Courtesy of Laurent Basset/Bravo Captain Glenn Shephard of Below Deck Sailing Yacht
Life may sound luxurious as a captain on a sailing yacht — especially when it’s filmed for a hit reality show — but despite how glamorous it all may seem, it’s more work than play.
“What we do is not for everyone. It’s hard,” Captain Glenn Shephard of Bravo’s Below Deck Sailing Yacht told Travel + Leisure. “My friends see my photos on social media and they think I have a great life and I’m like, ‘Go sleep in your walk-in closet for a month.'”
“It’s give and take,” he added. “We love it, it’s the kind of people we are.”
Born in Montreal and now a traveler who has visited 50 countries, Shephard — who spoke with T+L from Dubai via Zoom — has starred in all three seasons of the Bravo show, the third of which is currently airing.
Along with a crew of nine aboard the 54-meter sailing yacht, the Parsifal III can comfortably house up to an additional 12 travelers for about $150,000 a week, according to broker site Worldwide Boat. Throughout his time in front of Bravo cameras, Shephard has taken Parsifal III through Greece, Croatia, and Spain.
“One of the nicest things [about Croatia] is it’s a long coast, in the Eastern Mediterranean but it has a lot of offshore islands and all of those islands make it a very nice cruising area because they prevent any swell from the sea coming from the shore,” he said. “You can always find a flat, calm place to enter.”
The calm areas, like Croatia, make the majority of the time the boat is out to be relatively smooth. Shephard is lucky to be adverse to seasickness but is no stranger to rocky waters as he’s crossed the Atlantic about 22 times.
“When you’re out there for that long — and we’re out there for two-to-three weeks crossing from Gibraltar to the Caribbean — your sea legs are so built-in that when you get on shore it actually feels like the shore is moving around,” he noted.
While “built-in” sea legs may be an acquisition for some, it’s nothing new for the captain. His sailing career began when he was 24 and backpacking through Rome when he met someone in need of a deckhand — and proceeded to spend almost a year at sea.
Fast forward and Shephard is surrounded by a crew that’s composed of a mix of stewardesses, led by a chief stew, engineers, and deckhands — all of whom report to him. And while he told T+L he usually has a say in the selection process for the show, the first time he meets the new crew is on camera, only about a day before a charter begins.
Despite the calm demeanor that he’s known for, he said, whether dealing with the crew or sailing logistics, he faces problems “all day every day.”
“A lot of people say I have a very laid-back way of doing my job,” he said. “That’s sort of how I manage the stress — unless it’s safety or something dangerous, I try not to lose my cool.”
In seasons one and two Shephard is met with a brand new crew and viewers get to watch their dynamic as they work and live together unfold — a situation that is poised to create plenty of drama on the high seas. But when it comes to working with guests on board, the whole crew rallies as one team for a successful and safe trip.
“When something goes wrong on the boat we don’t get to point a finger at somebody else and blame them… we are ultimately responsible,” Shephard noted.
When asked what the biggest secret of the Below Deck is, (besides the fact that the camera crew doesn’t sleep on the ship) the captain is quick to respond explaining that even though it looks like tensions and conflict play a huge part in the show, the crew becomes one big family
“Most good crew who are going to succeed in this industry have the ability to let stuff slide down their back and not take it too seriously,” he said. “In most cases, everyone loves each other, it’s like a sibling relationship, sometimes you get angry at them but you always love them, they’re always family.”
Now as season 3 is underway, the captain is confident in his crew — some of which he’s worked with in prior seasons and would love to continue working with in the future.
“It’s a great vibe on board, we’ve got great people. It’s so nice having the core group of Gary [King], Daisy [Kelliher], Colin [MacRae] back and of course, Marcos [Spaziani] was such an amazing chef. If we do a fourth season I’d love all those guys back.”
Below Deck Sailing Yacht airs every Monday at 8 p.m. ET on Bravo.