The game of he said/he said may be over on Deadliest Catch now that Capt. Derrick Ray is no longer skipper of the Cornelia Marie, but it’s ongoing on land where Ray and Josh Harris continue to express different opinions about why their king crab season ended abruptly. Last week, fans watched as the crew of the Cornelia Marie — which Josh and his fellow deckhand brother Jake are now part owners of — told Ray they were done fishing for the elusive blue crab that he couldn’t seem to find. On Tuesday’s episode, they saw Ray, who was for days convinced he smelled marijuana on recovering addict Jake, search for and find pot paraphernalia in the engine room. He phoned the authorities and had a cop waiting on the dock to question Jake — who insisted to the captain he wasn’t smoking weed. Instead of speaking to the cop there, Jake walked off the boat and headed straight to the airport with no bags, just whatever he had in his pockets. The cop caught up to Jake in the terminal, but without any evidence that the paraphernalia belonged to him, he could not force him to take a blood test. Jake refused a blood test because, he said, he shouldn’t have to prove himself again after having already passed two urine tests.
Ray tells EW he heard that Jake bragged to crew members about having used fake urine, and as a captain who could be held legally responsible for zero tolerance drug violations on the vessel, he wanted a definitive answer. EW was unable to reach Jake Harris for comment on Ray’s claim. Josh Harris told us he doesn’t know anything about that, but offered a guess at why his brother, who, again, maintained he was clean, would bolt: “I think he just didn’t want to deal with the hostility,” Josh says. “I mean the guy was constantly attacking us. Jake’s not quite as strong as me. I don’t mind people attacking me verbally. You can only deal with somebody for so long when you’re in close quarters and they’re not willing to listen to anything. You kinda gotta just get out of the situation before it escalates into a worse deal.” The cop was given permission to search Jake’s quarters on the Cornelia Marie and came up empty-handed.
That was the last day that Ray saw Jake. He says he last saw Josh three days later when they tied the boat up, shook hands, and pretended they might see each other again come opilio crab season, which started last January. Recalls Ray, “I said, ‘Well, maybe I’ll see you for Opis,’ and he said, ‘Maybe so.’ And then I went and sat down with [majority boat owner Cornelia Marie Devlin], and she said, ‘You know, it didn’t go well.’ I said, ‘I know that.’ She said, ‘Basically, the boys just don’t think they can work with you again. They don’t want you back.’ And I said, ‘That’s fine, Cornelia.’ In my heart of hearts, they didn’t have enough money to pay me to come back.'” So what went so wrong?
After talking with Derrick and Josh, here’s what we know: Both men agree that Derrick was brought on as skipper following the death of the boys’ father, Capt. Phil Harris, to catch crab and continue to teach them how to fish — and both men agree that he was unable to do that. First, Derrick’s theory why: “I have a 30-year history with Cornelia. The first boat I ever ran in the Bering Sea 26 years ago was owned by her and her ex-husband. So I was there for Cornelia and a very dear friend, Phil, who was a fishing partner for 15 years. I really thought we were goin’ to go crab fishin’. Once it all started, then I understood. [Josh and Jake] thought they were producin’ the show,” he says. “That’s the deal. Neither one of them wants to be a fisherman. After about three or four days, I knew what I was up against.” It was on Day 3, Derrick claims, that Josh came up to the wheelhouse and told him, “We’re not here to catch crab, we’re here to make TV and when we’ve made enough TV, we’re going home.” Derrick insists he’d take a polygraph on that. Derrick says once he believed he smelled weed on Jake at sea (we saw him politely refuse to let Jake take the wheel because of it) and thought Josh’s priority wasn’t filling the tank, he didn’t want to teach them. “I was hoping that those guys would listen to me, but once I saw that they didn’t care, that it wasn’t about fishing with them, I didn’t care anymore,” Derrick says. “Why am I gonna share my life and my wealth of information with you? That’s when I’d given up. I could care less.”
Josh tells a different tale. He says the crew quit on Derrick because he created a hostile environment, they were tired of pulling empty pots and didn’t trust that he could find the crab, and the boat had already gone over budget on fuel.
“He claimed to be my dad’s friend and was supposed to teach us how to fish — teach us the right way, the wrong way, pick up where my dad left off. Instead, he’s out there bashing my dad and telling us how he did such a great injustice to us and we don’t know anything. In reality though, his numbers were off on fuel and he didn’t catch us crab. I think he’s bitter because he couldn’t do his job, so he’s just tryin’ to come up with any excuse in the book to try to push blame off on to somebody else,” Josh says. “And as for this, we’re goin out and we’re just gonna be TV stars bulls—, that’s a guy that’s just trying to take any stab at us that he can. Obviously we’re out there to work. If we were out there to make a TV show, then I suppose we would have kept going and let the charade f—ing continue. We were trying to make money and keep the boat going. We’re not made of money. And unfortunately, he couldn’t find the crab. He wasn’t as good as he thought he was. He’s a legend in his own mind, in my opinion. We s—canned the guy, and so he’s still pissed off. He didn’t put on his big boy pants, like he always told me. I’ve seen a lot of excuses come out of a lot people, but he still won’t admit that he’s the one who couldn’t just catch the crab. Had we caught crab, things probably would have been different.”
Fans may be wondering why they’d choose to go after the blue crab — they’re worth more than red crab, but they’re also notorious for giving even the best fishermen the runaround. The Cornelia Marie had leased out its quota because Cornelia and the boys weren’t sure they’d be able to get the boat fishing, and Derrick was able to lease other fishermen’s quota on his reputation. It was then a collective decision to give blue crab a whirl, Josh says. “We knew that the guys in the past hadn’t done that well, but he was sure that he could catch them. He said he’s the best blue crab fisherman there ever was. All that BS. We set a budget, we went out and did it, we exceeded the budget, and luckily, it wasn’t that long a time. The Cornelia Marie is a lot bigger than the other boats that are out there, and it burns a lot more fuel. We just didn’t have the money to continue going. In my opinion, the man wanted to go out and prove something to himself versus help us out. He’s a very cocky and arrogant man.” Ray’s response: “But we really only pulled pots for five days. There isn’t a crab fisherman on the planet who in five days can make a season. There was no time to fish. They gave up.” He concedes he’s arrogant — when he’s on a boat. “I stand by what I said and what I did…. Three hours after my dad’s funeral, I was back out on the ocean crab fishing. I wasn’t even running my own boat. You either do the job or you don’t. If you want to be a fisherman, you fish. If you can’t and you’re worried about something else, then you stay on the dock. It’s a big boy world,” he says. “It’s not a hard job once you learn how to do it, but when you step foot on one of those boats, some of us have a huge, huge ego. And when I step foot on one, I turn that ego on. And when I get on the beach, I turn it off. That’s what you have to learn to do if you want to be a good human being. You can’t carry that crap off the ocean to land. Otherwise, you’ll be a complete jacka–.”
Where do the men stand now? The Cornelia Marie did go back out for Opi season under a new captain, who we’ll meet on the June 7 episode of Deadliest Catch. “I think the CM fans will be very pleased with the situation. Good things will happen,” Josh laughs. “The boat is still floating. We’re upright and breathing. And I still got all my fingers and toes, so everything’s going pretty good.” Both Harris brothers will start captain’s school the second week of June, Josh says. So the Cornelia Marie will be back if there’s a Season 8 of Deadliest Catch? “You better believe it. That’s the plan right now,” he says.
Derrick, meanwhile, says he left the show thinking he will probably never return to the Bering Sea. He’d been gone for five years before taking Phil’s chair. “I’m tired. To see that, that was enough for me,” he says. “It made me appreciate what I’ve had all these years and the adventure.” He is, however, a part of the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tour that operates out of Ketchikan, Alaska on the Aleutian Ballad (a familiar name to fans who watched season 2 of Deadliest Catch). “There are days when 80 percent of the people on our tour watch Deadliest Catch. Deadliest Catch is our friend. We don’t ever diss Deadliest Catch or anybody involved on our tour,” he says, with a laugh. “That’s not what it’s about. It’s about a lot more than that. Every day we get to share our lives with people. We have people laughin’ and cryin’. We fill in the blanks for ‘em. They want to know if guys really do the pranks out there. And I tell them, ‘Well, some of them, but not all of them.’ Do guys really stay up for 40 hours at a time all the time? I say, ‘No. It’s not the reality of it.’ The deal is, there ain’t nobody out there with an S on their chest. It’s a job that’s learned by young men that are fortunate enough to have the ability to do hardcore blue-collar work and make good money. I’ve seen all this stuff printed that crab fishermen are heroes or legends. Heroes are firemen that go into burning buildings, our school teachers who get up and teach our kids every day, our 19-year-old kids we send halfway around the world that get their legs blown off. Legends are great presidents. Einstein, there’s a legend. The only thing crab fishermen are is legends in their own frickin’ minds.”