Sex, Drugs, and Crabs: 'Deadliest Catch' Deckhands Tell All About Dad Captain Phil Harris

Yahoo! TV
"Deadliest Catch" Season 6: Phil Harris, Jake Harris, & Josh Harris
Cornelia Marie Captain Phil Harris (center) and his sons (from left to right) Deckhand Jake Harris and Deckhand Josh Harris are photographed on the Cornelia Marie during "Deadliest Catch" Season 6.

Josh and Jake Harris cut their teeth as deckhands on Discovery Channel's "The Deadliest Catch." To say that audiences loved their father, Captain Phil Harris, is an understatement. After suffering from a massive stroke, Phil died February 9, 2010 at the age of 53 from a pulmonary embolism.

We know that Phil was a wildly entertaining built-for-TV kind of guy. And now, we are learning more about the captain from his sons. "My dad became a real dad instead of a best friend in the last three years of his life," Josh told Yahoo! TV. "We were an actual family unit, and he would always be telling me, 'Don't be doing this, don't be doing that' instead of telling me, 'Get out there and do this.'" It's no surprise that Josh and Jake teamed up to pay tribute to their old man with a memoir. The contents of their book, "Captain Phil Harris: The Legendary Crab Fisherman, Our Hero, Our Dad" might make you blush.

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But before we dive into the pages, let's talk about Jake. Josh informed us that Jake is not on "Catch" this season because he took time off to deal with his substance abuse issues. "Catch" fans are all too familiar with Jake's ongoing struggles. "If he had continued on, he probably wouldn't be here today," said Josh, adding that his reaction to his brother's decision was this: "Amen. Praise Jesus. I got a lot of faith in him. He's starting to take responsibility."

And the good news is that Josh expects his brother to be back on the boat next season. But brothers are brothers, and Josh couldn't resist clarifying one important fact: "He'll be up in the wheelhouse or running the deck, but I'm gonna be the one driving the boat."

So, back to the book.

Josh said he wrote the book because people ask about his dad all the time. "In his final days, he really wanted there to be an end of the story," he said. "We decided to do it the same way 'Deadliest Catch' is done. What you see is what you get. We're not perfect people."

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We asked Josh to tell us something he learned while doing research that blew his mind. "I thought my parents met on a picnic," Josh laughed. "Come to find out, they met at a strip club."

Fan favorite Phil Harris was a zealous, made-for-reality-TV, larger than life kind of guy -- a passionate storyteller, a guy who never saw a storm he didn't want to cut through. It's no wonder that millions of people tuned in to see Harris take his last breaths on what turned out to be the network's third most popular episode in history. Is that good TV or bad exploitation?

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In the book, "Catch" creator/producer Thom Beers concedes to "a degree of exploitation." But the Harris brothers defend the producers in the book. In one moving passage, we learn that Captain Phil was unable to speak out loud, but still managed to interrupt the debate. He motioned for a pen and paper and he wrote: "You've got to finish the story. It needs an ending.'"

Here now, a few bon mots from the juicy-is-an-understatement book:

  • Phil was voted least likely to succeed in high school and often seemed determined to make good on that prediction.
  • Josh writes: "My dad once told me that when he was a young crab fisherman, he'd get a big fat pay check, buy huge amounts of cocaine… rent the penthouse of a nice hotel... That's how he lived his life for a long time. He'd get a check for $80,000, but after three weeks it was gone."
  • Phil was so high that he drove a Harley Davidson into the front room of the family home.
  • And the man could gamble. On a good day, he could blow through $300 in chips in "a minute."
  • One of the wildest characters we meet in the book is Josh's stepmother, nicknamed Satan. She makes Cinderella's evil stepmom sound like heaven. Josh told us he celebrated the day she died. "I went into the bar and I bought four rounds for the whole bar. It made my bank account negative, but that lady was one of the most malicious people I ever met. She sucked my dad dry of everything he worked for, and he ended up living in a trailer down by the river. But he was happy there. And it wasn't your normal trailer. It was 500,000 bucks. But when he finally became responsible, he lost it all." 

Josh has no shortage of new responsibilities in his life right now. He became a father. "I bow down to women," he said. "Being a mother is a task." And he has another, slightly bigger, baby: The FV Cornelia Marie. 

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"We own the whole kit and caboodle now and [my dad] would be proud of that because he only owned 27 percent," he said, in that proud new dad voice. "So I'm making all the decisions and entering contracts. There's a lot of responsibility. I never fail, but it would be catastrophic. It's like I got six kids out there. I tell you, if I fail at this, my kids' kids will be broke."

Classic fisherman, always ready for the storm.

"Deadliest Catch" airs Tuesdays at 9 PM on the Discovery Channel.