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Deadliest Catch Captain Johnathan Hillstrand's Scary Experience With A Sunken Sailboat

Perhaps it goes without saying, but the crews of Discovery's "Deadliest Catch" have to be very skillful at handling their boats. These, after all, are massive, hulking, floating machines that are intended to navigate some of the roughest waters in the world. And fans of "Deadliest Catch" already know that commercial fishing –- in particular crab fishing -– causes several times more than the average number of fatalities among most other jobs (via CDC.gov).

Johnathan Hillstrand is well acquainted with this level of danger. Fans have watched him captain the F/V Time Bandit for more than 15 seasons, most of them with his brother, Andy Hillstrand. Both have shown themselves to be skilled leaders, guiding ship and crew through huge storms while managing to haul massive amounts of king crab on deck and, most importantly, keeping themselves and their crew safe.

That said, Hillstrand was not always so good at keeping a boat afloat. During a quick interview posted on the website Blastzone Mike's Live Show, Hillstrand shared a story from when he and Andy were kids. Along with their brother, David, the two went out in a small sailboat on the Kachemak Bay. It was meant to be just a fun jaunt, but none of the brothers knew that the small, hollow-shell boat had a hole in the bottom. It was a small hole but big enough for the sailboat to sink. "Our sailboat sunk out from under us," said Hillstrand. "It went down and was never seen again."

The Hillstrands were rescued by their Sunday school teacher

To be clear, this was not a small lake that the sailboat sunk in, where Hillstrand and his brothers would have been able to easily swim for shore. This was Kachemak Bay, essentially open water off the coast of Alaska. The website promoting the bay doesn't recommend safety precautions prominently for nothing. "We were a couple miles out, with no life vests, and were treading water, wondering how to get out of that mess," said Hillstrand.

No joke, the Hillstrand boys might very well have drowned that day. Luckily for them, in what must have seemed like a kind of divine intervention, a familiar face was sailing on the bay, too. "Out of nowhere, our Sunday school teacher happened to sail by in her skiff," says Johnathan. "She pulled us each out of the water and got us back to shore."

Naturally, Johnathan and Andy both became far more skilled sailors and captains as they grew older, even as Johnathan kept his sense of humor about things. Maybe they all learned a lesson that day, too. In any event, they had a lot to thank their Sunday school teacher for. "We all went to Sunday school that week!" said Johnathan.