Bering Sea Popreneur

December 19, 1956 - February 9, 2010

Captain Phillip Charles Harris was one of the stars of Deadliest Catch, a reality show about crab fishing, for six seasons. Unfortunately, he passed away on February 9th,2010 at the age of 53, after suffering a stroke. His battle was documented on the Deadliest Catch and this week the Discovery Channel aired a tribute to the beloved skipper. While watching this tribute I realized what an inspirational and entrepreneurial person he was.

Phil Harris’s father was a salmon fisherman and he was away fishing most of Phil’s young life. However, at the age of 8, Phil’s mom died of skin cancer and Phil’s dad decided to take him out fishing with him; this is when Phil got the fishing bug. At the age of 17, Phil decided that he wanted to get into crab fishing and he even worked on a boat without pay for a year. During this year he performed all the tasks that none of the other fishermen wanted to do while learning a tremendous amount about crab fishing. His lucky break came when one of the greenhorns broke his leg on the boat and Phil was picked to replace him.

In his new position Phil proved to be a hard worker and an excellent crab fisherman. At the age of 21, with only 4 years of crab fishing under his belt, he was handed the keys to the boat and given the chance to prove himself as a captain. Due to his young age he was met with trepidation by the crew but he quickly proved that he had a knack for finding the elusive king crab which netted him about $100,000 a month.

A few years later he became part owner of F/V Cornelia Marie, which he was the caption of for 20 years.

At the age of 25, he married his sweetheart of 4 years, Mary and they had two sons shortly after. The eldest son is Josh who was followed 2 years later by Jake. However, the fact that Phil was out to sea 10 months out of the year put a strain on his marriage and Mary and Phil divorced in 1999.

 In 2005, Phil realized that he had missed out on most of his sons’ childhood and he invited them to join him on F/V Cornelia Marie to learn the art of crab fishing while bonding. Jake took his dad up on the offer first and then in 2006 Josh joined the family business. Sea water must run through the Harris blood because shortly after joining their dad on the boat Josh and Jake proved to be exceptional fishermen as well and they are poised to become full owners and captains of F/V Cornelia Marie.

What can we learn from Captain Phil Harris?

  1. Sometimes you have to start at the bottom to spring to the top
  2. When an opportunity presents itself you should act on it
  3. Even if you think you are underqualified to do something, the only way you’ll learn how to do it is to do it
  4. An entrepreneur’s greatest accomplishment is to leave a legacy for their kids

RIP Skipper

follow me on twitter @itsmejeane

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