Special Features — 06 October 2017
Below Deck captains steer steady course

By Johnny Diaz

City & Shore Magazine

Fort Lauderdale Capt. Lee Rosbach has been yachting on TV for so long that he’s earned another title: Stud of the Sea.

The captain has starred in Bravo’s Below Deck since the show launched in 2013. Rosbach says he gets recognized a lot, especially in Fort Lauderdale.

He has become a fan favorite with his gruff, tell-it-like-it-is style and presence, and was even the official captain of last year’s Winterfest Boat Parade. When fans ask him to pose for a photo, he says he finds it “very flattering.”

“If you can put a smile on somebody’s face for 10 seconds, why wouldn’t you want to do that? It’s never a bother for me,” he says.

His new season of Below Deck, the show’s fifth, takes place in the Caribbean on the 150-foot-long megayacht Valor.

Despite having the cameras around, Rosbach says he doesn’t “do anything different. I run my boat in the private sector the same way I run the boat for TV. The same things that piss me off on TV are the same things that get under my skin when I am working for a private owner.”

Though being in front of the cameras is second nature by now for the captain, he — like Capt. Sandy Yawn — finds the crew’s inexperience challenging. He is known for barking out the occasional “damn it” and whipping his crew into shape.

In the very first episode, he tells them: “Don’t embarrass yourself, and don’t embarrass the boat.”

Still, in the same episode, Rosbach tells viewers that he can relate to what his young crew goes through. In the late 1980s, when he worked on his first yacht, he too was green.

“With a green crew, I am more than happy to show them how to do things … once,” he says.

“Trying to keep the charter guests happy and the crew motivated, and teach them all on the fly, presented a totally unique set of problems that we had to deal with,” he adds. “And some of it was really funny and really hilarious, and some [of it] not so much.”

* * *

As a South Florida captain, Sandy Yawn has chartered yachts in the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf, New England and the Caribbean.

But nothing had prepared the longtime Fort Lauderdale resident for yachting on a reality TV show, with cameras all around picking up her orders and the drama of the crew members below.

This year, Yawn appeared on Bravo’s popular Below Deck Mediterranean, in which she led a mostly inexperienced crew aboard the 154-foot Scirocco.

It was the reality show’s first season with a female captain, something Yawn was proud to promote.

Yawn says she wanted to be on the show to help promote careers in the maritime industry, especially for women.

“I love inspiring women and encouraging people to get into the yachting industry,” says Yawn, 52. “If you don’t see a college in your life, there is the maritime industry. There are few women captains, and I would love to see more women in the yacht world.”

Her season of the Bravo show was shot over six weeks last year in Croatia, where the crew adapted to working together and meeting the needs of their captain and wealthy guests. The show aired from May through the summer.

Yawn had to adapt to doing her job on television. “First and foremost, the camera is in your face. It takes a few days to get used to that,” she says.

Cast members aren’t supposed address the production crew or the cameras, which was another adjustment for Yawn.

“When you are a people person, it’s so difficult not to talk to the camera,” she says. “Logistically, navigating the crew, the cameras, the guests, it’s a lot … I had no idea what I was getting myself into.”

Another difference between being a captain on a show vs. real-life yachting involves the hiring of the ship’s crew.

“How it works in the real world [is] the captain hires the crew. I didn’t hire this crew,” Yawn says. “I wouldn’t have hired any of them because I wouldn’t have known them. I would have hired the crew I had known for years.”

Viewers and her crew got to know her firm-but-direct manner and her catchphrases: “Suck it up!” and “Don’t bring it on deck.”

Yawn says she does her best to lead by example. “You get on the ground and you show them you are not above” doing what they do, she says. “Believe in them, show them that you care and that they are worth it. Sometimes you can change their trajectory in life.”

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