Below Deck and all its affiliated spin-offs can sometimes make yachting seem really glamourous and fun. All those exotic locations, fun water sports, soaking in the sun, and gorgeous sights would be the ideal way to pass a season… if you’re a guest.
But if you’re a member of the crew on a superyacht, a yachtie as they’re sometimes called, you have to suffer some of the darker, grittier elements of this life.
Viewers of the franchise have most likely fantasized about what it would be like to quit their life, jet off to an exotic locale and spend the days mixing drinks and readying jet skis. But as super fans may have noticed, it is not always as charming as it may seem.
Yachties have to do all the hard work of the hospitality industry turned up to a hundred. You’re in an environment in which you are there to serve every whim of the most entitled and privileged echelons of society, and all you do is perform the dirtiest of work for them.
Before you quit your job to head off to yachtie school, take a look at the below list of reasons you absolutely, definitely, unquestionably DO NOT want to be a yachtie.
Anyone who has watched even one episode of the Below Deck franchise is familiar with the ubiquitous Chocolate Martini. While these are sometimes also the drink of choice of the crew when they aren’t on duty, it is also a specialty of luxury charters. Guests have come to expect them and ask for them all the time, sometimes even for breakfast.
The worst part about serving these cocktails all day long is the extensive work it takes to make a perfect pour. You can’t just throw some Tito’s in a tumbler and top it with some La Croix. Nope. It is not that easy.
The exact specifications for a proper Chocolate Martini are both labor and time-intensive, and it is a lot of time and energy for a drink that is down in two gulps. The basic ingredients include vodka, coffee liqueur, and some sort of cordial. However, recipes can vary wildly, and some can require you to zest an orange, shred hard chocolate, drizzle the glass with syrup, froth some milk or cream or toast some coffee beans.
While this may sound delicious to a guest, it sounds like a giant time-suck to a second stew who also has several beds to make and toilets to clean.
Let’s face it. Sometimes money and wealth can really bring out the worst in folks, and to charter a yacht the size of those on Below Deck, you have to be at least a little rich. That means you most likely aren’t used to hearing the words “no” or “we can’t.” That creates a guest roster that can get downright obnoxious.
Over the seasons, there have been some really, really bad guests. Stews have had to clean up all sorts of fluid-soaked items, referee fights between primaries, suffer myriad forms of emotional and mental abuse, work their fingers to the bone to pull off silly theme parties, and placate the irrational “preferences” of fickle, spoiled rich brats.
Most of the time, the crew has to hold their nose and smile through gritted teeth, even when they have to pick up used birth control, put on skimpy outfits and dance, or get picked up and tossed around without offering any sort of consent.
While captains and stews try to protect the interior and deck crews from extreme behavior, there is still a lot they have to suffer through for that tip at the end of the charter. Sometimes counting the money is worth it, sometimes, not so much.
The worst kept secret of any charter season is the insane amount of laundry the stews have to do. Not only do they have to launder, press, fold, and put away the guests’ personal items, but they also have to make sure the crew has clean clothes, the ship has clean linens, and the galley never runs out of towels.
The enormity of this task could get lost on us civilians, but it has become a running joke among the crew that laundry, although tedious, is what keeps the ship going. Imagine paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to stay on a yacht and walking into your room after a day in the sun and having no sheets on the bed. That just can’t happen.
This can be a never-ending, thankless job, and it usually falls to the third stew to manage it all. The first and primary thing to do is to form a system, and to get behind will certainly cause a “death by laundry” situation. It’s the first and last thing the stews have to think about every day and that itself is bleak enough to deter most folks from this profession.
This list already made a nod to some of the worst and most demanding guests, but Johnny Damon deserves his own spot in this hall of infamy. Former Yankee and Red Sox player, Johnny Damon stepped onto the yacht ready to cause trouble.
On his first appearance in Season 4, Johnny and his wife, Michelle, had really high expectations for their experience and wound up sending a few things back to Anastasia’s galley.
While this is only mildly obnoxious, things really escalated later, as a drunk Michelle got into a shouting match with a neighboring boat owner. When this guy came aboard, a booze-soaked Michelle went in to mix it up physically, and the other boat owner had to be escorted off their deck.
On their second charter in Season 5, they were no less trouble for the crew, and Michelle wound up flashing the dinner table her thong-clad bum. This was in reply to a friend accusing her of wearing Spanx, and she felt challenged to prove otherwise. Johnny got so drunk during the day he could barely stay awake at dinner and would up urinating off the side of the boat.
Although there were other guests that caused more headaches, Johnny Damon’s antics might just be the most famous bad behavior in show history.
It’s all fun and games onboard a superyacht until you risk a concussion head every single morning immediately upon waking. The sleeping situation for the crew is tight, and there is little room for one person to have enough space, much less two.
Equipped with night vision and motion-triggered cameras, the cramped sleeping quarters are always a hotbed of drama and mess. There is exactly zero privacy in the bunks, so there is nowhere to get away from, well, anything.
Because there are often two or more to one bunk room, there is no hiding the meltdowns, the clandestine hook-ups, the bodily functions, or hygiene habits from your roommate. This can be brutal for crew members who are even a little bit shy, claustrophobic, introverted or crave privacy.
This may be one of the most annoying aspects of yachtie life because there is, quite literally, no escape from your job or co-workers.
Working and living in such small spaces can inevitably cause some interpersonal hiccups, but add in a sensitive and finicky chef, and folks can get super bothered.
Chefs are notoriously temperamental, fretting over the smallest details of their craft. While the galley chefs are often talented artists, they can also be petulant babies you have to tiptoe around or fragile flowers in need of constant coddling.
Ben Johnson appeared in Seasons 1-4 of Below Deck and then turned up again on Below Deck Mediterranean Season 1. He was a big personality for sure, and he turned out some of the best food of the entire franchise. But boy, could he pitch a fit. Whether he was clashing/flirting with Kate Chastain or annoying/flirting with Hannah Ferrier, Ben was always the origin story of many eye-rolls.
There have been many, many more moody chefs in resident in the yacht galleys over the seasons, some more memorable than others. Chef Kiko was of the sensitive flower variety, constantly worrying about letting the Captain down.
There was Malia’s boyfriend Tom who turned out to be as slick as he was rigid. Fans can’t forget the two-and-done Chef Mila whose mediocre nachos couldn’t hide her blatant homophobia.
In the current season of Below Deck Mediterranean, Chef Matthew spends more time wringing his hands and contemplating his own nerves than he does delivering amazing meals, perpetuating the stereotype for yet another season.
Working while hungover
As hard as these folks work, they go even harder in their off-time. The crews across the various Below Deck series drink like they don’t have to get up at dawn and do hours of manual labor for unappreciative rich people.
They probably sweat chocolate martinis out of their pores the next morning, yet they haul themselves up, swallow down last night’s dinner when it tries to rise up, and flip that boat for the next charter. They are party gangsters, and the rate at which they rebound is quite remarkable.
Aside from the laundry, this seems like it would be the hardest part of this job. Of course, most of them have youth and an insanely high tolerance on their sides, but the idea of hours of long, hot work, after only a few hours of sleep and enough alcohol to bring down down an entire fraternity could deter even the most committed person from applying.
Speaking of hangovers and hard work, being a yachtie means grinding it out in the glaring sun, often wearing full dress clothes, with a smile on your face.
Whether you’re inside or out, working on a superyacht is really, really hot work, and there is little time to rest or slack off. Ideal conditions for the guests mean full sun, no clouds, and high temps, which means brutal conditions for the workday.
Yachting is not for sissies, so it kinda seems you should know what you’re getting into, but the long humid days of a charter season make working conditions less than ideal for your average crewmember, especially the exterior people.