The Northwestern

posted: 09/22/14
The F/V Northwestern
The Northwestern

TYPE: 127-foot Marco house forward vessel

POTS: 250


BUILT: 1977 - Seattle, WA

HOME PORT: Seattle, WA


The Northwestern was built in 1977 at Marco Shipyards in Seattle, WA. The "SH" logo on the hull doesn't stand for Sig Hansen -- but for his father, Sverre Hansen, who came from Norway in search of the American Dream. His first boat sank. Then he built the Northwestern in 1977, and a decade later handed off the successful venture to a 22-year-old Captain Sig Hansen.

She was originally 108 feet in length. The vessel built specifically for the King and Tanner crab fisheries of Alaska's Bering Sea. But in 1981 there was a collapse of the King crab fishery so the boat stayed busy fishing Tanner crab. In the early '80s, the Northwestern was one of the first boats to fish Opilio crab. The Opilio crab fishery turned out to be the "bread and butter" fishery for the entire crab fleet. Opilio fishing lead to over-capitalization of the fishery overall with several new boats being built at that time.

Throughout the 1980s, the vessel stayed busy all year long, fishing Opilio crab from January to August, Blue King crab in the Pribilof Islands in August, Red King crab in September, and Brown and Red King crab from November to December out West on the Aleutian Chain. Even though the vessel was very busy year-round, the crew always made it home for Christmas.

In 1987, rather than buying a new boat, the family decided to have the Northwestern lengthened to 118 feet in order to pack more crab and increase the vessel's stability and ability to carry more crab pots. The vessel went from 156 pots to 200 pots maximum.

In 1991 there was a "pot limit" introduced to the Alaskan crab fishery. This prompted the family to lengthen the boat to 125 feet in order to attain the maximum pot limit of 250 pots per vessel.

The Northwestern's logo has a three-pointed shield that represents Sig, Edgar, and Norm -- the three brothers who operate the pristine white, house-forward vessel.

This Norwegian family business has run the same way for years: Sig in the wheelhouse, Edgar running the deck/engine room, and Norm attending to anything and everything. As a result, the Northwestern has remained one of the fleet's most efficient (and safest) boats year in and year out.

However, the Bering Sea does not play favorites, and during 2016 opies, the Northwestern experienced a nightmare season. Plagued with numerous malfunctions -- including a broken bow, severed anchor, and electrical fire -- Sig and his veteran crew were thrust into unfamiliar waters, falling behind on their quota and scrambling to meet deadlines.

Ever the hardnosed captain, Sig refused to submit, but the mounting pressure proved too heavy a burden, culminating in a heart attack. As the new season approaches, the once-indomitable captain and crew must face their own vulnerabilities and reevaluate their place in a younger and highly competitive fleet.

More Northwestern: Captain Sig Hansen | Edgar Hansen | Norman Hansen | Nick Mavar, Jr. | Karl Rasmussen | Northwestern (Boat) | All Northwestern Bios

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