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By Amber Hayden
GLENWOOD CITY — “You only have one life, go live it, go love it, go do it. Don’t let people or money stop you.”
Those words, spoken by the late Russ Moede just a few days prior to his death due to cancer, had a profound effect on his son, Aaron Moede, co-owner of Aaron and Lisa’s Boondocks Tavern in Glenwood City.
And they proved to be the impetus for the unleashing of Aaron’s adventurous spirit.
So, when the opportunity to work on a chase boat for the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” arose last October, Aaron literally dove headfirst into the Bering Sea adventure and the chance to work on the production of the popular television series set in Alaska.
Moede along his wife, Lisa (Voeltz), have owned and operated Boondocks in Glenwood City over the last ten years. The couple, who both grew up in the Forest area, met and married following high school. Aaron graduated from Clear Lake High School in 1996 and Lisa is a 1997 graduate of Glenwood City High School. Beside their business collaboration, the pair have two teen-aged children – Gabrielle and Thomas, who both attend Glenwood City High School.
Lisa and the kids were supportive of Aaron’s desire to heed his father’s words of advice and follow his dreams.
Moede traveled to Alaska in June of 2019 to cruise the inside passage, a coastal route for boats that weaves through the islands in the southern tip of Alaska and down into Washington, and he spent three months learning the ins and outs of being the captain of a boat on the Alaskan waters.
“It got started last winter when I wanted to get a boat in Alaska and cruise the inside passage,” Aaron Moede said. “I ended up getting a boat and sailing the inside passage this past summer.”
Moede purchased a 32-foot boat called “Jolly” and learned to captain the boat and waters as he sailed the inside passage.
Alaska has been called the “Last Frontier”, but according to Moede, some of the small ports he docked at were bigger than Glenwood City, and he never felt alone during his trip, even though he sailed solo, as there always seemed to be a lot boats around at all times.
During his travels, Moede found himself south of Juneau in the town of Petersburg where he met up with Jamie Griegs on the docks. Griegs is the chief engineer on the chase boat that was hired for the first-half filming of this season’s “Deadliest Catch”.
“I got to talking with him and he worked on the chase boat as the engineer for the show Deadliest Catch,” explained Moede. “And he asked if I would be interested in the job. He said ‘you’ll have a wonderful time.’”
“Deadliest Catch”, a staple-series on the Discovery Channel, follows seven captains – Sig Hansen, “Wild” Bill Wichrowski, Steve “Harley” Davidson, Jake Anderson, Sean Dwyer, Keith Colburn, and Josh Harris – as they navigate the icy waters of the Bering Sea in search of King Crab.
When Moede asked Griegs what the job entailed, he was told he would squeegee the camera lens, and that is exactly what Moede did. He stood on the railing of the boat and would reach up to the Gimbal Camera, a million dollar camera system that is supported by a pivoted system that can rotate on a single axis, and clear it off after each water spray.
The camera was operated via a remote by two-time Emmy winning cinematographer, Shane Moore, who was in the wheel house located above the deck.
Before returning to Alaska, Moede talked with his wife and two children, if they would be okay with him taking the job on the ship.
“My kids said to go because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you never get to do something like that,” Moede said.
During his three month voyage on the inside passage, he learned what being homesick was. Moede was home for just six or seven days before returning to Alaska and was there for much of October to early November 2019.
Moede flew up to Alaska to join the crew in early October and signed off of all duties in first part of November.
Moede said he had little experience working on a larger ship like the chase boat, which often encountered rough waters, but said most of the crew had been working together for several years. And from what he could gather over the radio, the ships were in 50-foot plus seas.
“It was pretty amazing, especially at night, it is more dramatic at night,” Moede said. “It is like you are at the base of a mountain and never seeing the top (of waves), and it is almost like climbing terraces. You climb and climb and once you reach the top of the wave, you would slam down and the entire boat would shudder.”
The feeling of the shudders on the steel haul could be felt well inside the ship, stated Moede.
On top of everything, each crew member had to take turns at wheel watch, driving the 107-ft. ship, which he had never driven before, and swerving around the crab pots from each boat.
“You never know where life will lead you,” stated Moede. “Anybody that has an opportunity to do something like this, I say don’t pass it up, go do it!”
In the end, whether you like it or not you should at least try it, he said.
He recalled the first time a wave hit him when he was standing on the railing of the ship. When it crashed down on him, it pushed him down and across the deck, and he could feel the cracks in the deck boards bounce off of his fingertips before he could finally grab hold of a piece of steel and hold on.
After that first incident, he and Shane Moore attached a loop to the railing which he was able to grip and duck down until the wave passed over.
Besides the Gimbal Camera, there was a drone that Moore would use to get footage over the decks of the boats to see the working of the ships and how its deck hands move about.
“It didn’t always want to work,” explained Moede of the drone. “So, we started out on the deck of the boat and were standing on the wooden deck boards or on top of white crab totes, to get a few more feet above the deck to get the drone to work.”
Moede said that the steel hulls of the boats interfered with the Global Positioning System (GPS) signal used to operate the drone which made it imperative to add distance between drone and any steel parts of the boat.
That is when Moore had commented the wheel house was made of aluminum and asked if Moede could go up there and hold the drone over the edge. Without hesitation, Moede climbed up and held on to an antennae while holding the drone as far off the edge as he could. But to no avail ,the drone refused to take off.
While he stood on top of the wheel house, the boat was in big seas, he recalls, and was rocking side-to-side while bouncing up and down. He remembers asking if Moore had got it to work. To which Moore answered, “No, you got to keep holding it!” And Moede was thinking, “No, I really want to get off of here.”
When he wasn’t helping Moore out with the camera, Moede commented that each of the crew members took responsibilities to help cook, clean, and help the captain dock and tie up the ship.
Unlike the crab ships that go in to dock when they are full, the chase boat does not go into dock on a regular basis as they are continuously filming for the show.
Moede said that Lisa Roberts from the Original Production crew, who produced the footage for the show, was talented and that the things she could do and organize were unbelievable.
“We sit there and watch TV every day, and we never know the reality of it,” Moede explained. “So many people think that what you see is actually in real time, but it is not. Scenes that may be separated by weeks are spliced together for the one-hour show.”
He also was able to meet Bill Wichrowski, the captain of the Summer Bay; Jake Anderson the captain of the Saga; Johnathan Hillstrand, captain of the Time Bandit; and Josh Harris and Casey McManus, co-captains of the Cornelia Marie.
Moede also met Randy Lee, a Glenwood City native who is a camera man for the Deadliest Catch, briefly and was able to talk to him for about 15 minutes. A mechanic by trade, Aaron had worked with Lee’s mom when the Ford garage was still operating in Glenwood City.
Moede said since working on the chase boat, he hasn’t watched “Deadliest Catch” because he lived it.
Thanks to his fathers’ final advice and his willingness to follow it, Moede fulfilled this bucket-list item with a lifetime of memories.