Bravo’s “Below Deck” star and official captain of this month’s Winterfest Boat Parade in Fort Lauderdale Harold Lee Rosbach talks his favorite charters, destinations and outlandish requests from guests.
Is the Captain Lee we see on TV the same Captain Lee your friends and family know?
Yeah, there’s really not much difference there. My kids probably said it best when my wife asked our youngest son if he watched the show, and he commented, he goes, ‘Mom, we’ve all worked with dad, we’ve all watched dad, we grew up with dad, and watching the show is kind of like watching home movies except we’re not in it.’
You were originally in the food industry. Tell me about when you were managing a restaurant in Turks and Caicos.
Things were going along great, and the island was just poised to really take off as far as a vacation destination. They were building a brand new hotel and casino two blocks from our restaurant, and I don’t know what happened, but they ran out of money and the whole project tanked. … While we were down there I took a job delivering a boat from there to the British Virgin Islands as a deckhand, and when I came back I told my wife, ‘I found it. This is it. This is what I want to do.’ Career change—I just fell in love with it.
Did you ever see yourself becoming a star on Bravo?
Not in a billion years. Oh heavens no. No, I still don’t know how that happened. Right place, right time—all accidental. I’m having a lot of fun with it.
How did this “accident” of you being cast on the show “Below Deck” transpire?
My boss calls me up and he says there’s this group of people who want to charter the boat for six weeks, seven weeks and it’s a TV show—it’s a brand new TV show, and all you have to do is take the boat out to St. Martin, hang out, look out for my interests, and you get paid, I get paid, and everybody’s happy. … [But] for one reason or another, the captain they had hired [to play the role of captain on-camera] couldn’t fulfill his obligations. And they said, ‘Well, we need to have a captain, and we’re running out of time.’ So they approached me, and as they say, the rest is history.
Where has been your favorite destination?
I’m not sure I’ve been there yet. I have some great ones, like I love the Exumas in the Bahamas, I love St. Barts—St. Barts is very intriguing. I love the British Virgin Islands, because there’s just such a plethora of things to do there—different anchorages, different places, and the weather doesn’t really affect you all that much. I’d love to do the South Pacific. I haven’t had the opportunity to do that yet. … There are just a lot of places left to explore.
Can you pick a favorite boat?
The one I think I had the most fun with wasn’t the biggest, oddly enough. It was 120 feet, but it was extremely fast. It was a 33-knot boat, which we could leave Fort Lauderdale at 9 o’clock in the morning and be in Nassau in the Bahamas before 3:30 in the afternoon in time for cocktail hour.
What has been the oddest request you’ve received from a charter guest?
Most of these mega yacht owners don’t fly commercial. They have their own jets, and so we had our owner onboard and we’re heading down to Key West, and the way our chef prepares eggplant Parmesan for him [is] just, over the moon. … I went to every Publix and Winn-Dixie in Fort Lauderdale—no eggplant. Nobody had eggplant. So I told him, ‘You know, I’m sorry, but there just isn’t any.’ … He goes, ‘OK, I’m putting the plane on standby and here’s the deal: see if you can locate [eggplant] on our way down, and if you can’t, check with Tampa or Orlando or somewhere and find some and,’ he said, ‘I’ll have the pilots go pick it up.’ So he’s going to send a G4 for eggplant. … It didn’t happen. We found some in Key West, so they were not pressed into service, but they were at-the-ready.
How does it feel to constantly be exposed to such disposable wealth?
You really have to stay focused in order to stay grounded, so you don’t lose respect for the money that you earn, and for everything else, because it’s just so easy to lose your perspective that you still work very, very hard for all your money, and you still have a job to do—and know that you’re not in the same lifestyle, and you’re not in the same circle of friends as these individuals.
What’s been the biggest change in your life since joining the show?
Going out to dinner with my wife and having just a nice quiet dinner by ourselves is just kind of difficult these days because of the popularity of the show. I get a lot of requests for pictures, and I don’t mind. If you can put a smile on somebody’s face just having your picture taken, just takes 15 seconds of your time, why in the world would you not do that?
When you aren’t traveling, you call Fort Lauderdale home. What attracted you to the area?
It’s the yachting capital of the world. So, if you’re going to be in the yachting industry and further your career, you need to be here. This is where it all starts.
Tell me about your involvement with the Winterfest Boat Parade.
I am the official captain of Winterfest, which I consider quite an honor. … Winterfest is just a great organization. They do so much good for the community of Fort Lauderdale. That’s one of the top 10 parades in the country.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’m just feeling out the whole process right now, because it’s all so new and foreign to me. This celebrity thing doesn’t really come with a manual—when this happens turn to page 42 and this is how you’re supposed to react. … But, I’m having a lot of fun with it; my family is having a lot of fun with it. And my wife keeps me very grounded. I don’t really consider myself as a celebrity. I’m just a captain who happens to be getting filmed doing a job.