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The Below Deck Mediterranean crew has gone through a lot over the years, but never has a charter season begun quite the way Season 6 kicked off.
In the Below Deck Med Season 6 premiere, which aired on June 28 on Bravo, chef Mathew Shea left the boat before the guests for the first charter even arrived in order to get an MRI for his injured knee (clip above). Though Mathew had prepared lunch for the guests before he left, it was up to the rest of the crew to make and serve dinner in the chef's absence that night.
Captain Sandy Yawn told The Daily Dish during an interview prior to the Season 6 premiere that she had a feeling this charter was going to be a challenge when she saw the amount of provisions Mathew had ordered on Day 1. "When I see a semi-tractor trailer pull up full of provisions, that’s a huge red flag for me. That shows me the lack of experience on provisioning a superyacht," she explained. "When we are doing back-to-back charters, we don’t provision for a season; we provision for each charter. The amount of provisions that I saw on that truck was very telling."
However, Captain Sandy said that she chalked this up to Mathew just getting used to cooking on the vessel for Below Deck Med Season 6, the 180-foot megayacht Lady Michelle. "I do have red flags, but I continue to support them because sometimes, wherever their weakness is, their strengths outweigh the weakness. And the thing is, they learn, right?" she said. "If he was a chef that was stepping off one boat to another boat, I think it could’ve been a smoother transition, but I think because of quarantine, a lot of people were in lockdown, and, you know? You kinda lose that part of it."
As for Below Deck Med's new chief stew Katie Flood, there were just three words that came to mind when she learned the crew was without a chef: "F--k my life?" "I was upset. I was annoyed. I was worried. I was like, holy s--t," Katie recalled during a separate interview with The Daily Dish earlier this month. "Like, can I actually do a season like this? Like, there's no way. So you have a lot of different thoughts."
But with a charter about to begin, Katie said that she had to put all of those thoughts and feelings aside and "go into survival mode," especially since some of the typical solutions to this sort of problem weren't available to the crew due to protocols put in place while filming amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. "You don't have time to think or, like, you know, dwell on it. Like, we've got a job to do. We just gotta do what we can. And we tried our best. Unfortunately, it wasn't the best. But that's all we could do at the time," Katie said. "So we couldn't just fly somebody in like you normally would in yachting, you know. There's the whole quarantine and keeping everybody safe, keeping the guests safe, keeping the crew safe, keeping everybody safe. So it is what it is. You have to deal with it. I obviously wasn't happy. But what other choice did I have in that situation?"
In a Below Deck first, Captain Sandy was able to bring in an assistant chef, Duska, from another vessel in the marina that was also quarantining in the bubble to help out with dinner that night. Unfortunately, Duska's culinary skills didn't appear to be at the same level we're used to seeing from chefs in the galley. "She was the, uh, cook. I don’t know if I would call her a chef, but she was awesome, you know?" Captain Sandy said of Duska.
Still, Captain Sandy and Katie said that they appreciated Duska's efforts. "Bless her soul, you know. That's all, that's all. She tried," Katie shared. "I feel like we could have just done it on our own. But, I mean, it's like panic mode, you know. You don't know what to do. Captain Sandy was like, 'S--t,' and she tried to get a sous chef. Obviously, we have no idea if this girl can cook or not. So that was just the risk we took. And that's how it turned out."
Luckily, many of the Lady Michelle crew members also pitched in, including stew Courtney Veale, deckhand David Pascoe, and even Captain Sandy herself, who could be seen grilling lobsters in the season premiere. "You know what I loved? From the first time I met these people, I didn’t ask them to help, they came in on their own. Courtney just jumped in and took over," Captain Sandy said. "David came in, Googled how to clean a lobster. Like, you know? Everybody was pitching in. I called my brother-in-law, said, 'How do you do these oysters on the grill?'"
Katie said that she was also impressed with the teamwork that the Lady Michelle crew displayed that night. "I think we all came together, which is the best part about that. Like, Courtney, I didn't even ask her to get into the galley. She put her hands up. Obviously, I didn't want to lose a stew. But at the same time, it's like, we need to feed the guests. It's like, food is such an important part of being on a yacht. So that's where we were at," Katie said. "We just did what we could, you know. Everyone jumped in. We had deck crew in the galley. We had deck crew, like Malia [White]'s subbing in the laundry, helping with dishes. It was just like we all came together and just try to keep this boat going."
After dinner, the charter guests asked to speak to Captain Sandy, and they told the Below Deck Med boss that the meal was "terrible" and "unacceptable." "We're on a megayacht. Sandy, we're not on quarantine; we're on a megayacht. We're on a megayacht," the primary charter guest told Captain Sandy at the end of the episode. "It's bulls--t!"
Captain Sandy told The Daily Dish that she actually understood where the charter guests were coming from with their criticism. "I thought to myself, 'I would complain. I don’t blame them.' I thought to myself, 'What else could I have done?' Nothing, other than make them peanut [butter] and jelly sandwiches. At that point, it isn’t like I could just rock in another chef, because of COVID, you know what I mean?" Captain Sandy said. "I was praying that Mathew’s knee would be OK, that he would come back to the vessel, and we would continue our charter season. And their feedback was, you know, valid. It was expected, and I understand. I wasn’t angry or upset. I felt bad for them. They paid money."
Katie said that she also thought the charter guests' comments were fair. "I'm fine with it. I get it. Like, I was just like, 'Yeah. Totally. It's not yachting.' And if, you know, I went on some superyacht and that's what I had [gotten], I would be a little bit annoyed as well," she shared. "So I completely think their response is fair enough. So yeah, I mean, they were annoyed. We did what we could."
One good thing did come out of this trying time: the camaraderie that formed among the entire crew after facing the adversity of that first charter together. It really set the tone for the rest of the season, according to Captain Sandy.
"If you've got team members fighting against each other in a stressful situation, it sucks. But when people are coming together in this stressful situation knowing that what’s at stake, it makes you feel so proud. Even though it was a terrible meal, I was proud of my crew that I just met for the first time, and we worked together for the first time," she said. "I felt proud, and I would stand behind them 1,000 percent after what they did for me, and they didn’t even know me, and I always share this: When I meet the crew for the first time, they get my respect and they get my trust. I have to earn their respect and earn their trust, and I think when they saw their captain step in and help them, I think that I kinda bonded us."
Want more Below Deck Mediterranean? Season 6 airs Mondays at 9/8c on Bravo with early access to new episodes on Peacock.
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