A Yachting “Reality” Show?

For years there has been talk about a “yachting reality show” in the works in the industry rumor mill which has subsequently been followed by much controversy and mostly disdain for the idea.  Well, no longer a rumor, the new series “Below Deck” will be airing on Bravo come July 1st.

Now, I haven’t seen any of it (obviously since it hasn’t aired yet) and the two sneak previews Bravo has added to their site aren’t accessible from the marina I’m sitting in in Canada, so any criticisms I’m about to make are mostly speculation.  However, from my experience (albeit limited) over the past year and half working on a yacht (and two and half years since I initially took the plunge, so to speak, and earned my first yachting certification) I can tell you one thing; If this show is going to have any following, then it probably isn’t an honest representation of typical daily life for yacht crew.

Not so much...

Not so much…

Here is the show’s summary on Bravotv.com:

“This series follows a groups of crewmembers living and working aboard “Honor”, a 164′ mega-yacht.  The upstairs and downstairs worlds collide when this single crew, known as “yachties,” live, love, and work together on-board the luxurious, privately-owned yacht while tending to the ever-changing needs of their wealthy, demanding charter guests.  While each crew member brings a different level of experience, they all share a love for this lifestyle that enables them to travel to some of the most beautiful and exotic locales in the world.”

First of all, from my understanding the crew have been hand picked for this show, so much like MTV’s “The Real World”, I assume they have intentionally placed big personalities together to spur drama and furthermore, the charter guests know they are being filmed, so these won’t be your normal guests looking for an escape from the world onboard their private oases.  Yes, real drama with guests and owners exists, but this is presumably going to be dramatized as it is made for television.

Crew Life: ironing pillowcases

Crew Life: ironing pillowcases

Second of all, day to day life while owners or guests are onboard is nothing to write home about; days are long, work is plentiful, and free time is non-existent.  I was asked to write a “day in the life” type of piece for an online publication once and was met with the request to change it to a typical day when I am OFF the boat because that’s how mundane our true daily routine is.  One commenter on a Dockwalk.com forum put it perfectly; “Stews- beds, heads, laundry… beds, heads, laundry… beds, heads, laundry; Deckies- clean, polish, scrub… clean, polish, scrub… clean, polish, scrub”.  Does that sound like an exhilarating and captivating reality show? Not really.  Sounds more like watching paint dry.  There’s a reason I haven’t posted that “day in the life” piece on this site; however, I’ll happily post a video of our second engineer cleaning the sewage, that might actually be entertaining.

That's more like it...

That’s more like it…

Lastly, all the “exotic locales” that are visited while guests are onboard, will mostly be seen only from the porthole for most crew members.  This is a vacation for the guests, not the crew.  Granted, there will be a day or two here and there for relaxation, but if it is truly a charter season, those days in between guests will be full of cleaning and detailing the boat for the next guests.  Not very much time for beers on the beach as seen in the featured image for the series.

Just as my friend living on the coast in New Jersey despises the representation of her hometown on “Jersey Shore”, so will many “yachties” inevitably abhor the portrayal of their profession.  It will be interesting to see what effect this show will have on the yachting industry after it airs and what it will do for the future careers for the cast members.  Just like those who decide it’s a good idea to go on MTV’s “Real World”, I can’t see it being a shining star for one’s resume.

I’ll try to keep up with it as best I can (which will be difficult because the boys don’t share the remote and even if they did, ironically our owners will be onboard for the first few weeks) and see what direction the show takes.  Turns out, trashy reality television is my guilty pleasure (I never said I was perfect!).

Check out the previews for “Below Deck” at www.bravotv.com/below-deck

Also check out an excerpt from Julie Perry’s Around the World With a Silver Tray to get a better idea of a stewardess’ workload here.


10 responses to “A Yachting “Reality” Show?

  1. Well, well.. what we have here is an excellent base for a traveller’s song seen from a downstairs world crewmember’s point of view. And a well-documented one too. Love this post !!
    Write the lyrics, speak your heart out and give the song a title with the word “crew” in it.
    And, if you need someone to write the music..

  2. Hi Arielle – Thank you so much for linking to the yacht steward/ess job description from my book. I appreciate it! LOVE your blog.

    Indeed, the show that the industry has (nervously) anticipated for years has finally arrived. I am definitely interested to see how Bravo treats the subject matter. While there are, in fact, a few experienced crew onboard, you’re right that Bravo has injected a little “Hollywood” into the show by including cast members new to yachting (at least as far as being crew goes). That has me a bit concerned.

    Yet I remain optimistic that even if Bravo takes measures to make things dramatic and entertaining for its audience (and no, the typical, daily “heads and beds” regime does not make for good television), there will still be an element of what life onboard is really like. It perhaps won’t be the most accurately realistic portrayal, but I’m trying to stay open-minded.

    After viewing the trailers, I am impressed at the number of potential story lines that remind me of my days as a yacht stew. I encourage you to check them out.

    Anyway, time will tell. Time will also tell with regard to the show’s overall impact on the industry. I am trying to remain as positive as I can with a “wait and see” attitude. In the end, I think it will be fun to see how the lifestyle that brought me so many incredible memories gets portrayed. (And I’m so envious that you’re still out there. Now that I’ve discovered your blog, I intend to live vicariously through your wonderfully written posts! Keep ’em coming!)

    Your newest fan,
    ~Julie Perry

    P.S. “I’ll happily post a video of our second engineer cleaning the sewage, that might actually be entertaining.” bahahaha!

    • Thank you so much for the comment, praise and insight! What an honor to have you reading my blog; I’ve referenced your book and site a few times as the information you provide is invaluable to those looking to break into yachting.

      I was very interested to hear your take on the show given you are a seasoned veteran of the industry and as such have a much better grasp for the situation than I may have. I’m equally eager to see what the show has in store, especially now after having the chance to watch the preview. It will be interesting to have everyone back home who is constantly questioning “what exactly” it is that I do, finally see for themselves a bit of the reality! However, I wonder also how many more questions it will raise from them! 🙂

      Thanks again for the kinds words!

  3. Hello Little Mermaid,
    My daughter was one of those “hand-picked” stews for this series. Coincidentally, I worked as a stew back in the ’80s. All of the crew were selected because they had some experience doing what they were hired to do aboard “Honor” – Bravo did not randomly pick inexperienced crew. And believe me, what you are about to see are unscripted scenes that depict long days and lots of hard work, just like in the real world. The crew of this boat had to “mike up” from the moment they awoke to when they went to bed, even on their days off.

    Just wanted to share this inside info. By the way… I think it is great that this new series is so controversial. That is what will drive people to want to watch it!

  4. Thanks so much for stopping by and offering your input! I appreciate the feedback, especially on this topic.

    I can’t imagine being filmed 24/7 which is why I could never do something like this, so kudos to your daughter for being so brave.

    I don’t doubt that each of the crew must have had some experience (you can’t get a job without an STCW at the very least anyway). However, I’m just curious as to the personalities they may have forced together in this confined space to result in some more dramatic than usual situations. However, it is all just conjecture at this point. Like I said, I hope to be able to follow along with the show and see how it all plays out.

    Controversy definitely draws people in, that’s for sure!

    Thanks again for the comment 🙂

  5. Wathed the first episode of this series. If this were my boat I would change it’s name to protect my name 🙂 The next thing I would do is fire all the crew. Really trashy show.

    • Actually, from my understanding the name has been changed. If you look closely, the new “Honor” logo is just slapped on the existing one it seems. I will admit though, there is a bit of merit to the show once you sift through some of the made for TV drama that comes with a carefully manufactured reality show. Thanks for the comment!

    • A yacht’s flag simply denotes its taxation country. For instance, we are Cayman Island flagged (as with many other yachts) but we have yet to sail there. They would have a smaller St. Maarten flag flying elsewhere on the boat however as it is customary while in port to fly the flag of the visited country.

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