Deadliest Catch: What Happened To The Northwestern?

For fans of Discovery's "Deadliest Catch," the fishing vessels are sometimes just as popular as the crew members. The long-running reality TV series follows king crab fishermen as they risk life and limb to make a living in the rough waters of the Bering Sea. The only boat to appear in all 19 seasons of the show, the F/V Northwestern is owned by the Hansen family and skippered by Sig Hansen, according to the Discovery Channel's F/V Northwestern origin story, posted on Youtube. Surely the 124-foot-long fishing boat built in 1977 has weathered some rough seas, but so has the family that owns her. Despite lawsuits, a sexual assault conviction, and more accusations, the Northwestern has remained integral to the livelihood of the family. 

As of season 19, Captain Hansen's daughter, Mandy Hansen, (pictured below with Sig Hansen) came aboard, according to Hollywood Life. On joining the crew, Mandy told People in 2022, "I always wanted to be on the water." With youthful Mandy in tow, as of 2023, it seems unlikely the Northwestern's streak of "Deadliest Catch" season appearances will end anytime soon. 

In the meantime, a lawsuit against "Deadliest Catch" producers was filed by the boat's owners related to an onboard medical emergency, Alaska Public Media reports, the latest development in the family's troubling allegations and legal problems. 

A crew member's appendix ruptured on board

Perhaps the most notable incident to happen on the F/V Northwestern took place in 2020 while the "Deadliest Catch" crew were operating under COVID-19 protocols mandated by the show's producers, Original Productions, Inc. and Discovery. At that time, long-time Northwestern crew member, Nick Mavar Jr., experienced a ruptured appendix onboard the boat, revealing a cancerous tumor and causing serious complications.

Mavar Jr. filed a lawsuit against the Hansen family, which in turn brought a lawsuit against the show's production company for the cost of Mavar Jr.'s treatment. According to Mavar Jr., Washington state-based Hansen Family Inc., which legally owns the boat, should have been better prepared for potential medical emergencies during the pandemic. Hansen Family Inc.'s legal representation then said that Mavar Jr. could have received adequate medical attention if not for pandemic-related restrictions put in place by producers.

According to the Hansen Family Inc. legal team (via Alaska Public Media), "These COVID protocols limited the exposure of the F/V Northwestern crew members to people who were not associated with the television show," including medical personnel. Mavar Jr.'s lawsuit was for $1 million in damages. Hansen Family Inc. claimed Discovery and Original Productions were liable, instead.

In Deep Water with eyes on the horizon

On top of legal issues facing the Hansen family, in 2018, Captain Sig Hansen's younger brother, Edgar Hansen, who has also appeared on "Deadliest Catch" as a crew member confessed to sexually assaulting a minor, USA Today reports. Edgar has been absent from "Deadliest Catch" since season 15, but he may still be on the crew, just not on camera. For his part, Sig has been embroiled in a decades-long sex abuse controversy related to his estranged daughter, Melissa Eckstrom, according to Seattle PI.

Before all of the legal trouble, though, the family was able to use the Northwestern for entertainment purposes outside of "Deadliest Catch." If the voice of the boat "Crabby the Boat" from the 2011 animated feature film "Cars 2" sounded familiar that's because it was: the boat itself was based on the F/V Northwestern, and the character was voiced by Captain Sig. The Northwestern even had a Disney toy made in its likeness. 

On the opportunity to appear in the feature film, Hansen told My Ballard, "One thing led to another. They said, 'Hey, we need a boat.' 'I have a boat.' 'Let's do it.' It was really kind of casual. It was nothing we pitched. It just sort of fell in my lap." South Park also parodied the F/V Northwestern, among other "Deadliest Catch" vessels, in the 2009 episode "Whale Whores" (via WatchMojo).

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).