In 2013, the first season of Bravo’s hit show, Below Deck, graced our television screens, forever changing reality television as we know it. Eight seasons, three chief stews, and countless table settings later, Captain Lee Rosbach has remained at the helm of both the yacht and series’ success, acting as both the no-nonsense manager and occasional father figure to his crew of young and eager stews and deckhands.
In 2020, the series experienced its own turnover in real-time, after the departures of long-time cast members Kate Chastain and Hannah Ferrier. This new generation of the series forced us to find the answers to some lingering questions we’ve had throughout eight seasons of Below Deck. Has Ashton learned the error of his ways? Was Rocky just an actress? And is the show scripted?
We asked Captain Lee Rosbach himself, the so-called Stud of the Seas and author of Running Against the Tide, to find out these answers and more, including his feelings on controversial cast members and the one moment during the series that left him speechless.
How did you first become involved with Below Deck?
During the first season, I wasn’t supposed to be on the show. I didn’t audition. I didn’t know anything about it other than the fact that the boat that I was running at the time called me up and said that they had a charter inquiry for a network T.V. show. For one reason or another, the captain that they had hired couldn’t fulfill his obligations, so they decided that they’d just use me.
I’ve always been curious. Where does production sleep and eat?
We actually have a call boat and all they do is prep food for the production crew. They get their regular scheduled lunch breaks, and we transport them from one boat to another. [They] sit down, have a nice hot meal, and come back to work. They sleep on shore because there are regulations governing how many people can sleep on board the boat.
Going back to Season 2, was Kate’s towel art really a rocket ship?
My first reaction was ‘rocket ship my ass.’ I still feel that way. She knew what was doing, and yeah, I thought it was funny.
Kelly and Jennice had an on-again, off-again relationship that ended badly that season. How do you feel about that playing out on T.V.?
Boatmances almost never work out. They’re usually just for the duration of the charter season. Sometimes, it’s really detrimental, because they’ll blossom on board and then something will happen and then I’ve got issues. One of them’s going to quit, one of them’s going to get fired, or I’m gonna have to get rid of both of them. It can be very problematic.
Have you ever heard from Chef Leon after he was fired over the oven fire during Season 3?
Not since he stepped off the boat. I wouldn’t expect him to own up to it. I’d be shocked if he did.
When Rocky jumped off the boat because of it, were you surprised?
Nothing about Rocky surprises me.
How do you feel about Rocky and Eddie’s affair now looking back at it?
I just know that I’ll never look at the laundry room the same way again.
Caroline’s exit during Season 6 seemed really sudden. She’s since been vocal about the show being scripted. How do you respond to that?
I don’t know if anybody could make this stuff up. The cameras start rolling at 6:30 in the morning and they don’t stop until the last person goes to bed. Static cameras are rolling all the time. So whatever happens, happens. There’s no lack of content. I generally just have a difficult time with people telling everybody the show’s scripted. I don’t know [that] people trying to maintain their relevancy for longer than they should be [is] healthy.
Ashton has had a pretty memorable two seasons. Season 7, for his accident, and Season 8 for his aggression toward Kate. How did you feel about the reunion and have you kept in touch?
We haven’t had any exchanges. And I don’t think the reunion did the girls any favors. I don’t think the bru crew were actually held accountable. I think in their own minds they didn’t behave badly, which I found shocking.
Season 8 is your first season without Kate on board. What was that like?
When you work for somebody for six years, especially in a situation like that, you just give them a task and you know that it’s going to get done. When you get somebody new, and you start that process all over again, there’s a huge learning curve there. [Kate and I] keep in touch once every couple of weeks.
What was it like getting a chance to work with Eddie again after all these years?
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for him. I was very, very pleased to have him back.
Does working with Eddie make you miss working with Adrienne from Season 1?
Not at all.
We saw Chef Rachel’s big blow-up over a preference sheet an episode or two ago. What that as crazy in-person as it seemed on T.V.?
I think that was the only time I’ve ever been speechless on the show. Usually, you see tension building for a day or a couple of days, and I had no indication that there was anything wrong. So when she laid that out there, I didn’t know what to say.
Speaking of crazy preference sheets, what’s the craziest ask of any charter guest you’ve had?
This wasn’t on the show, but we had to have a suckling pig flown from New Zealand [to Baltimore]. We had to get it to the airport, get it shipped over, get it through customs. Like anything else that billionaires want, when they want it, they want it. They throw some money at it and you make it work.
After Kate and Hannah’s exits from the show, have to ask: Do you ever foresee leaving the show altogether?
No, I still have the best damn job in the world.
This interview was condensed for content and clarity.
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