By Jackson Holtz Herald Writer
Capt. John Aydelotte is not your typical TV star.
He’s gruff. His gray beard is unkempt. He wears cutoff T-shirts and his language is fouler than a bad forecast in November.
Still, it’s Whidbey Island’s own Capt. John whose charisma and chutzpah carry Spike TV’s new series, “Diamond Divers,” 1which premieres at 10 p.m. Wednesday.
“I’m a star in my own mind anyway,” the sea captain, 64, said. “This was just another adventure.”
The show chronicles the marine salvage expert and his scrappy, weathered crew as they travel from Washington to South Africa.
Hired by a local treasure hunter, the crew must cope with unfamiliar seas, people and a boat that isn’t as shipshape as they’d like.
No matter how far away from home he may be, some things always are familiar, Aydelotte said.
“A boat is a boat, oceans are oceans,” he said, back home on Cornet Bay at Whidbey’s northern tip.
In South Africa, the crew’s job is to deliver a pair of divers who will use giant underwater vacuums to search the seabed for diamond caches.
The first episode hints at the challenges the crew will face: sharks, poachers and rough seas stirring up 50-foot waves. Plus the team of men must navigate the often tricky interpersonal dynamics that come when people are forced into confined, stressful circumstances.
“Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you strong,” Aydelotte said.
At times, it seems his crew actually might kill the captain, or each other.
Main characters on the show include the captain’s son, Jason, 34.
“Jason is a little butt,” the captain said. “He and I have chafed.”
There’s also J.R. Allen, 50, an Oak Harbor High graduate and the ship’s able-bodied mechanic. William “Doc” Slettevold, 67, looks like he’s from central casting as a wizened, wise cook and ship’s mate.
All the men enjoy riding motorcycles, hunting and getting into each other’s faces. They are hard-working professionals, thrown into a real-life drama and drawn to the allure of sparkling diamonds.
This isn’t acting, Aydelotte said.
“I didn’t put on any pants that I didn’t already own,” he said.
Aydelotte got the TV gig through his affiliation with a national salvage lobbying group where he “tells the suits how to do it back East.”
TV producers went to the group looking for someone with character.
“All the fingers pointed to me,” Aydelotte said.
He wouldn’t divulge if the team strikes it rich. Wealth, he said, is relative. It’s not all about diamonds.
“We’re rich in ways beyond that,” he said. “I’m very happy here on Whidbey Island, and it’s some form of paradise.”
Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3447; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch the show at 10 p.m. Wednesdays on Spike TV.