KODIAK -- "Deadliest Catch" shows up on T-shirts, coffee mugs and even fireworks that try to cash in on the success of the Discovery Channel's most popular Alaska-based TV series.
Now, the Kodiak Arts Council is hoping to turn that popularity to some good as it auctions a weeklong opportunity to serve as a crewman aboard a Kodiak-based Tanner crab boat.
"It seemed like a natural way to try to get money for a nonprofit," said Skip Bolton, a longtime Kodiak fisherman who serves on the arts council's board of directors.
The auction, listed on eBay, promises "the adventure of a lifetime on an Alaskan crab fishing expedition."
The Kodiak Tanner crab season opens Jan. 16, and there have been no takers so far for the starting bid of $5,500, but the arts council is optimistic that some will come in before the auction ends on New Year's Eve.
"We're sure that there are people who would be up for this adventure if they had the chance," said Katie Oliver, director of the Arts Council. "We're trying to reach folks in the Lower 48 looking for something different and something authentic."
Tourism groups elsewhere in Alaska have already tried selling the crab-fishing experience for tourists. In Ketchikan, the "Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour" docks next to that city's cruise ships and draws tourists regularly.
That experience isn't exactly authentic.
"It's really not very realistic," Bolton said. "It isn't anything like real fishing."
In the arts council's program, any winning bidder can look forward to a week of life aboard the 90-foot F/V Big Blue, owned by Tim Abena.
Abena has fished from Kodiak since 1972 and admits he doesn't watch "Deadliest Catch" but said he supports the arts council and Bolton, his friend.
Abena said he's taken friends on trips before and hopes to have fun with this new adventure.
"It should be kind of a fun thing, really," he said. "It should be something we should get some enjoyment out of, taking some landlubber along, some greenhorn."
Kodiak Tanner crab fishing isn't usually like the Bering Sea king crab fishery. Tanner crab boats work during the day only and are limited to 20 fishing pots.
"It's not as risky . but it still has an element of excitement because when you pull out a pot full of crab, you know the captain's put you exactly where you need to be," Bolton said.
Any winning bidder will receive a commercial fishing license and be covered under insurance. The Big Blue, after all, is a working boat, not a cruise ship.
Even if no bids come in, Bolton and Oliver said they'll take the experience and try again. "We believe the idea is a great one, and if we can get the word out, it will be successful," Oliver said.
By JAMES BROOKS
Kodiak Daily Mirror