There's not much that can shake Deadliest Catch Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski, but one memory in his 40-plus years on the Bering Sea still chokes him up.
Ahead of the landmark 15th season of the Discovery Channel docuseries (premiering Tuesday, April 9 at 9 p.m. ET), PopCulture.com's Anna Rumer visited Dutch Harbor, Alaska, trying her hand at greenhorning on the F/V Summer Bay and talking to its captain about his scariest moment at sea.
With frigid waves the size of buildings pummeling the fleet every year, it takes a lot to faze the Deadliest Catch captain — but the 2017 season did just that.
"Everybody talks about the weather — there's gonna be weather every year, but we had the one storm last year that ... I hadn't been afraid, probably, in 25 years and I was afraid and that takes a lot."
It wasn't just the weather that shook Wichrowski. In Season 14, viewers watched as deckhand Spencer Moore was swept overboard, sending the Summer Bay into panic mode to save the young man's life in the few moments before he was lost forever.
"I hate even talking about that," Wild Bill admitted to PopCulture. "I get choked up talking about that. I've done this for 40-something years and never had a man in the water. So that was pretty hairy."
Reliving the moment, he recalled, "We've fished in way worse — 10 times that that season, but it was just the wrong thing at the wrong time. I can still see him going over the side. It's pretty amazing. I lost it."
"At first, it was disbelief when I saw him go over the side," he continued. "I said, 'No, that didn't happen.' Then it was one blink, two blink, and 'Oh yeah, it happened.' When you see the boots higher than the head over the rail, it was like, 'Oh lord.'"
Despite his hip in desperate need of surgery at the time, Wichrowski remembered jumping from the wheelhouse down to the deck to grab the life ring and save Moore.
"Adrenaline was running so hard, I didn't even know it, but after that, for the rest of the trip, I was just shot," he said of his hip, on which he soon after underwent surgery. "It was just that bone-to-bone jar at the bottom. But it took about an hour before I even realized it. It's pretty amazing when a kid's life is hanging on the line like that."
Thanks to captain and crew acting quickly, Moore was brought back to safety, which Wichrowski credits with his ability to take on another season on the Bering Sea.
"I don't know what I would've done if we wouldn't have got him back," he confessed. "I know some guys who've lived through it and would come back, but I know some guys who lived through it and didn't. But I held him when he was a baby. I knew his folks for a long time."
"I probably wouldn't be here, but it's a chance you take, it's a chance they take," he continued. We all know that it's out there and we do what it takes."
Deadliest Catch Season 15 premieres Tuesday, April 9 at 9 p.m. ET on Discovery.
Photo credit: Discovery