- Patrick Maflin
Below Deck is a popular reality television show which revolves around the life of a yacht crew whilst working at sea.
The show made its debut in 2013 on Bravo, and quickly started to build a large fanbase.
However, as the series has developed over the years, more and more viewers, especially those working within the yacht industry, have suspected it to be scripted and inauthentic.
With the show’s emphasis being heavily placed on entertainment and sensationalising certain onboard situations, is the show portraying a truthful look into life working on a superyacht?
In the following chapters, we give our honest insight into what we think is genuine and what is anything but in this nautical themed TV show.
- What is Below Deck?
- Are the Crew Genuine Yachties or Actors?
- Is It Scripted or Real?
- Below Deck vs Real Yachting
- Final Verdict
- Get in Touch
What is Below Deck?
At the time of publication, ten seasons of Below Deck, a show about life working aboard superyachts, have been released.
When the owner of a yacht agrees to be part of this series, it’s up to the producers to decide who will be on board for the filming.
Other than the captain, first officer and first engineer, the rest of the crew is carefully selected by the production team.
One might be tempted to assume that the life of a yachtie is pretty much similar to what takes place on this show.
However, the reality is there's numerous differences.
Needless to say, whilst someone is being filmed, it’s normal to not be completely realistic or act naturally.
At the end of the day, the main aim of the show is to be as entertaining as possible.
In fact, if the show is watched objectively, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that certain actions and situations are staged to be more dramatic than if they occured under normal conditions.
Are the Crew Genuine Yachties or Actors?
Contrary to popular belief, the crew members who appear on the show are actually people who work in yachting.
The executive producer of Below Deck, Cortland Cox, expressed that at first it was hard to find yachties who were willing to join the series.
It was all very new, and so there were not that many who wished to commit to being thrust into the spotlight.
However, after numerous seasons and spin-off shows, the popularity of the programme increased considerably, and so there were many more yachties who were jumping at the chance of getting involved.
Is It Scripted or Real?
Dramatised 'Reality' Show
Many often describe Below Deck as being a dramatised reality show.
This is because the way the crew members and guests behave is bound to be overly dramatic, since they’re aware of the cameras being present at all times.
Despite the fact that the show is not scripted as a normal sitcom or documentary would be, it’s still considerably dramatised.
So one cannot really say that it’s an accurate depiction of reality.
For instance, even though there’s no set script to speak of, the production team will engineer situations that often result in conflict, division, drama and sometimes, chaotic or exaggerated situations.
The footage is also carefully edited with the aim of creating a narrative or manipulating a situation to appear far different from reality.
Guests Are Not Actors
One of the main appeals of the show is the wide array of guests who can be somewhat difficult or eccentric.
Considering their characters and behaviour, one might assume they’re all actors.
However, in truth, they are actually genuine guests!
It’s important to emphasise however that the production team of Below Deck do vet the charter guests.
An interview is carried out as well, so it’s safe to assume that guests are chosen based on character traits and how they might behave whilst onboard.
In fact, owner and founder of Marine Accounts, Patrick Maflin, has been asked to go on the show on numerous occasions.
Although to date, he has wisely declined the offer.
Once guests have been shortlisted and chosen, the producers have no say in the way these guests act whilst they’re filming.
Producers Pick the Crew
The crew members are all selected by the production team.
The only crew members who’re allowed to remain the same are the captain, the first engineer and the first officer of the particular vessel.
They are tasked with taking care of the operations of the yacht in a normal manner so to speak.
Needless to say, editing does take place in order to make things more entertaining and interesting.
The show’s producers claim that the majority of the moments which one might describe as jaw-dropping are actually completely unscripted, but we seriously doubt that!
In many cases, the crew had to change their original plans to accommodate the way certain situations enfolded.
Below Deck vs Real Yachting
Entertainment or Documentary?
The answer to this question cannot be clear cut.
Whilst parts of the way Below Deck is produced can offer some insight into working at sea aboard a yacht, in reality one would be more inclined to classify it as entertainment rather than a docu-series.
You may not agree, but in our opinion, there are considerable differences between real yachting and how yachting is depicted on this show.
Charter Season Duration
A normal yacht charter season lasts around six months.
However, the "charter season" on this TV show is definitely nowhere near as long.
In fact, the yachts which are used for the show are actually booked for just six weeks.
Unrealistic Crew Tips
Given the nature of the show, the tips are in reality, exaggerated.
Despite the fact that the tip meetings which take place at the end of the charter are actually real, the money that they receive is not accurate.
Moreover, while the crew lines up at the end of the charter to escort the guests back onshore, the handoff of the tips in envelopes is not real.
Vessel Names Are Fake
The majority of the yachts that are shown on the show are not using their real names.
Aliases are used, most likely to protect the reputations of the vessels once the season is over.
It seems that only My Seanna which was shown on Season 6 went by its real name.
The other names used in other seasons of Below Deck were all aliases.
All in all, while Below Deck is an entertaining reality show, and despite the fact that it’s unscripted, we believe it’s not an accurate representation of what life working on a superyacht is like.
Ultimately, as with any other TV show, the production team will be mainly interested in increasing viewership.
So it goes without saying that the scenes are bound to be more dramatic and more exaggerated than they would be like if they were not being filmed.
Hence, even though the crew members are real yachties, they will inadvertently be playing up to the cameras.
As a result, while watching the show, one needs to remain open minded and realise that it’s ultimately drama, and the main aim is to be entertaining, and to keep things intriguing whilst showing the appeal of the superyacht industry and the interesting crew members and guests on board.
Get in Touch
If you're curious about getting into the yachting industry, we'd love to hear from you.
Get in touch with us or let us know your thoughts about our article in the comments section below.
Disclaimer: Any advice in this publication is not intended or written by Marine Accounts to be used by a client or entity for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties that may be imposed on any taxpayer or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party matters herein.
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