Most people’s goals do not normally include standing on a deck in 30-foot waves in temperatures that reach 60 below with the wind chill. But if it’s part of being on the Discovery Channel’s popular reality show, Deadliest Catch, then one Avon Lake man has reached that goal.
Avon Lake High School graduate Tom Monschein knew in 2010 he wanted to be part of the reality show that takes place in Alaska’s Bering Sea and pits man against man and man against nature.
And for the next 11 weeks, fans of the show—and of Monschein—can watch the 28-year-old on the hit series, now in its 9th season.
“I saw the show and wanted to try it,” Monschein said from his parents’ Mark and Denise Monschein’s Avon Lake home, last week. “So I just went up to Alaska with a friend.”
It’s probably not the everyday route to making it onto a television, but for Monschein, it worked.
Well, not at first.
“I went up with a friend in March 2010,” he said. “I didn’t meet anyone ahead of time. I just decided to move up there and work on other boats until I could get a spot (on the show).”
He met with the relief captain for the F/V Seabrooke, one of the six fishing vessels featured in the show, who told him the boat was fully crewed.
Instead of returning home, he stayed in Alaska for the next two years, developing his sea legs while working on a tender boat in Whittier.
Persistence paid off for Monschien who continued to call the relief captain once a month to see if there were any openings on the Seabrook. He got his opportunity when a Seabrooke crew member fell asleep during wheel watch and was cut loose, opening a spot on the boat for Monschein under Capt. Scott Campbell Jr. (Read Monschein's TV bio here.)
Hard work, cold weather
Monschein was brought on the Seabrooke boat as a “greenhorn.”
“The greenhorn is usually the lowest guy, the newest guy on the boat,” Monschein said. “It’s a deckhand. My only real job is to have the bait ready; it sounds easy, but it moves fast and it’s hard work. I’d also do the dishes...clean the boat.”
It also meant catching king crabs and opilio (snow crabs) while working in incredibly cold temperatures.
“From about Oct. 15 through December, while catching blue crab, it was really, really rough,” Monschein said. “There were 35 foot waves. There were really bad storms, but moderate temperatures.”
When the crew went back out for opilio, they were working in -40 degree temperature that went down to -60, with the wind chill. Monschein, who’s been toughened up from the years of bricklaying started when he was 14, and building concrete water tanks, said he only donned a face mask once, but wore the super-heavy protective rain gear issued for boat workers.
He also got used to being filmed almost non-stop. Multiple cameras were positioned throughout the boat so Monschein, the captain and four other deckhands were constantly being filmed. Two film crew members from the Discovery Channel lived with crew members on the 109-ft. crab boat.
“The crew can get in way,” he said. “They want the drama. One day I was doing a bad job throwing the hook on the rail and they’re saying, ‘The greenhorn isn’t doing a good job. Maybe he’ll be replaced.’”
With the crew living in close quarters for 8 straight months, tempers flare and on occasion, crew members face dangerous situations.
“The one thing I absolutely hated more than anything was being in the same small quarters with the same guys,” Monschein said, adding that he was probably one of easier crew members to get along with.
The position did have its highs, though.
“The funnest part is the adrenaline rush of being on deck with the music blasting,” he said. “You never felt so alive.”
With filming complete, Monschein is back in Avon Lake at his parent’s house.
On the season premier April 16, the 2003 graduate and former Avon Lake football player ended up getting facetime…and immediate attention.
His aunt, Anne Naumann said he was easy to spot.
“Tom's phone was blowing up last night with people from Avon Lake excited about seeing him with “Avon Lake” posted on his life jacket,” Naumann said. (Click here for a snippet of the show's preview, where Monschein's jacket, and "Avon Lake" is visible.)
Monschein said one side of his lifejacket sports the city’s name, while the other has a drawing of, appropriately, the anchor-holding Shorty Shoreman.
He expects to remain in the Cleveland area through October, and then return to Alaska for the next season of Deadliest Catch.
In the meantime, he’s enjoying time with his parents, and reconnecting with sister Rose Monschiein, 24 and Matt Monschein, 26, who lives in Norfolk, Va.
“There were a few times I was really, really homesick,” he said. “I think my parents were relieved I made it back.”
Watch party at Tailgators
A "Community Watch Party" is planned Tuesday, April 30 at Tailgators Sports Bar in Avon Lake. Residents can stop up, meet Monschein and watch the show, which airs every Tuesday at 9 p.m. on The Discovery Channel.