On Deadliest Catch, there’s a new boat in town.
The bane of Wizard captain Keith Colburn’s existence this season isn’t his fellow fleet crabbers on the boats we all know and love. It’s reserved for the new kid in town — Captain Steve “Harley” Davidson of the Southern Wind.
The Southern Wind is a ginormous boat (though not as big as the Wizard we learned) that has made a huge splash in Dutch Harbor with attitude and a go-getter work ethic.
The F/V Southern Wind may be the new kid for most but for Colburn, Harley is a bad old penny revisited.
Colburn and Harley’s past history aside, the Southern Wind is in it to win it this season, so let’s take a closer look at Harley and his vessel, a duo that has spawned new drama for the long-running Discovery reality series.
Who is Captain Steve “Harley” Davidson?
Captain Steve “Harley” Davidson helms the 148-foot-long Southern Wind. The boat is the second-largest in the fleet, behind Captain Keith Colburn’s boat The Wizard.
Harley, who has captained the Southern Wind for 15 plus years is a career fisherman. He has many a crab season and more under his belt. He mans and heads up the Southern Wind, a boat that makes a real entrance wherever it goes and is known for its efficient fishing methods.
This crusty sea dog has a sense of humor and loves to aggravate Colburn the most. He was born in Los Angeles and is the oldest of five kids, with three sisters and a brother.
He moved to Washington state when he was 10 years old. His family ran a billiards parlor where Steve talked about “hanging out” when he was growing up in Kent.
After high school, he got a football scholarship to a community college. He left after one year and ended up going to Bellingham, where he hooked up with some fishermen.
The men told him they fished in Alaska and Peugeot Sound. They invited him to go fishing and he liked it, starting out as a cook and running the drum — the spinner reel for the lines.
This was in the late ’70s and The Sunlight was the vessel. It was captain Jim Briscoe who gave him his break as a young 20-something upstart.
On the Galley Stories with Mark Caylor podcast, Harley joked that all the guys on the ship were named ‘Steve” so he got the nickname Harley to end the confusion.
He got married and had a baby girl in 1980. His daughter was born prematurely and he needed to pay some steep medical bills and wound up on a crab boat — the Alaska Monarch in 1981.
While he was in Bellingham, he noticed there were guys with flashy cars at the docks and learned they were all the crab fisherman. Harley learned fast the big money was in crab.
In his first foray to the Bering Sea, he learned the hard way that fishing in Alaska was a cold venture — his hands and feet freezing. On the podcast, he recalled a “lot of bullying” on the crab boats when he started out.
Harley had to move back home in a bid to save his marriage and fished locally. His marriage ended around 1983 and he resumed long haul fishing stints.
He went into bairdi crab fishing near Kodiak Island off Alaska and recalled his captain at the time was an old Portuguese man who had “a stench about him.”
Harley then went to the Bering Sea with a new crew. He pursued fishing sockeye salmon in 1987 with Aleutian Dragon Fisheries. He hadn’t found his groove yet but said he was starting to make big money.
In the late ’80s, he became a captain on a big boat, reconnected with his daughter, and also had a nephew working for him. He was having a great time on the American Star vessel until the ’90s.
It was then he realized getting a bigger boat had an advantage in crabbing for the long haul due to the ability to handle lots of pots.
In 2000, he worked with Pat Dwyer who put him in charge of some boats. This was his first crab boat captain gig and he was finally in the crab big leagues.
He also mentioned how he “stuck with the Norwegians” in the business — always getting fair deals and good business opportunities.
“They’ve [Norwegians] always treated me right,” Harley told Mark in his podcast interview.
He has also never had a death on board any of his ships and operates a tight ship.
His advice to new guys: “You guys gotta watch out…” and added there will be I.R.S., relationship, and possibly addiction issues if they pursue a career in fishing.
“I’m really proud of the guys on my boat right now,” Harley told Mark in his podcast.
Deadliest Catch airs Wednesdays on Discovery.