He was a legend of the Bering Sea, a fearless leader who braved the harsh waters and brutal storms to catch the elusive king crab. He was a mentor to many, a friend to all, and a father to two sons who followed in his footsteps. He was Captain Phil Harris, and this is his story.
In this article, we will explore the life and legacy of one of the most iconic figures in the history of the Deadliest Catch, the hit reality TV show that chronicled the adventures and struggles of the crab fishermen of Alaska. We will learn about his humble beginnings, his rise to fame, his near-death experiences, his tragic passing, and his lasting impact on the fishing industry and the millions of fans who admired him. We will also hear from some of the people who knew him best, including his crew, his family, and his fellow captains.
If you are a fan of the Deadliest Catch, or if you are simply curious about the man behind the wheel of the Cornelia Marie, you won’t want to miss this article. Join us as we pay tribute to Captain Phil Harris, the man who lived and died by the sea.
Who was Phill Harris?
Phillip Charles Harris was an American crab fishing captain and a reality TV star. He was born on December 19, 1956, in Bothell, Washington, to a fishing family. He learned to fish from his father and joined him on fishing trips since he was eight years old. After graduating from high school, he pursued a career in crab fishing and became one of the youngest captains on the Bering Sea. He was also the co-owner of the vessel F/V Cornelia Marie, which was featured on the Discovery Channel’s series Deadliest Catch. Harris died of a stroke in 2010, at the age of 53.
Earning his Way:
When Philip began crab fishing fresh out of high school, he joined a crab boat as an unpaid deckhand. Over the years, Philip proved his worth and by 21 had already earned his captain badges. At 21, Philip was one of the youngest crab fishing boat captains on the Bering Sea.
Having finally earned his captain’s badge, Philip started as the captain of The Cornelia Marie. In the years that followed, the Discovery Channel came knocking with the idea of a reality TV series with Philip in the center.
Philip was introduced to the world of the Deadliest Catch in 2005. On the helm of the Cornelia, Philip’s first appearance came during the opilio crab portion of Season 1, as the partnership of the F/V Maverick. In the same season, Cornelia was heavily involved in the rescue of F/V Big Valley after it sank. After its debut appearance in season 1, Cornelia and Philip became a staple of the series. Phil also owned a coffee brand called Captain’s Reserve, which is in the hands of his sons now. From 2004-2005, Phil made 70 episodes appearance on “Deadliest Catch.” He was also part of the spin-off After The Catch making 13 appearances from 2007-2009.
Things were going well for Captain Philips during his early years in the series. However, in 2008, he faced a life-threatening health crisis. During a storm, he fell from his bunk and broke several ribs. He coughed up blood for hours and struggled to breathe. His sons and crew urged him to see a doctor, who diagnosed him with a pulmonary embolism – a blood clot in his lung that could have killed him. He had to skip the next fishing season to recover. He came back in January 2009 for the opilio crab season, but he was still at risk of another clot. He smoked heavily, despite his sons’ warnings and pleas. He knew he was living on borrowed time, but he loved the sea and his job too much to quit.
One with the Sea:
Phil Harris was a legendary captain known for his high energy, contagious laugh, and extreme perseverance in the harsh and deadly conditions of Alaskan crab fishing. He also developed a line of coffees called “Captain’s Reserve” and was a generous and caring person who visited sick children in hospitals and rescued stranded fishermen at sea.
On January 29, 2010, during the opilio crab season, Phil suffered a massive stroke while offloading crab at St. Paul Island, Alaska. He was flown to Anchorage for surgery and placed in an induced coma to reduce intracranial pressure and swelling. Although he showed some signs of improvement and even woke up from the coma, he died from an intracranial hemorrhage on February 9, 2010, at the age of 53.
Remembering Phil Harris
Phil Harris was cremated alongside his mother, and his sons, Josh and Jake, scattered his ashes on the sea, honoring his life and legacy. His death shocked and saddened the fishing community, especially his fellow captains and friends on the show. They paid tribute to him on social media and on the air, expressing their respect and admiration for him. They also shared their memories and stories of Phil, who was always the life of the party and the voice of reason.
“Phil Harris was called home and will forever be remembered,” wrote the crew of the Alaskan crab boat the Northwestern, one of his rivals on the show.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Phil Harris. May God bless and care for Phil and his family,” posted the crew of the Time Bandit, another boat from the show.
On February 9, 2011, Sig Hansen expressed his grief and admiration for his fellow captain and friend, saying, “Something is definitely missing. You can feel it everyday out here. There’s no more fun radio chatter among the boats. Phil was known for his colorful commentary about storms, crew life – whatever was on his mind. Our boat-to-boat radio was like The Phil Show.”
Jonathan Hillstrand, a fellow crab fisherman and friend of Phil Harris, expressed his love and admiration for the late captain of the Cornelia Marie. He recalled how Phil was “always the coolest guy in the building” and “honest, hardworking, old-school handshake kind of guy”. He also said that he felt a part of Phil was still alive through his sons Josh and Jake, who continued to work on the boat. He admitted that it was hard to say goodbye and that he lacked the courage to do it sooner.
Phil Harris left behind a legacy of courage, determination, and generosity. He inspired many people with his adventurous spirit and his love for his family and friends. He was a true legend of the sea and a hero to many.
In addition to Commercial fishing Phil Harris was involved in different business endeavors. He developed a line of coffees, called Captain’s Reserve, with blends named after fishing themes such as Harris Family Blend and Midnight Sunrise. Some of his sea stories and experiences as a crab fisherman were included in -authored the book, titled Deadliest Catch: Desperate Hours, which was published in 2008. At the time of his death, Phil had a reported net worth of $1.5 Million.
Wife and Kids:
Even though Harris was single at the time of his death, he had been married twice. He married his first wife, Mary Harris, in 1982. They had two sons, Joshua and Jacob Harris, who also became fishermen and crew members of the F/V Cornelia Marie. They also appeared on Deadliest Catch and inherited their father’s share of the boat. Phil and Mary divorced in 1991. He married his second wife, Teresa Harris, in 1993. They had a tumultuous relationship and divorced in 2003. Teresa died of a heart attack in 2011.
Phillip Charles Harris
53 years old
Date of Birth
December 19, 1956
Place of Birth
Bothell, Washington, United States
Date of Death
February 9, 2010
Television Personality, Commercial Fisherman, Captain
May Harris (1982-1991), Teressa Harris (1992 – 2006)