Bravo’s hit reality TV show, Below Deck, has now started its fifth season. Captain Lee and Kate Chastain are the only alumni from previous seasons who will return (Ben! Why have you forsaken us?), so appearing alongside them will be a entirely new crew. We’re more than excited to see what hijinks and drama the new cast and charter guests will bring, but after five seasons, we’d also really like to take a peek under the hood.
So, we cobbled together a few little known secrets about the yachting franchise, and they didn’t disappoint. The sheer amount of people that manage to remain unseen while trying to shoot a television show on a yacht is enough to make your eyes bug. We also discovered some fascinating information about hook-up spots, the production crew’s interesting daily commute, and what Captain Lee’s really like — off charter.
Read on for 15 Secrets From Below Deck You Had No Idea About.
15. ROCKY WOULD’VE 100% BEEN FIRED SOONER
Captain Lee has the authority to fire anyone on the boat he deems unfit. That said, incompetence (to some degree) usually makes for darn good Below Deck, and a rotating cast would make for pretty bad Below Deck. So, some people who wouldn’t make an hour in yachting get to try their hand at it for the full six weeks.
Raquel “Rocky” Dakota was absolutely one of those people. She whined about nearly every aspect of her job as a stewardess, climbed up onto the radar of the boat for an Instagram photo, and, after claiming she went to cooking school, served oysters with a grenadine mignonette. If you’re not an oyster person, that’s like putting maple syrup on a baked potato.
According to Kate Chastain on an episode of the Watch What Crappens podcast (and our eyes), Rocky would’ve absolutely been fired for any number of reasons right out the gate, if hired at all. But it looks like the experience might’ve changed her for the better — she’s worked in yachting since her stint on the show, even working under season 1 alum, Captain Aleks Taldykin.
14. PEOPLE GET REALLY CREATIVE WHEN IT COMES TO HOOK-UP SPOTS
Rocky and Eddie famously carried on an incredibly lame secret love affair right under the noses of their fellow crewmen and the production team. Considering said team’s only job is to monitor crew activity (especially the juicy stuff), that was kind of a superhuman feat made possible by the lack of camera in the laundry room.
There was also a super handy second door to the laundry room that led directly to Eddie’s cabin, so it was pretty easy for the two to hook-up among the dirty sheets and underwear, fluorescent lights buzzing in the background.
But the laundry room isn’t the only place on the boat to get down — the bilge with all the pool toys makes for a good spot, or you could just pull a Hannah from Below Deck Med and smooch the primary guest in his cabin. No cameras in there…
13. THE PRODUCERS BECOME DE FACTO VOYEURS
Bedroom cameras are a fact of life on Below Deck, as they are on nearly every reality show that confines people to small spaces to see who pops first (Big Brother, The Bachelor, The Surreal Life, we could go on). It’s probably not as bad for the yachties considering the general lack of privacy on a boat, plus the fact that everyone has roommates. Some crew members seem to forget the cameras are even there, but the production crew certainly doesn’t.
Take Emile from season 3! Remember Emile? He was the sweet but dim deckhand who crawled up on the boat’s radar to take a picture because… Instagram. Well, some of Emile’s solitary nighttime activity actually made it into an episode… which means it was broadcast on national television. Showers, people!
12. THERE’VE BEEN MAJOR INCIDENTS YOU’LL NEVER SEE
Kelley Johnson had some interesting tidbits to share about a few times the crew had to do some extreme yachting that never made it to air. The production crew, despite its size and alacrity just can’t be in every place at once.
Johnson talked about what could’ve potentially been a very big problem: at one point, the ship’s anchor caught on an underwater power line and almost pulled it up when the anchor was raised. Luckily, the crew was able to detach the line before power went out on any nearby islands, but it sounds like a seriously close call.
11. THERE’S A ROOM ON EVERY YACHT YOU NEVER SEE
One room you’ve never seen on Below Deck, but which is arguably one of the most important on the yacht is the control room allocated to the production crew. This usually tiny room is crowded with one of three teams throughout the day, all monitoring the bevy of crazy that can crop up anytime, anywhere.
This includes listening to hot mics the crew are wearing and directing cameras to get to anything interesting and film it. It also includes keeping a close eye on the stationary cameras mounted at various spots on the boat to keep an eye on any crew members that might be trying to sneak off for some private time (looking at you, Rocky and Eddie).
10. GUESTS PAY A REDUCED RATE
The mega-yachts like the ones seen in the Below Deck franchise typically cost between $150-$200,000 per week to charter. But Below Deck guests aren’t stuck paying the entire thing. they usually get about a 50% discount. However, they are asked to tip at least 15-20% on the total cost of the charter (duh). They are not, however, required to, so the crew is not guaranteed a tip just by virtue of being on the show.
As for what the crew actually makes from all that hard work, they do make a small stipend for appearing on the show, in addition to their base pay and tips.
Similar to Vanderpump Rules, the multi-season stars do make a little more, but for the most part, the point is to keep the show stars in a position of authenticity. It makes for better television to have returning stars, and if those stars become too wealthy, they obviously won’t make terrifically convincing stewards and deckhands.
9. THE PRODUCTION CREW DOESN’T STAY ON THE BOAT
While production does get its own control room, there definitely isn’t enough space on the boat to house the crew. They’re put up in hotels on land and water taxied in three times a day. There are three shifts — day, mid and night, and each time one of those shifts ends, the new crew is tendered on and the old crew tendered out.
But sometimes the yachts are out to sea, you say? Doesn’t matter. The water taxis go wherever the yacht is to do their drop-offs and pickups.
It also doesn’t matter what the weather is — rain or shine, so long as it’s safe to be on the water, production has to come to work. It can be a difficult commute considering weather conditions aren’t always ideal.
8. THERE ARE YACHT CREWMEN YOU (ALMOST) NEVER SEE
The cast of any given season of Below Deck is not totally representative of the entire crew that’s working on the boat. Usually these unseen positions are the first mate (though Aleks Taldykin took this role in season 1) and an engineer (an obvious necessity).
If you’ll recall in season 3, Don Abenante was an engineer who was signed on as a deckhand and did not appreciate not getting to do what he was qualified to do, nor did he enjoy taking orders from his bosun, Eddie. He wound up quitting a few episodes in, to everyone’s total lack of interest.
While we think featuring an engineer prominently in the cast would be interesting, it’s probably for the best that at least a few crew members are solely focused on doing their job and not filming. They get to share in the tip, but probably have to deal with far less drama than their on-screen counterparts.
7. YACHTING RESUMES MATTER (ESPECIALLY WHEN PEOPLE LIE ON THEM)
Because of the safety issues involved in working on any vessel, be it a train, plane or a mega-yacht, it is imperative that all of the stars of Below Deck are actual yacht workers (or at least possessing of necessary experience to be one). Also, the producers take into account what experience people have when casting so they can place them in the proper department on the boat. So, when someone lies on their resume, it can really gum up the works.
Take Andrew Sturby, for instance. You might remember him as the deckhand who couldn’t tie a single knot and left the porthole in his cabin open (that’s a giant no-no — get saltwater on the interior and irreparable and expensive damage occurs).
He claimed to have several years of yachting experience, but there’s just no way to fake it. Adam crashed so hard he was fired by the fourth episode. To his credit, he publicly acknowledged the fact that he lied and that it was wrong. Lesson learned.
6. PRODUCERS TRY REALLY HARD TO KEEP THE CAST APART PRE-SHOOTING
While reality television isn’t as strict with cast interaction as pre-shooting as, say, a game show would be, the producers still try as hard as they possibly can to keep everyone segregated before they set foot on the boat. This allows for more organic stories and relationships to develop, and, in general, keeps the show feeling authentic. It also obviously makes for more drama behind the scenes as people who don’t know each other try to figure out how to work with each other in a cramped, stressful environment.
It doesn’t always work, though. Just recently on season 2 of Below Deck Mediterranean, chef Adam Glick and deckhand Malia White met during their yacht certification course weeks before the show started filming. Apparently things got romantic, but they decided to keep their “relationship” a secret from the rest of the crew. That made it extremely awkward when Malia started flirting and eventually dating another deckhand, but it certainly worked out in the show’s favor, as love triangles so often do.
5. SOME RUDE GUESTS ARE INCREDIBLY GENEROUS OFF-SCREEN
While some of the guests are absolute nightmares because reality television and booze have that effect on people, some turn out to be pretty amazing — though it might be after the fact. One such guest was Steve Bradley. You might recall his utterly inebriated antics on season 3. He remains one of the show’s most notorious (and hilarious) guests to date.
Steve’s greatest hits include putting a foam party on his preference sheet, demanding the yacht cruise around to find Aerosmith who was rumored to be in the area, and in general being incredibly inebriated at all times.
Well, if you thought Steve was huge jerk after watching that, it might surprise you to know that he wound up taking Captain Lee, Mrs. Captain Lee, Kate Chastain, and Chef Ben all out for dinner when the season had wrapped. If that weren’t enough, he also invited them down to Acapulco to hang at his home down there. Not bad for a guy who water-skied in a tuxedo jacket.
4. CAPTAIN LEE DOES LET HIS HAIR DOWN
Captain Lee is every inch the stereotypical salty seaman that you’d expect to drive boats in and around the Caribbean. He is also famously intractable when it comes to following rules, doing things the right way, and making sure the windows are clean, dagnabbit! But, it turns out, he’s way more of a softie when he’s home in Ft. Lauderdale.
Captain Lee is workout buddies with Kelley Johnson (seasons 2 & 4) and he and his wife grab dinner with Kate Chastain on a fairly regular basis when they’re in the same city. But that’s not all — Captain Lee also drives a gold, convertible Mercedes with a license plate that reads “CAPT LEE.”
He might seem gruff and grizzled on the outside, but damned if we don’t want to take a trip to the Florida Keys in that Mercedes and let Captain Lee be our guide. There would definitely be some drinking on that charter.
3. THE PRODUCERS TRY TO BE AS FAIR AS POSSIBLE
Both series creator and producer, Mark Cronin, and executive producer, Nadine Rajabi have spoken at length about their commitment to fair portrayals of the cast and charter guests. Speaking to the Watch What Crappens podcast, Rajabi established that she doesn’t believe in editing footage to make someone look like they’re something they’re not. She also said that she gives everyone the opportunity to explain their actions, so if someone does do something off the wall, they’re given a chance to control some of the message.
In a Reddit AMA from 2016, Cronin had this to say: “The contract between the cast and me is: ‘Please make us a great show that people will love – and please be fair in portraying who we are and what we do.’ I try to keep to that – and for the most part all of my former cast members – literally hundreds of them – feel that I kept that contract.”
2. CAPTAIN LEE’S WORD IS LAW — TO EVERYONE
Captain Lee is famous for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is his trademark, “You’ll get an envelope with a ticket home, make no mistake about it” warning that he gives at least 14 or so times within the first few episodes of each season.
It’s not an empty threat, as Andrew Sturby, Trevor Walker, and Leon Walker well know. Those three gents were on the receiving end of Captain Lee’s wrath, and they very much deserved it. Andrew lied on his resume, Trevor was a terrible person, and Leon literally set the boat on fire. Unfortunately, all three made for great television, so firing them could’ve been a double-edged sword when it came to story and ratings.
But if producers had objections to any of Captain Lee’s decisions, it would’ve done exactly zero good. On the boat, Captain Lee’s word is law.
One thing that makes Below Deck unique from the majority of Bravo’s other reality franchises is that it’s set in an environment that the producers only control to a certain degree. Captain Lee is responsible for everyone aboard the yacht, so if he deems someone unfit, off they go.
1. PRODUCTION KNOWS AS LITTLE ABOUT THE GUESTS AS THE CREW
At least for the early seasons, a yacht broker took care of booking all the guests for the show. Presumably there is some vetting process, but the details are kept from both the yachties and the production crew on the boat. They both get the same preference sheets detailing the guests’ profiles and personal tastes.
kaThis obviously makes it a little harder to manufacture guest-specific drama, but luckily, alcohol combined with ego and lots and lots of money usually ensures there’s no shortage of it.
Granted, there are certain exceptions — there’ve been two separate occasions when other Bravolebrities have chartered the yacht, after all. Cynthia Bailey of Real Housewives of Atlanta and Liza Sandler of Secrets and Wives (a capital one-season wonder streamable on Amazon if you have $15 and a lazy Sunday) have both graced Captain Lee and Co. with their presence.
It’s safe to say at least a few people onboard knew what they were getting into in those cases… we hope.
Below Deck airs Tuesday nights at 9pm on Bravo. Do you have any trivia to share? Leave it in the comments!
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