Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel has thrilled us throughout 16 seasons with veterans in the high-stakes crab fishing profession. There are the fishermen’s names without whom Deadliest Catch isn’t the same, but there are also the iconic fishing vessels that are legendary. Time Bandit is the commercial fishing boat that loyal viewers have seen on the show since season 2. But, while other boats have made a comeback from some major disasters, the Time Bandit never returned after season 13. What happened to the iconic vessel manned by the Hillstrand brothers and their crew?
Where Is the Time Bandit?
The Time Bandit featured in the Deadliest Catch from seasons 2 through 13, one of the few vessels to appear across multiple seasons, besides the Hansens’ F/V Northwestern and the Colburns’ Wizard. The Time Bandit, built in 1991, was adorned with a skull-and-crossbones motif. She was as famous as a pirate ship of legend.
Brothers Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand captained the Time Bandit alternately during the king crab and opilio crab seasons. Neal Hillstrand, the youngest of the five Hillstrand brothers, was the boat’s engineer. Neal’s sons, Axel and Phillip, completed the six-man crew.
While the Time Bandit had a glorious run on TV, the vessel and its crew had their fair share of problems.
In 2010, the Discovery Channel sued the Hillstrands and Sig Hansen of the Northwestern for failing to work on a spin-off special. Because of the ongoing litigation, the three stars reportedly had to quit Deadliest Catch. However, the involved parties were able to reach an agreement in time for the three captains to return for season 7 the following year.
Sadly, Justin Tennison, one of the boat’s mechanics for two seasons, suddenly passed away in 2011 due to sleep apnea complications.
Soon after season 13, Johnathan Hillstrand announced his retirement from crab-fishing. With that, the Time Bandit was never seen on Deadliest Catch again.
The Time bandit from deadliest catch is right next to my boat pic.twitter.com/mSXUkpgVje
— level eleven skeleton (@Peterooskee) May 11, 2015
Johnathan is active on social media. Ahead of the season 15 premiere last year, there was speculation that he and the Time Bandit crew might return to the show.
However, a disaster derailed any plans for the Time Bandit’s return. All hopes were squashed when the boat’s engine exploded in 2018.
The unexpected malfunction caused the crew to miss the crab fishing season that year. It was Johnathan’s first time missing king crab season in almost four decades.
Will the Time Bandit Return on Deadliest Catch?
After the engine malfunction, the Time Bandit went through a series of repairs, with Johnathan keeping fans updated on Twitter at every step. It was soon repaired and then headed to Homer, Alaska. There was hope that it would make a comeback.
Sadly, that was not the case. The Time Bandit was found to be on sale in an online listing from Dock Street Brokers. It was valued over $2.8 million in April 2019, but it’s unclear if it has been sold yet.
Fans were saddened to know that the Hillstrands had decided to part with the vessel. Perhaps another crew could salvage it and it could be back in the commercial crab fishing game.
The Hillstrand brothers also didn’t appear on Deadliest Catch for a while. But even if there’s no Time Bandit, they could still be on the show.
Johnathan’s retirement was short-lived; soon he was back to documenting his fishing and oceanic adventures on social media. A couple of years ago, his continued sea jaunts cemented the fact that he could very well return to Deadliest Catch.
Sure enough, Johnathan Hillstrand is back in season 16. This time, he’s part of the SAGA crew with Jake Anderson. The seasoned captain’s experience showed when his tactics resulted in an impressive haul for the SAGA.
Keep your eye out for the comeback captain on Deadliest Catch season 16, every Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST on Discovery Channel.