Week after week on Below Deck, viewers see the crew clean up with giant wads of cash left behind by the charter guests as a "tip" for their work -- and chief stewardess Kate Chastain tells ET, it's not faked for reality TV.
"On a yacht of that size, [a good tip] would be $5,000 a person, for seven days of work," she reveals. "Five grand a crew member, usually. Our charters are a little bit shorter, just so we can make the show, [but] everything else is exactly the same. So, it's prorated. We usually get around $2,500, $2,000. Anything less than $1,000 would be depressing, which sounds crazy, doesn't it?"
Below Deck charters typically last two or three days, but Kate says the crew puts in the equivalent of five days of work to jam-pack the experience with a week's worth of fun.
"We're working not just eight-hour shifts, it's like, we're working pretty much around the clock," she notes. "All the days start to blur together. And during the tip meeting, Captain Lee [Rosbach], will say what we got and I'm always like, 'Is that good? I don’t know anymore… $3,000, are we happy with this?'"
To put this in perspective, those tips are on top of a fee for charting the yachts. Kate previously revealed to ET that it costs about $150,000 a week to take over the ships.
The tips come on top of a regular salary, which differs based on job. A chief stew, reportedly, earns between $62,000 and $75,000 per charter season on a Below Deck-sized yacht (most of the vessels on the show are in the 150-foot range). Second and third stews would make about $50,000 a season, a chef between $70,000 and $95,000, while a captain would earn $120,000 or more, a bosun about $52,000 and deckhands between $40,000 to $52,000.
Kate says there is one part of the tip process seen on the show that might just be for TV -- how the tip is delivered. On the show, the crew stands in line to send off the guests, with the primary charter guest handing over an envelope of cash to Captain Lee. Kate notes that the lineup is standard, but the envelope handoff isn’t.
"There's always a lineup, just 'cause it's polite," she says. "Like, even in Downton Abbey, they all line up. So, I think it's a tradition that’s been around for hundreds of years, but sometimes, I think, instead of traveling with so much cash, they wire the money."
"So, it's not as dramatic," she continues. "But I've had charters where we anchored in the British Virgin Islands, the guests had left, we're eating leftover lobster, drinking leftover champagne, counting our stacks of cash. I felt pretty special at that moment."