- Below Deck -‘Below Deck’s Rhylee Gerber Talks This Season’s Cast, Where She Stands With Kate & Ashton, And If She’ll Ever Return
There are good deckhands, there are good reality TV stars, and then there’s Rhylee Gerber. She’s a combination of both, and while I have no sea legs to stand on when it comes to judging Rhylee’s skill as an employee on a boat, I am, however, justly qualified to judge her skill as a reality TV star, and let me tell you, she gets an A. Maybe an A plus, if you mix with gin.
Rhylee, you’ll remember, was a deckhand on Below Deck Seasons 6 and 7; on mega yachts My Seanna in Tahiti and Valor, in Thailand. As far as we know, she’s not a part of Season 8 (which will probably air this October, they wrapped filming in March), and chief stew Kate Chastain has confirmed she won't be returning.
Losing the two of them is bad news for next season (who will start and then put out all the figurative and literal fires?) but then again, maybe it’s good news in that fresh blood in the water always stirs the sharks. The cast has yet to be announced.
For her part, though, Rhlyee loved being on Below Deck. If they ever call her to be on the show again, “I’ll be right there,” she tells me. In fact, she wishes she could have been a part of all of Season 7 from the beginning, not just summoned as a replacement when deckhand Abbi Murphy, who lasted six episodes, quit the show to go back to Greece with her fiancé or whatever.
When Rhylee got that call from Bravo that they wanted her to fill Abbi’s gap and fly out to Thailand to join the crew, she reacted in the only way Rhylee could:
“I told them, I was like, they should have called me in the beginning!” she laughs over the phone. She has me on speaker as she untangles line on a dock in Alaska.
“I fully expected to be called back [after Season 6] just because, I mean, not like, in an arrogant way, but I was exactly what they needed for drama,” she says. “I did the two things you’re supposed to do, which is fight and fuck! And it came naturally!” See, told you she’s a great reality star.
Rhylee joined Season 7 on Episode 7 and quickly got to work as a deckhand, sure, that’s a given, but she also got to work being Rhylee. “I was hopeful that it wasn't going to be the shitshow that it was last season, and I made a more concerted effort to be a little bit more tame this year but that was, um, that didn't work so well,” she tells me.
Her relationship with bosun Ashton Pienaar was not great in Season 6, and deteriorated even more during Season 7. It was hard to be tame when the crew was so volatile.
“Ashton just always held a grudge against me,” she says. “And I don't really know exactly why, but he definitely didn't act any differently than he did the season prior.” She says that Season 7 showed more of Ashton’s true personality, which, yikes.
The South African native came under fire for his misogyny, violent outburst, and drunkenness on Season 7. He apologized for his behavior during the Season 7 reunion, and said he was doing a lot of self-reflection.
"I'm making serious changes in my life ... And I am extremely sorry. I have amazing relationships with all the women in my life," he said in the clubhouse. "The way everything has turned out in the real world now and the labels I'm being labeled with, I'm extremely ashamed of."
Rhylee says she saw Ashton’s problematic conduct during Season 6, but it wasn’t until Season 7 that viewers did. “It was just the magic of editing that showed him in his true light,” she says. “The year prior” — she’s talking about Season 6 in Tahiti — “I was kinda like the villain,” she says. “And then this year really, he was.”
It wasn’t until Season 7 wrapped, though, that Ashton changed his tune. “Ashton was very arrogant in his interviews for the After Show,” she says. “Before all of the backlash really started happening with him, you could see how arrogant and how full of himself he was and how sure of the amazing job he did as Bosun,” she claims.
Rhylee says that Ashton said he tried to include her and tried to have her back, but “none of that is true,” she says.
As for his apology at the reunion, Rhylee calls B.S. “He’s so insincere!” she says. Kate and Captain Lee Rosbach, who appeared on Jenny McCarthy’s radio show back in January, agree. They don’t think Ashton has any genuine remorse and they’ll never work with him again.
To this day, fans message Rhylee asking her why Production didn’t step in when Ashton got aggressive.
“I'm actually very OK with the fact that Production never stepped in,” she says. (Had his rage been directed at a person and not a van window, that would’ve been a different story.) “I’m cool with it, because it got to show Ashton being Ashton.”
“In a way, they're really doing more good than they are harm,” Rhylee says of Productions’ decision, in Ashton’s case, to let what happens happen. “With this whole misogyny deal, it's holding people accountable and it's calling it out.” Had film crew intervened, we might not have seen, and then discussed at the reunion, the issue with Ashton’s behavior.
Production does, however, step in when the story needs a little boost. Rhylee tells a story from Season 6, when she hooked up with deckhand Tyler Rowland. She was going to keep the romance to herself — it was the beginning of the season and she didn’t wanna “jinx that shit” she says — but Production wanted her to tell someone about it so that they could have the storyline for the show.
She was like, “Why would I talk to these people about it? I don't know them,” she says of her castmates. And Production was like, “‘No, you need to, we need to create a story.’ And so, of course, I go talk to Laura [Betancourt] about it. In real life, I wouldn't know Laura from Adam. So why the hell would I tell her about my sex life?” she laughs.
But she complied with Production’s request; that was where Production would “intervene,” so to speak, she says. (A Bravo producer told me as much when I spoke to him, too.)
Rhylee recalls another time when a producer asked her if she needed a break. A producer on board noticed that Rhylee had been working 19 hours straight, and told her that she, the producer, would speak up on Rhylee’s behalf if Rhylee wanted to rest.
Otherwise, “I think they're just trying to create the show and show it for what it is,” she says. They don’t want to get involved. “The less they intervene, the better.”
That doesn’t mean that the fourth wall doesn’t come down sometimes. She and her castmates were often warned by Production to not drop a radio because they’re $3,000 each, and no one wanted to see one get damaged.
Case in point: if you watch the scene from Season 6 when Ashton goes overboard, you can see Rhylee start to frantically take off her mic pack before jumping in to help him — it’d been so ingrained in her to be precious with the equipment that even in a life or death situation, it was front of mind to be conscious of the mics. Cameraman Brent Freeburg actually dove in and saved Ashton, after putting his camera down, obviously. (Fun fact: Freeburg was a cameraman on this season of Bravo’s Camp Getaway.)
When not saving lives or keeping an eye on equipment (and, you know, the entire boat and its guests and crew) the camera people have a sense of humor, Rhylee says. Sure, they couldn’t and didn’t break the fourth wall that much, but after Rhylee would get in a fight with a cast member (which was often, she notes) she’d storm off and yell at the camera team to “get the fuck out” of her way.
“They’d start laughing,” she says of their response to her rage. “They'd be hustling to get out of my way, just trip over themselves and their equipment,” she giggles. “And then I’d start laughing ...which was kind of good to lift the moment.”
Rhylee texts with Production members, and still chats with Kate and third-stew cum second-stew Courtney Skippon. “I genuinely care for a lot of people,” she says of the folks she met on the show. “I built a lot of meaningful friendships.”
Below Deck Season 8 won’t be the same without Rhylee nor Kate, but it’s no surprise to Rhylee that Kate decided not to return. She was there when she thinks Kate made the decision that her reign was over.
On My Seanna’s last docking in Thailand, Kate spotted the first boat she ever worked on when her career started in Fort Lauderdale. “She got so reflective, I guess, would be the word,” Rhylee says.
“We were standing side by side on the tender and she was excited and she was taken aback. And then she was very pensive. You could kind of see it wash over in that moment and just be like, ‘you know what, I think this has all come full circle for me.'"
(Kate posted a statement on Instagram back in February that alluded to that rumination. "After many months of reflection and internal discussions, I have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new land based role," she wrote.)
Until Season 8 arrives, we have Below Deck Mediterranean Season 5 to keep us company. Rhylee’s been watching when she can, and admires the history-making season with an all-female leadership team composed of Captain Sandy Yawn, bosun Malia White, and chief stew Hannah Ferrier.
“It's good that Below Deck is trying to bring something to each season now that's a little bit more above and beyond than the last one. The all-female in-charge crew, I think that it's a big story,” she says. Especially “coming off of such a horrible season last year.”
The one thing she’d change about Below Deck Med? “I wish I was a part of it!” she says. “I mean, I'm not mad that they chose Malia, but like, what the hell?” she laughs, and adds that she thinks Malia is amazing, and she’d love to be a part of her team. But, hey, they could’ve cast Rhylee as bosun, too, you know.
“It would go one of two ways, right? Like, I'd either fail miserably as a bosun or I'd fucking succeed,” she says.
“Either way,” she says, “it’d be great TV.”