, and how that was gonna be treated. So I know for myself, it would be no different. Besides, my wife’s tough. If she didn’t like it, she’d knock 'em in the head anyway.
There’s a clip of you that Discovery posted last year in which you talk about how when you were a kid, you were supposed to go out as a cook on a brown crab boat, but you sprained your ankle, so you were told to go home. Then that boat was lost at sea. You said you feel grateful and blessed to be there every day, but also that you get a little more fearful every year. Has this experience changed your vision of how long you want to stay in the wheelhouse?
Well, it’s true, you do get more fearful. And I have had flashbacks now that I’ve been home for a week or so. [Laughs] Actually last night, my wife and I were sittin’ in the family room, and we were watching that Ron Howard movie In the Heart of the Sea, and in all honestly, it’s kinda hard to watch a lot of it for me. I started thinking, “Yeah, there’s gonna be a time when you wanna not go up there, just because you don’t want to take risks.” But for now, I have to. It’s still my responsibility. I started thinking, “Maybe king crab would be better than Opies, because the Opies are in the winter and it’s a longer season, generally. Maybe that’s the way to do it.” And then I started thinking, “If somebody else did it for Opies, then the liability and the risk for the Northwestern goes up, because I’m not there, some other knucklehead is there. So that’s not a smart business move.” You understand? I thought, “I guess I’m just screwed any way I go.”
I saw you have a laugh in your TMZ interview yesterday when you said the doctor gave you Viagra for whenever you’re allowed to start having sex again. If Viagra came to you and wanted you to be a spokesman, Sig, would you consider it?
Now that they put me on the stuff, why not? They gotta pay though. I’m not gonna do it for nothin’. I’m not a sucker. Everybody has their price, right?
I’m still tryin’ to figure out why they did that, because I was out of it in the hospital [and didn’t ask]. My wife said, “Well, with the blood thinner, you can lose your drive, or whatever you want to call it.” She’s like, “Well, here you go!” [Laughs] It’s like, god—-. You look at those commercials, it’s always some old guy, and you’re thinkin’, “Well, that’s not me.”
[Momentarily distracted] Oh my god, I just got a box in the mail. Holy s–t. I guy just came to the door, delivers a box. It’s a box full of Seahawks paraphernalia and all the guys signed everything.
You’ve been getting a lot of well wishes from fans. How does that feel?
It’s very flattering. So far I haven’t been criticized too much, so I think that’s a good thing. I’ve been hearing from my family, who are going through the texts and Twitter and Facebook. For me, right now, the truth of the whole matter is, my cholesterol is fine. I don’t have high blood pressure. My arteries aren’t the greatest, but they’re no different than a regular 50-year-old guy. [The doctor] said stress and genetics were probably the biggest contributors. You know, dad collapsed from a heart attack, and I’ll probably be next. I don’t want to be. So that makes you think, “Okay, here’s the cards you’re dealt. Now what are you gonna do about that?” A lot of the fans were like, “Hey, time to stop smoking,” which is obvious. And a lot of them have been concerned for a long time, and that’s really flattering that they are. But I’ve cut down so much, it’s like two a day. … So that’s been tough. And then of course, diet. Good lord. On the boat, obviously, the diet’s not good. Nothing’s good. The sleep — there’s nothing good about it. And when you’re on, you’re on: I don’t feel like my season ends until the boat’s here in Seattle at the dock being repaired. You’re never off. There’s a lot of stress in all that.
Is there anything you want to say to the fans?
Tell the fans hello, and I’m eating salad. [Laughs] It’s so funny. My wife likes to cook at home, but we went to a restaurant. At first, everybody in the restaurant, they were pointing and staring. And then we sit down, and they know us there quite well. So I was gonna order, and then I ordered a salad, and oh my god, I thought [the waitress] was gonna start dying of laughter. She’s like, "Well, what about your crab dip and the usual entrees?” It just turned into a big joke, thank god. It lightened the mood. And then the table next to us, there’s some people there who I knew, and the gals looked back, and one of them I used to babysit when we were kids. She looks [and says], “Is that a salad?” “Yep, that’s a salad.” Her husband is a crab fisherman as well. So anyway, salad was a big joke of the day.
Season 12 of Deadliest Catch premieres March 29 at 9 p.m. on Discovery. Also returning is “The Bait,” a series of one-hour pre-shows, at 8 p.m. on Discovery.