F/V Northwestern is an Alaskan crab, Pacific cod, and salmon tendering fishing vessel featured in the Discovery Channel series Deadliest Catch. The vessel is owned and operated by the Hansen family of the State of Washington; the current captain is Sig Hansen and his brothers, Edgar and Norman, are both deckhands/engineers on the ship.
The Northwestern, a western rigged boat, was constructed in 1977 at Marco Shipyards in Seattle for the sole purpose of fishing King and Tanner Crab off of the coast of Alaska. It was christened Northwestern on November 5, 1977 by Snefrid Hansen, wife of then-captain Sverre Hansen and mother of the current owner/operators, Sig, Norman, and Edgar Hansen.
In the 1980s the boat was one of the first to fish Opilio crab. Throughout the 1980s the Northwestern kept very busy year round fishing Opilio crab, Blue King crab, Red King crab, and Brown King crab at different times of the year.
To keep up with the increasing demand for crab in the late 1980s and early 1990s, boats needed to carry more pots (steel box shaped traps that are used to fish crab). Rather than buying a new boat, the Hansen family decided to have the Northwestern extended twice. Originally built at 108 feet (32.9 m) with the ability to carry 156 pots, the Northwestern was extended to 118 feet (36.0 m) in 1987 to allow for 200 pots. In 1991, when the maximum crab pots a boat could carry was raised to 250, the Hansens again had the Northwestern lengthened, this time to 125 feet (38 m). Today, in the IFQ system, they usually carry no more than 195 pots.
Sverre Hansen's three sons worked aboard the Northwestern as deckhands throughout their childhood, and all three decided to make fishing their profession, joining in the long line of Hansen men making their living as fishermen throughout the generations. Sig Hansen, the oldest, took over as captain of the Northwestern full-time in 1990. Under his leadership, the Northwestern boasts an astounding record of never having suffered a death at sea despite its home territory being the dangerous Alaskan crab grounds, where deaths average out to nearly one fisherman per week during the heart of its productive seasons.
Today, the Northwestern continues to fish Red King Crab, Tanner Crab, and Opilio crab; however, it is now one of few boats to engage in pot cod fishing as well, which was filmed for episodes of Deadliest Catch during the 2006 Opilio crab season. The Northwestern was one of the few vessels to fish for Blue King Crab in 2009 after completing its Red King Crab season. During the summer, the vessel keeps busy tendering (transporting fish from the vessels at sea to the floating processors, allowing the fishing boats to stay on the grounds rather than make repeated trips back to port) salmon and herring, usually under the command of Edgar Hansen.
The Northwestern is one of the most successful boats in the crab fishing fleet. It continues to meet its quota and bring in money for the crew and family; the vessel won both the tonnage and price titles in both the final King Crab derby in 2005 and the final Opilio crab derby in 2006, and as a result, her share of the available quota under the new IFQ fishing rules is among the largest in the fleet. The vessel has become popular and very recognizable due to it being prominently featured in the Discovery Channel series Deadliest Catch.
In addition to the three Hansen brothers—Sig, Norman, and Edgar—the remainder of the crew includes longtime deckhands Matt Bradley and Nick Mavar, Jr. Nick's nephew, Jake Anderson earned full-share deckhand status on the Northwestern during the 2009 Opilio season and continued to fish on the boat several more seasons while earning his captains license . Sig's daughter Mandy has fished on the boat during salmon season, and has been an intermittent crew member during crab seasons.
The Hansen brothers, owners/operators of the Northwestern, endorsed a brand of Russian King Crab being sold at discount chains such as Walmart. The decision to put the Northwestern name and colors on a non-Alaskan product has caused some controversy in the Alaskan fishing community, which the Hansens addressed in a November 2007 press release. In the press release, the Hansens noted that 50-70 percent of Alaskan King Crab was purchased by Japan and never reached U.S. stores or restaurants; by bringing Russian King Crab to the American market, the Hansens hoped that the increased demand for King Crab would benefit the Alaskan fishing fleet by raising the price of King Crab overall.
The FV Northwestern inspired the character Crabby the Boat in the film Cars 2 and was voiced by Capt. Sig Hansen.
The comedy show South Park briefly spoofed the vessel and its workers in the episode Whale Whores, when Stan was leading the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.