A Pembroke man will appear on the debut episode of the National Geographic Channel’s new series “The Raft,” which will air next Sunday, April 5, at 10 p.m.
Rich Figueiredo is a 40-year-old lobsterman who does not shy away from a challenge. Being deposited on a 4-by-4-foot raft in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle with limited supplies might make others balk, but not Figueiredo.
“When [National Geographic] approached me, my first impression was that every moment in my life had prepared me for this,” he said. “I thought it was the perfect match. I thought I would eat this stuff up because it’s something I think about on a daily basis.”
“The Raft” is a test of both survival skills and human nature. Two rafts, each holding a pair of strangers, are set adrift hundreds of miles apart. The competitors’ goal is to survive for one week until they reach land. Each raft is equipped with basic survival tools and cameras to record the drama as it plays out. Contestants can quit at any time via an emergency radio, aware that if one partner gives up, both are eliminated.
The show’s producers settled on Figueiredo after approaching the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association looking for possible contestants. A fifth-generation lobsterman, Figueiredo lived “Deadliest Catch” before that show ever aired, crab-fishing in Alaska in the ’90s, and is an expert navigator.
In the premiere episode, titled “Bump in the Night,” he is paired with a travel writer, Payge McMahon , facing dehydration and swarms of sharks.
“It was like a floating kiddie pool that was always full of water,” he said of the experience.
And of course, the cameras were ever-present. In addition to those fixed to the sides of the raft, the pair had a set of questions to answer each day using a hand-held “diary cam.”
“It was uncomfortable sometimes because you’re sitting right next to the person you’re speaking about,” Figueiredo said. But in terms of partners, he said, he lucked out.
Since the episode was filmed in October, Figueiredo followed his lifelong dream to go swordfishing, something he credits McMahon with encouraging him to do. Figueiredo is now captain of the Iron Maiden, a 98-foot swordfish boat at the Boston pier.
“I’m literally in heaven right now,” he said. “I’m doing what I always wanted to do. It’s so surreal.”
Elise Harmon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.