Captain Kerry Titheradge is venturing into uncharted waters leading the crew of the M/Y St. David for Below Deck Season 11. The 30-year veteran, who fans got to know on Below Deck Adventure, has taken the reins of the flagship of the franchise from long-time Captain Lee Rosbach. Going from the Nordic Sea to the Caribbean island of Grenada brings a new challenge for Titheradge.
This charter season he’ll be joined by fellow familiar faces Chief Stew Fraser Olender and lead deckhand Ben Willoughby. Rounding out the crew of the 197 ft. vessel is Chef Anthony Iracane, Bosun Jared Woodin, deckhands Sunny Marquis and Kyle Stillie and stews Cat Baugh, Xandi Olivier and Barbie Pascual.
Before the 75-minute super-sized premiere, Titheradge talks crew challenges, unruly guests and teases staff changes may need to be made.
Did you feel any added pressure joining Below Deck?
Captain Kerry: The way I do my job is the same without a camera being around. For me, it was no different. I’ve come to run one of the biggest boats in the franchise. The biggest boat I’ve run is 300 ft. This is not the biggest boat I’ve operated, so I wasn’t too concerned about that. Doing Adventure and getting used to being in front of the cameras, I was already used to that. Those cameras disappear really quickly anyway.
It was a matter of seeing me do my job with a couple of extra crew in a different environment. I am a very experienced captain. I’m a career mariner. Ever since I was 18 I’ve been running boats. It’s just second nature to me. Me taking over from a previous captain, I’ve done it plenty of times on plenty of boats and plenty of owners. The difference is there is an audience to watch.
This is nothing new for Fraser and Ben. In their cases where you have a reference, do you watch past seasons and get an idea of who they are before they come on board?
I did speak to Lee and Sandy [Yawn] about the crew and their experiences with them, and how they managed them. Their strengths and weaknesses. That’s how I lean in. That’s how I do it when the cameras are on or not there. I talked to the prior captain to find out how the crew worked together, things to be careful of and aware of, and how to best support our crew.
Right from the beginning of the season, you lay it all on the table what your expectations are. You’re very honest. What did you learn from your first season that you took into this one?
From that first season, I got to see how I was as a captain from my crew’s perspective. We don’t walk around in front of a mirror all day, so it was good having that. I have found myself being able to give the crew more room to grow and more opportunities to work their problems out before I get involved. So, you’ll see me supporting my department heads. Having them take the role of managing their people rather than me managing everyone. I want to give them the opportunity to learn on their own.
How do you think Chef Anthony measures up?
His food is absolutely amazing. The quality is incredible, but that galley of his is a big problem. I’m going to give my staff the chance to move within their jobs, but I can’t have a guest walking in to congratulate the chef seeing that.
What can you say of the dynamic of the crew?
It’s interesting because the first episode shows things I wasn’t aware of. You have some power struggle. Ben definitely feels like it’s his boat, but he has a bosun above him. I encourage him to support the bosun to be successful. Fraser, he had a few captains before me. He is coming into a situation where I am firm but fair as well. For him, it’s about getting his footing and he tries not to be too polite or too sassy as well. He has to work through that balance. Then getting back to Jared, he has to manage his whole deck department including someone who has been there longer than him. That can cause him to stumble too.
You mentioned speaking to Captains Lee and Sandy. Any words of advice they gave you about this Below Deck world?
During BravoCon I remember all us captains got together and did a Watch What Happens Live on the cruise ship. I was chatting with Captain Lee at a time where there was no discussion about me taking over the franchise or anything at that point. My season hasn’t even aired yet. I felt uncomfortable because nobody knew who I was. I was chatting with my daughter. He was like who is that? I’m like my daughter. So he is chatting with my daughter. He said I had a beautiful family. He told me it comes down to just being yourself on TV.
I know Grenada is a first for you. Tell some of the unique challenges you face this season.
A lot of the challenges you’ll see are in our jobs. From getting the right food they want to make sure the entertainment arrives when it should, beaches that have cows roaming along. We have to go there and clean up before we set up and guests come. For me the biggest challenge is handling the crew. In terms of the vessel, the vessel has a history of having mechanical problems. That plays on my mind when I’m driving the boat in tight quarters. It’s very beautiful, but it’s windy. The wind is not consistent.
So when I’m trying to bring that 200-ft. yacht into the slip with crew who are getting confused with meters or feet. I told them to tell me feet or meter. If you tell me 20, make sure you say feet or meter after. It’s very challenging. That wind. And it’s not consistent, so when you’re trying to push against the wind and the wind stops. And the boat keeps floating toward a $10 million yacht. You’re hoping the wind picks up again so you don’t crash into it. There is that going on. We have some unruly guests. There were some guests I had to get involved with.
What was the most interesting request to come from a guest this season?
There is one charter where the primary had one. I’ve seen a lot of stuff, mate, but this was beyond anything I’ve seen.
You’re open about your life and family on the show. How is it having people know you personally?
I like to share things. I do talk about going through a divorce. I went through hard times. I went from running a 300 ft. yacht, and it messed with my head. I needed to be home to be with my kids. So, I came back and started painting houses. I would put earbuds in and listen to self-help books. I went from being this yacht captain in the Maldives and humbled myself to get focused and be there for my kids. I’m painting houses with the guys who painted my house.
That allowed me to get my head right and work on myself and my environment. My dad was military, and he would go away and never be home. My dad would be the guy who disciplined us. This gave me a chance not to be just the disciplinarian and be loving and be there to support my kids. Now I’m on the biggest shows on Bravo and head of the franchise. I want people to know through my story that there is a way out. There is a way out of your hole. It’s about taking a breath and focusing and you get there.
What has been the social media response to you joining Below Deck?
I ventured into the Reddit world and was advised not to. I have quite a following on there. We have a lot of fun with the fans there. I’m not everyone’s flavor, but we have fun. They call me the gif king. It makes everyone’s day. It’s so little effort for me to go on there and make someone’s day and just be polite and myself. I feel like in my little way I’m making the world better.
What are some words you’d use to describe this season we’re going to see?
Even just the first episode and how things went in the season, just when you think you can foretell the future. Each time I think I’m right, I’m not. It was challenging, and exciting. The crew got up to things that I probably shouldn’t know about. And I had to make some changes, yes, changes. I don’t do this lightly, but if I have to make a change, I want them to understand why so they can better themselves. I really care about their mental health and where they are at. When I have to make a change, it’s well thought out and comes from a place of love.
Below Deck premiere, February 5, 9/8c, Bravo