Wise-cracking tough guy Capt. Johnathan Hillstrand of the Time Bandit shares a tearful embrace with his toddler granddaughter before heading out for another dangerous season of crab fishing. Edgar Hansen watches his kids swinging and laments the quick passage of time.
"The lifestyles we lead on these boats, it becomes such a cycle. I can't believe my kids are as old as the are," says Hansen, 41. "I can't believe I'm as old as I am."
But the emotional glimpse at the lives the hardened Alaskan fishermen lead back home doesn't last long. One moment Hansen is throwing a football on a grassy field – and the next he's tossing a hook into rough seas to retrieve a crab pot.
The first episode of Deadliest Catch's eighth season, which debuts Tuesday (9 pm. ET) marks the 100th episode of the Discovery Channel series. As in past seasons, the show promises monster waves, freezing conditions, heated arguments between captains and their crews, bloody mishaps and the emotional roller coaster that comes with both full and empty crab pots. Caution: Spoilers ahead!
New this season is a divided fleet, with some boats going after the usual red king crab and some risking financial ruin to bet on catching the more elusive – but also potentially very profitable – blue crab. Some captains choose to hunt for blues because the quota for red crab has been cut, leaving everyone to divvy up a smaller pie.
As for the cast members who have become beloved by fans, Edgar Hansen, who took a season off to spend time with his family and try working on dry land, is back as deck boss on the Northwestern with his brother Capt. Sig Hansen at the helm. Edgar's in fine form, chomping off the head of a herring for good luck at the beginning of the season, but his future in fishing remains uncertain.
Also on the Northwestern is Jake Harris, whose father Phil Harris passed away in 2010. Meanwhile, elder brother Josh Harris is now a deck hand on the Time Bandit with the Hillstrand brothers.
Last season, the Harris brothers had a disastrous time trying to fill their late father's shoes on the Cornelia Marie. Now the boat is sadly docked, but the brothers, particularly Josh, are hoping to gain enough experience to become a captain one day. Only time – and hopefully this season – will tell if he has the chops to helm his own boat one day.
In the meantime, expect blood, sweat, tears and crab – lots of crab.