catch

Fayetteville’s Colleen Laffey is pictured on board a 133-foot-long fishing vessel in the Bering Sea. Laffey, a freelance camera operator, recently worked on filming the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch.”

A Fayetteville-based freelance camera operator snagged the job of a lifetime recently when she was asked to work on the Discovery Channel’s popular reality show “Deadliest Catch.”

The Gauley River and New River, among other local tributaries, had served Colleen Laffey well for kayaking and whitewater rafting over the past 27 years in Fayette County.

None of that land-locked experience, however, could steel her for what she faced over the course of 32 days on the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska. Sea sickness, for instance, was just one of her challenges on the open sea.

“Hell yeah,” the Pittsburgh native exclaimed, when asked if she was affected by the notorious inequilibrium that has claimed the last meal of many a farer on the high seas.

“When you’re out there, you can’t just say, ‘I don’t want to be here anymore.’ You’re just out there. I was very sick the first whole day, to the point where I questioned whether or not I would be able to do the job. Nothing prepares you for that level of sea sickness out there.”

Waves of 20 to 25 feet in height, with occasional crests of 30 feet, sank a boat and took the lives of six crew members aboard it in her fleet, she lamented.

On a lighter note, Laffey said she thoroughly enjoyed the people with whom she worked, and that Halloween was a humorously memorable experience on the 133-foot-long vessel.

“I got along great with the crew. I spent most of my time with the captain, Wayne Baker. He’s a really great guy — a wonderful human being with a great sense of humor,” Laffey recalled.

“We had Halloween out on the ocean. I dressed up as a crab fisherman, hung out on the deck, threw hooks and sorted pots. I pretended to smoke cigarettes. That was fun. The guys all got a kick out of that.”

The position as a camera operator for the program came available for Laffey when she was called to fill in for someone who was out for surgery. “I love working outdoors, and I like a good challenge. It seemed like a good opportunity,” she explained.

Laffey noted that she worked on half the episodes in the next season of “Deadliest Catch,” which she believes will begin airing next month. She may even be spotted in an upcoming “behind the scenes” episode. “It was nice to be so much in someone else’s world that you normally wouldn’t be able to be a part of,” Laffey observed.

Far from being her debut on television screens nationwide, “Deadliest Catch” is just the latest in a string of well known assignments for Laffey.

You may see her shows broadcast on HGTV’s “Design Star,” MTV’s “A Shot of Love,” “Nashville Star,” “Gone Country,” “My Big Redneck Wedding,” “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” “Wife Swap” and “Brat Camp.” She is also currently booked for a program pilot next month.

Her work is varied, but she seems to enjoy the freedom of freelance.

“You always plan, but you never know. Freelance varies. Freelance is kind of funky. I own a house, pay taxes and vote here (Fayetteville). I still kayak and like to hit the trails. I go away, make some money and come back home again.”

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To read more about Laffey’s experiences with “Deadliest Catch” in her own words, read her blog at www.myspace.com /wvcolleen.

For fans of the show, Discovery Channel is airing a marathon of episodes starting at 9 a.m. on Dec. 28 and wrapping up at 3 a.m. on Dec. 30. The program’s Web site is http://dsc. discovery.com/fansites/ deadliestcatch/ deadliestcatch.html.

— E-mail: mhill@register-herald.com

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