Freddy Maugatai’s claim to fame can be traced back to the year 2008, when he first appeared on captain Murray Gamrath’s F/V (Fishing Vessel) Cornelia Marie in one of the world’s all-time most popular TV series, entitled “Deadliest Catch.” Hunting king crab and gathering walrus tusks in the frigid waters of the Bering Sea is no easy task, but Freddy proved to be the right man for most of those jobs, known for his hot-bloodedness and inextinguishable energy.
The Samoan native quickly gained the attention of most viewers, mostly thanks to the difference between his personality and that of most other cast members. He was like a breath of fresh air to those wishing to witness more aggressive men take part in the freezing grind, but that trait had less-than-desired effects for Maugatai over the course of the show.
Discovery Channel itself loved showing off just how unpredictable and wild Freddy can be at times, often taking video clips out of the series to post on YouTube in an attempt to grow the series’ audience even more. One such example is the video entitled “Deadliest Catch – Savage Freddy,” which shows Maugatai in rather unexpected circumstances.
Hailing from a rather small island in the Pacific Ocean, Freddy certainly brings a degree of unfiltered savagery to the show, as he is more than proud to show off the ancient ways of his people whenever given the chance.
In this case, he was seen performing a ritual alongside another deckhand on the F/V Wizard, captained by Keith Colburn, with whom he started working in the seventh season in 2011. Specifically, Freddy spread the sides of a freshly caught fish and let the innards as well as blood flow into his mouth, some of which he drank while spitting out the rest.
The appalled crew members watched with morbid curiosity and an uncomfortable smile as Maugatai proceeded to widen the fish even more, to the point where it could pretty much wrap around his face. He then pressed it hard against his forehead and rotated it around his head, smearing its entirety in the blood.
Captain Colburn himself had seen things most people haven’t, but Freddy’s macabre tendencies were always something to behold for everyone on board. Keith chuckled and looked Freddy’s way, asking him through the radio to turn around and show his face. After seeing the blood-soaked joyful expression on his deckhand’s face, the captain couldn’t help but laugh.
Another crew member said ‘Freddy has a good luck ritual of eating the blood from a cod and turning it into warrior paint. That’s too hardcore for me. Freddy’s a savage man.’ Maugatai didn’t stop there though, instead offering another fresh cod carcass to a crewmate named Kevin, saying ‘Do it!’
The man reluctantly accepted, managing to chug a significant amount of fresh blood before choking on it and beginning to cough heavily. Freddy proudly explained that ‘It’s what we used to do when we go hunting back home. It’s our tradition. Cut the bait, drink the blood, paint your face.’
Understandably, it’s actions like these that instantly had everyone’s eyes glued to the screen, which benefitted the entire cast and crew of the series in the long run. That said, while it was indeed profitable to display rather unconventional behavior for the whole world to see, the personality and temperament that enabled these stunts would end up being Freddy’s gradual downfall.
Part of what made any crew that Freddy was involved in stand out from the rest was his tendency to incorporate various Samoan customs into the crew’s day-to-day, which always made for interesting television. Of course, not everyone would always be in the mood for such trivialities, but the greenhorns didn’t really have much of a choice, as it was customary to disregard their arguments simply due to a lack of experience on the open sea.
Such was the case in late June 2013, when a brand new member of the Wizard was just performing his duties on the upper deck, and Freddy decided that the rookie simply had to join in on the ritual he recently came up with.
At the time, some of the crew members were randomly opting to get mohawk-style haircuts, the idea of it being to symbolize that one is part of the crew. According to Samoan customs, most of the warriors and sailors had very similar haircuts, and tribes would often sport a particular hairstyle as a sort of social signature.
— Capt Keith Colburn (@crabwizard) February 4, 2015
Maugatai obviously thought it was a good idea to bring this practice to the deck, and it looks like most of the other shipmen loved it, which naturally resulted in mass approval from the viewers as well.
Freddy just had the idea as they were on the way to a fishing spot, saying ‘About that time for the Wizard’s mohawk kinda style, so I hope it’ll give us a little luck.’ Captain Keith was immediately on board with the idea, ordering him to go ask greenhorn Dane whether he’s ‘interested in helping [their] cause.’
Freddy’s vocabulary was always rather unique too, which was clearly heard when he called for the less-experienced sailor, yelling ‘Hey, horndog! Horndog! Big bossman is calling us for the Wizard haircut special. Bring us some luck. Come on. You have no choice anyways.’
Shocked at what he was hearing, but still thinking it’s just an innocent joke, Dane casually explained ‘Nah, I don’t want a haircut.’ Maugatai was already getting visibly agitated, saying ‘No, no, no, no, no, no, no! Don’t even f***ing say that.’ It was clear to everyone watching that Freddy wasn’t leaving without the greenhorn, telling him this while hosing him down.
Keith admitted to the camera ‘I know if I was a greenhorn on the boat, and Freddy was on the boat, and said ‘Hey, we’re givin’ the rabble mohawks for good luck,’ I’d just say ‘When, sir?’ ‘Where do I donate my hair, sir?’’
The rookie was still in disbelief at what was happening, becoming visibly more confused and appalled as the cameras kept rolling. Freddy decided to make it easier for the rookie and explained ‘Hey, if you wanna f***ing keep a job on here, you do exactly what the captain asks you to do.’
As Dane just stared blankly at the floor while listening to the orders, Freddy added ‘Or I’ll just f***ing slap your ass all the way to that dock. Throw all your s**t over the side.’ Dane said ‘This is some frat-boy stuff. I’m not joining a cult.’ Maugatai simply responded with ‘You’re not joining? Damn, this is gonna be your last season, trust me. Tellin’ ya. You’re not gonna get a haircut – you get ready to head off.’
The greenhorn felt the need to defend himself, hoping to evade this strange ritual at any cost, saying ‘I work hard. I don’t have to get a f***ing haircut.’ It was all for naught though, as the crew indeed believed in the supposed magical power of this seemingly worthless gesture, and now Dane was seen as someone refusing to afford this blessing to the rest.
Another deckhand spoke with great conviction, explaining ‘Reason we do our haircuts, ‘cause it brings luck to this little girl. Freddy started it a long time ago on the Cornelia Marie, they had a bunch of downtimes, all got mohawks, things turned around.’
The shipmate turned out to be pretty serious about this, as both Dane and the audience would soon come to find out. He also added ‘Ever since we’ve done it on here, turns around. Get these tanks full, get off-loaded. What’s the worst that’s gonna happen? You’re gonna look goofy? You already do.’
As the rookie had no words left to state and simply exited the cabin, Maugatai followed suit. The crewmate who had just spoke then just said to the camera that ‘Freddy can make your life miserable, certified.’ Sure enough, there he was, ordering the greenhorn to come back and talk to him.
The conversation became rather violent at that point, with Freddy asking ‘You wanna work on here for a long period of time? You wanna keep your job for a long period of time on here?’ Dane immediately said ‘Yeah, but it shouldn’t matter about a haircut.’
He was immediately interrupted by Maugatai yelling ‘F**k that! We f**king ask you something to do, you f**king do it. Show your f**king price, show you’re a f**king part of the team. You don’t get that f**king haircut – you’ll make your life miserable if you bein’ around here, I’m serious.’
In spite of rather frequent bouts of berating other crewmates with the mouth of a true sailor, Freddy had a pretty solid standing with his ship’s captains Keith and Monte Colburn for most of the time there, but even that ended up hanging by a thread as the series developed further.
His presence in the series suddenly came into question mid-season seven in 2011, as Monte decided he’d just had enough of Freddy’s fickle and unpredictable mentality, owing to a literal refusal of direct orders.
The crew were all set to depart for a fishing trip, except for Maugatai, who had his feet on the table in a local tavern and refused to stop drinking and join the others. Not willing to even dignify the situation, Monte simply ordered the men to take all of Freddy’s belongings out and leave them on the dock, after which they set about their business.
Many fans who appreciated the Samoan’s presence were outraged to see this happen, but their plight wouldn’t last too long, as the eighth season would continue to showcase the sailor, who appeared to have fixed things with the captains. Everything seemed great again in the latter half of 2011, but another incident then took place.
Clashing with the law
The issue with Maugatai, whose real name is Feleti, is that this persona wasn’t just a stunt for the audiences around the globe – it was who he genuinely was. As expected, not every place is as tolerant as a ship full of testosterone-charged crab hunters risking their lives in open waters, and he learned this the hard way.
In December 2011 Freddy faced a misdemeanor assault charge after being reported by a local wedded couple who stayed at the Grand Aleutian hotel in Alaska on the same night as he did. The wife saw her husband and Maugatai engage in a heated discussion, potentially under the influence of alcohol.
Pressure mounted to the point of a physical altercation, with the two men fisticuffing their way into the hotel’s bathroom. The woman rushed inside and reportedly saw Freddy holding her husband in a headlock. Upon attempting to intervene, she was grabbed and pushed away by the sailor.
The force of this gesture seems to have been so significant that there was visible swelling and bruising on the woman’s arm, which is evidence that Freddy completely ignored in his statement to the police. He said that his actions were completely justified as self-defense, claiming that the man began hitting him first, and completely denying ever touching his wife.
Maugatai’s arguments didn’t hold up too well in court, and he was ordered not to approach the couple or the hotel. Some began to speculate that legal trouble spelled the true end of Freddy’s on-screen career, but it was quite the contrary, with 2012 being another productive year at sea for him.
Freddy’s last 10 years in the business
2013 saw him appear in seven more episodes of the series, still sailing under the captains of the F/V Wizard. In 2014 he appeared in only four episodes, while 2015 was the year of his last five episodes on the vessel. In 2016’s Season 12 he finally switched over to the ship that would carry him the rest of his career – F/V Time Bandit, headed by captains Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand.
This time, the crew looked to be made-up just according to his standards, and there were even less issues than before. Up until the end of 2022, he had appeared in every season except 16, which was aired in 2020. The reason for this random skip is yet to be made public, but according to everything that the fans have seen, it looks like this stormy sea veteran still has a secure future in show business – he’s set to appear in the 19th season in 2023.