Capt. Kerry Titheradge and Fraser Olender on Navigating 'Below Deck's First Season Without Capt. Lee Rosbach

'Below Deck' sails into a new era with 'Adventure's captain. Plus, why 'RHONY's Jill Zarin is season 11's most difficult guest.

Captain Kerry Titheradge knew he was stepping into a "massive hole" when he got the call to helm Below Deck, the flagship series in Bravo's most-watched franchise, taking over for Captain Lee Rosbach, who's been at the helm (pun intended) of the show since its premiere in 2013.

"Lee has been the backbone of Below Deck for 10 years," Kerry, who served as captain on the spinoff Below Deck: Adventure, remarks to ET over video chat, promoting the new episodes alongside season 11's returning chief stew, Fraser Olender

"I've known Lee since before Below Deck, we used to play golf together, and before I took on Adventure, I called Lee up and I asked him, I said, 'Mate, would you do this again if you could redo this?'" Kerry recalls. "He said, 'Absolutely, mate...' and his best piece of advice is just, be yourself and that is what I did."

Kerry says he touched base with Lee before officially taking his place on Below Deck, getting the fan-favorite's blessing. While no official word has been given for the shake-up, it seems the health struggles that forced Lee to take a leave of absence in season 10 may be a factor. Lee's made it known it wasn't his call to step aside, but he remains in the NBCUniversal fold with Bravo's Couch Talk, co-starring one-time Below Deck chief stew Kate Chastain, and as the host of Oxygen's new true-crime series, Deadly Waters.

"I came to St. David, the biggest yacht in Below Deck history, the third captain of a franchise to drive the boat, with an amazing chief stew and we just rocked it," Kerry boasts. 

Fraser has the unique honor of serving under four captains, the most of anyone else in franchise history; in addition to Lee and Kerry, he's worked with Captain Sean Meagher, who briefly stepped in for Lee on season 9, and Captain Sandy Yawn, the Mediterranean mainstay who took over for Lee amid those health complications in season 10.

"Each and every one of those [captains] lets you grow and become a better stew, or better crew member in general, because of it," Fraser says. "So, I'm very pleased to have been with all of them. You know, I did have a bit of a head-bump with Captain Sandy, but we're all good. We're pals now, and Lee taught me a lot, but equally, I wouldn't be where I was today without having filmed such a successful season with Captain Kerry. So, I'm grateful for all of their input for sure."

Fred Jagueneau / Bravo

"I want to keep my job," he quips, acknowledging his very political answer.

Kerry offers praise right back to Fraser. As for the rest of the crew fans will meet as the season unfolds, it's not exactly smooth sailing. In the premiere, Kerry notes that the most difficult part of his job is not driving the boat; it's navigating the personalities on board. 

"We have some people that are just, generally, very difficult," Fraser teases, sharing that at least one team member comes close to season 10's Camille Lamb. Sandy fired Camille midseason due to poor performance and her arguably erratic behavior. 

"I think my crew cried every day," Fraser reveals. "Someone did every day, at least twice a day, for six weeks."

"Xandi is a phenomenal stewardess, and I don't know where I'd be without her," he shares, previewing this year's stews. "Cat is adorable and tries her best, and Barbie is lovely... but a problem child."

There is one more familiar face working aboard St. David this season; Ben Willoughby returns as lead deckhand, and a bit of a pain in Fraser's side.

"We do butt heads," Fraser admits. "He loves to get involved with my girls on the interior, and I'm here to work, and I'm here to have a successful charter season ... and maybe, put your flirty pants at the door until the end of the season, but he just loved-- I think he knows my trigger, but he knows where my buttons are. He likes to press them, and I guess it's my fault for letting him get to me the way it does."

As with every season of Below Deck, the captain is only clued into some (or maybe, most of) the drama when the show makes it to air. 

Fred Jagueneau / Bravo

"To see the trailer, and especially to see that part with Ben and Fraser and Ben's, like, smirk-walk where he dismisses Fraser, mate, that pissed me off," Kerry rattles off, referencing a moment from the supertease in which Ben shames Fraser for having more team members fired than any other department. 

"There is so much drama," Fraser promises. "I remember filming it in the field and thinking, 'Surely, we have enough now to wrap up this season and get some production on it,' but no, it just kept going."

All the drama is surely thanks in part to the charter guests, who stay anywhere from one to three nights on St. David. Kerry says the trailer, which previews some of the worst behavior from guests in the show's history, barely scratches the surface of what's to come.

"What you've seen are the tamest guests we've had," Kerry explains. "When I saw the trailer, I'm like, 'Come on, man!' So much more to come."

That includes Jill Zarin, the Real Housewives of New York City OG. Fraser downright declares her the "most difficult" guest of the entire season, with non-stop demands. On the flip side, there are some enjoyable visitors -- including one who added "a kiss with Fraser" to his preference sheet! 


"I do remember, I'm at my desk in my cabin and we're having... it was a New Year's Eve party, Fraser comes up to me, very sheepish, he didn't make much eye contact and he's like, 'Captain, I don't like this idea... but what are your thoughts on crew kissing a guest for New Year's Eve?'" Kerry shares. "And I said, 'Mate, look, I don't want any of the crew members hassled. Does the crew member want to?' And he looked at me and goes, 'Yes...' I didn't have to even ask who it was gonna be. I just went back to our paperwork and nodded my head."

"I have a rule: you're able to ask permission or you don't get caught," he adds. "That's it." 

"I thought that I'd rather not get in trouble, I'd rather keep my job over a smooch for God's sake," Fraser says. "Listen, it's been my golden rule since day one to not get with guests, but it was part of the entertainment of the night. It didn't go any further than that, apart from it may have when we dropped them off, but then they were no longer guests, so I didn't see the problem." 

Below Deck airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo starting Feb. 5, with episodes streaming next day on Peacock.


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