‘Below Deck:” This is One Important Crew Position Viewers Don’t See

By now Below Deck fans are starting to sound like yachtie aficionados. The maritime series has been a great way to learn about how a superyacht functions and the positions crew members hold.

From the captain to the chief stew and bosun, viewers get a pretty good idea of rank on a yacht. Deckhands and stewardess generally do most of the grunt work but it isn’t uncommon to see even Captain Sandy Yawn from Below Deck Mediterranean washing dishes when the crew is in a pinch.

Below Deck Med | Conrad Empson Instagram

Although viewers may feel pretty familiar with most of the positions, there is one very important job on the boat that isn’t part of the Below Deck storyline.

The first officer or first mate is second in command

Although viewers see the captain working closely with the bosun and chief stew, the first officer or first mate is the captain’s right-hand person. According to YPI Crew, a yacht recruiting agency, the first officer is second in command on the yacht and reports directly to the captain.

The crew member in this position is directly responsible for the deck crew. This includes the second officer, third officer, bosun, and deckhands. While it often seems like all responsibility falls on the bosun on Below Deck, the buck stops with the first mate before the captain.

Colin Macy-O’Toole, Joao Franco, Kasey Cohen |Photo by Zev Schmitz/Bravo

In addition to directly overseeing the deck crew, the first mate may also double as a medical and/or safety officer. When deckhand Ashton Pienaar went overboard and nearly died on Below Deck, the first mate likely had a hands-on involvement in his recovery.

What skills should a first officer have?

This position appears to be a stepping stone toward becoming a captain. That obviously means strong leadership skills should be a priority. But also many yacht owners look for someone with considerable charisma who can motivate and inspire the crew.

Also, having an engineering and maintenance background or a strong understanding is preferable. Plus the first officer should have mastery of accounting, information technology, and maritime laws and regulations.

The first officer should also have honed navigational expertise and is in charge of bridge watches. Like other positions on a yacht, the first officer must complete STCW Basic Safety Training and receive an ENG1 Seafarer Medical Certificate. But first officers must also have the STCW II/2 and Medical Care On Board Certificate. Candidates can boost their resume with other training and certifications like Yachtmaster Theory, Sea Survival, and Oceanmaster Theory amongst others.

How much money can you expect to make?

The amount of pay is typically based on the size of the yacht. Crew members who work on Below Deck yachts are generally dealing with a 160 plus foot vessel. This sized superyacht puts the salary range right around the mid-to high-pay range scale according to Superyacht Crew Academy.

Captain Sandy Yawn Instagram

For context, a licensed bosun will clear anywhere from $4,000 to 4,500 a month on this vessel size. An experienced deckhand might make up to $3,600 a month. On the interior, the chief stew can expect to pull in from $6,000 to $7,000 per month. The second stew might make from $3,500 to $4,000.

On the higher end of the pay scale, the captain should expect to clear from $14,000 to $16,000 per month. The first officer would end up being paid anywhere from $7,000 to $8,000.

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