HARPSWELL, Maine — For viewers who just can’t get enough of reality television series such as “Deadliest Catch” or quasi-regional movies such as “Perfect Storm,” wait until you get a load of History Channel’s upcoming series “Nor’Easter Men.”
Think “Survivor” on a fishing boat. Or “Orange County Choppers” at sea. Or … well, further elaboration probably is not necessary.
The series airs tonight, with three consecutive hourlong episodes beginning at 9 p.m.
Shot from the deck of groundfishing boats in the once-fertile Gulf of Maine, the series chronicles a season spent fishing for cod, flounder, haddock and other deepwater species.
Harpswell groundfisherman David Haggerty and the crew of his boat, F/V Harmony, star as one of four captains and crews in the series; the other three boats and crews are from Gloucester, Mass.
Reached by satellite phone onboard the Harmony, Haggerty said he hadn’t seen the finished product but was planning to be ashore in time to watch.
Previews of the show make much of competition between boats and syndicates to return to shore markets with the biggest catch and best stories.
But Haggerty, 53, has been fishing for 30 years and has had the same hard-working crew with him for a long time. Although excited to be part of the show and share his passion for fishing, the skipper remained apprehensive about the way he and his crew — and fishermen in general — would be portrayed.
“I’m hopeful I didn’t give them too much fodder to use,” he said.
He started out on a small dragger in Cundy’s Harbor, then moved to larger boats like the 85-foot-long Harmony. Home ported in Portland, the steel-hulled dragger is one of five vessels owned by syndicate Atlantic Trawlers Fishing Inc. Haggerty runs the boat for the syndicate. He and three deckhands spend days at a time dragging nets through the ocean, almost 100 miles offshore.
There isn’t much free space on the deck of a working fishing boat. What space there is contains gallast frames, masts, net reels, winches, hatches leading to fish holds, baskets, rigging to control outboard hull stabilizers called “birds,” and other physical implements of the industry.
It’s an inherently dangerous business, only made more so by the unpredictable and frequently nasty weather of the North Atlantic.
Filming for “Nor’Easter Men” took place a year ago. For the series, the boat also carried three cameramen and two producers during three of its trips, meaning even less space in which to move. Haggerty said the film crew was pretty good about staying out of the way.
Since “Survivor” launched the supposedly unscripted “reality television” phenomenon a decade ago, the genre’s tendency has been to ratchet up drama with each new offering. But with an industry already as risky as commercial fishing, Haggerty says, who needs more drama?
On his boat, at least, “there is no made-up stuff, what you see is what happens,” Haggerty said. “They wanted to stage a bit, but I said no, you don’t need to. It’s dramatic enough as it is.”
“Integrity was a big concern for David,” said sister-in-law Linda Botti of West Bath. “He wouldn’t have let it go forward if he was uncomfortable about the way it was going to be done.”
Botti hasn’t seen anything yet but trailers and previews.
“At this point we’re just very excited to see it,” she said.