I’ve watched the Discovery Channel show Deadliest Catch for years. For those not familiar, Deadliest Catch is a docu-series about Alaskan crab fishing. Being a crab fisherman in the Bering Sea is rife with dangers – everything from falling overboard into the icy waters, to getting injured by heavy equipment (with rescue help hours away). The pay is lucrative, but in many cases, you can pay with broken bones – or even your life.
Depending on which crab boat you follow, there are plenty of season-long storylines. There’s the F/V Northwestern, owned by the Hansen family for generations, and now long-time captain Sig Hansen is training his daughter Mandy to someday take over the boat. There’s the F/V Cornelia Marie, where son Josh Harris tries to live up to the legacy of his father, captain Phil Harris, who piloted the boat for many years until his untimely passing. There’s the F/V Saga, with captain Jake Anderson’s progression from deckhand (on the Northwestern to his ownership of his own crab boat. There’s the F/V Wizard, a converted yard oiler that catches the most crab of any boat in the fleet, and is operated by the Colburn brothers. So many stories.
And then there’s the story of Nick McLashan.
Nick McLashan was the deck boss for several boats throughout Deadliest Catch‘s seasons, most notably on boats featuring white-haired captain “Wild Bill” Wichrowski. That would include the F/V Cape Caution and the F/V Summer Bay. Nick worked hard, and was seen as a rising star in the fleet – that maybe he might get a captain’s chair some day.
But Nick also had some demons. Serious demons. And it’s the kind of demons that affect many crabbers in the Bering Sea. Alcohol. Drugs. More drugs.
Last Sunday, just two days after Christmas, Nick McLashan passed away at the age of 33.
TMZ reported that even with Nick’s family history of crabbing along the Bering Sea, he could not stay away from opiates and alcohol. “He struggled for years with addiction to alcohol and drugs … it got bad enough he was suspended from part of Season 13 and ended up in rehab. It got so bad he said he was drinking a half-gallon of vodka and shooting up with one gram of meth and 2 grams of heroin in a single day. He tried hard to stay sober and said he was trying to inspire others to get clean.”
I wish this didn’t happen to Nick. I wish it didn’t happen to any crab fisherman. But Deadliest Catch has shown, over the seasons, that many of their deckhands and captains have suffered from various levels of substance abuse. Both Keith and Monte Colburn of the Wizard have dealt with alcoholism, Jake Harris of the Cornelia Marie landed in and out of rehab, and captain Elliott Neese of the F/V Ramblin’ Rose blew through thousands of dollars in cocaine, even half-bragging about it on the show.
I hate this. I hate that this has happened to Nick, or to anyone on the crab boats. And for every crabber who beats his demons back and fights every day for sobriety, he stands at the funeral of those who couldn’t make it one more day. Painful.
Thoughts and prayers and support go to the McLashan family and to his friends and boatmates. In the end, there are no answers, except for the support of others when you can’t battle the demons yourself.
If you can help someone in need, help them.
Don’t wait for them to ask.