Tonight on Discovery, viewers will be introduced to the cutthroat world of marine salvage with the premiere of Shipwreck Men. The show follows the high-stakes and sometimes dangerous work of four companies operating off the coast of southern Florida. Via the official site:
There are modern day pirates patrolling the coast of southern Florida – and the bounty they’re after is boats in distress. Salvage companies scan the waters day and night. When trouble strikes they race into action, whether it’s saving a sinking vessel, rescuing boats from dangerous hurricane storms or putting out a massive fire. While their intentions are good, it doesn’t mean it isn’t a cutthroat business. With a fortune to be made, the competition is intense. The first crew on the scene is the one that gets the job – and the lucrative profits. The rest of the companies get nothing and must wait for the next call in hopes of securing a job and keeping their business afloat.
The first preview released by the network is a great one that has me amped to learn about this fascinating way of work and life for the cast of the show. It features the owner of Arnold’s Towing out of Key West, Ricky Arnold, Sr.. Check it out:
“Just another day in paradise. Brother, I love it. 300 years ago we were called, “wreckers.” And when you hear them church bells ringing you know it was a shipwreck. First one got out there, got the booty baby. I am a pirate. Marine salvage, call it what you will but we still steal from each other. Cutthroats are everywhere. Turn your back on mother nature, you’re dead. I’m a barnacle, a piece of the rock. I’m a wrecker baby and we can wreck some sh*t.”
Here are the four companies, and sometimes competitors, that will be the focus for Shipwreck Men:
Ricky Arnold, Sr., a fourth generation Key West resident, built his business from the ground up. He started his salvage company with five-gallon buckets and a boat, removing derelict vessels filled with all kinds of dangers – from parasites to sharks. Ricky, a headstrong and unapologetic man, does things his own way, even if that means all-out fights with his sons RJ and Shane, also in business with him. Together they are taking marine salvage to the next level, all while preserving their family roots in Key West.
You can learn more about the company via their official website.
Atlantis Marine Towing & Salvage
Burt Korpela, pictured above, is the son of salvage pioneer Stu Korpela. After serving in the Air Force and later as an aircraft mechanic for a private company, Stu headed for Florida where in 1974 he made an even trade: his house on land for a 52′ sailboat that he and his family call home. He runs one of the most accomplished and feared independent salvage businesses around. Stu’s son Burt has been in the salvage business with his father his whole life and is just as ruthless as Stu. Also like his father, Burt is raising his family on the water, making a boat their home – a huge advantage in a business where timing is everything.
In another preview clip, you see Burt racing to the scene of a large cruiser with a fire that is out of control. A hint at the type of bounty that can be had is given when the narrator states, “If they can put out the raging fire and save the boat from sinking, Burt and Joe stand to make $20,000.”
Downrite Marine Towing & Salvage
Based in Ft. Lauderdale, owner Ryan Sewell is a self-taught salvage operator. He bought his first boat at 16 and, after a short stint as a firefighter, returned to the water to become one of the fiercest wreck salvage guys in the business. Through hard work and hard lessons learned, he has taken Downrite Marine Towing from a one-boat operation to one of the top independent salvagers in southern Florida. His services range from dead boat batteries to major catastrophes.
In a piece about Sewell on SouthFlorida.com, we’re provided another vague idea of what kind of money these folks have the potential of earning. It stated Sewell can bank anywhere from $250 per hour towing boats to several hundred thousand dollars for an individual project. This disparity might help explain why these businesses are in a race to land the big jobs.
Fast Response Marine Towing
Twenty-eight year-old Chuck Hansen runs one of the newer salvage companies in Miami Beach. Photographed above are Charles Hans Korpela and Chris Hartmanis from his team. He will take just about any job he can to keep the business alive, even if that means sleeping by his radio at night so he can react quickly to distress calls. While he has a steep learning curve, his approach of being one of the most honest – and cheapest – companies in town has helped him grow his small but struggling business.
Fast Response has an official business website here.
Shipwreck Men comes your way tonight at 9EST.
Photos: Discovery / Burt Korpela – Facebook