The eighth season of Below Deck had us preparing for uncharted waters before it even started, with the news that longtime chief stew and star Kate Chastain would not be returning after her six-season run. Would Bravo throw us, and Captain Lee Rosbach, into the show’s first completely new crew since season one? The answer turned out to be no: Eddie Lucas, deckhand turned bosun from seasons one through three, is returning to guide us in a new season. Since being on Below Deck, he’s gone back to his job docking tugboats in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, but he’d been itching to return to the Caribbean, where he spent all three of his seasons. “Love my city, love it to death, but Baltimore City is kind of a bleak place in the winter,” he admits over the phone. He just finished a two-week shift on a tugboat earlier in the day, and says it’s been “business as usual” during the pandemic.
Despite his tenure on the show, most viewers know Lucas for how his time ended. The bosun had been cheating on his then-girlfriend with third stew Rocky Dakota, hiding their relationship in the laundry room (and inspiring producers to put cameras there). When the rest of the crew eventually found out at the end of the season, he told Rosbach, “This is probably one of the biggest fuckups of my life.” Since then, he’s had time to think about it, and feels ready to return. “I hope viewers get to see the old Eddie,” he says. “I wanted to show that what they saw at the end of season three isn’t who I am, and that huge mistake that I made in my life isn’t what defines me as a person.”
He’s kept in touch with Rosbach, too, who he says personally asked him to return. So he tried to bring some stability to the season — until the crew found themselves at sea as COVID-19 was starting to spread in February and March, almost the definition of an unstable situation. Ahead of tonight’s season premiere, Vulture spoke with Lucas about his return and shooting Below Deck when the COVID-19 pandemic began.
You had this pretty long gap between seasons on the show. What made you decide to come back?
I felt like now would be a good time to come back and have a little bit of a redemption. The way everything ended up the last season I was on left a really bad taste in my mouth. I wasn’t proud of how I acted and how everything kind of played out, and since then I’ve hopefully learned a lot, and I’ve hopefully grown. [With] Captain Lee also asking for me to come back, I just felt like it was a good opportunity.
What was it like to adjust to being on a big charter yacht as a bosun again, after going back to tugboats?
It definitely had a learning curve. There’s a lot more to clean, a much larger crew to manage. All the toys, and the slide, obviously the bane of my existence. It took some growing pains at first, but after a little bit, I got used to the routine. My body wasn’t quite used to the work that is entailed in scrubbing and polishing and cleaning and mopping all the time. Especially the lack of sleep that you get — I don’t think I get a lot of sleep on the tugboat either, but working on a luxury yacht, and especially a Below Deck luxury yacht, [laughs] you get very little sleep.
You kept in touch with Captain Lee when you weren’t on the show. Can you tell me about coming back to work for him again?
I can always call him for advice, professionally or personally, for anything. It’s always really nice to be able to fall back on somebody like him, who lives a similar lifestyle to what I live in, working as a professional mariner. So when he came back to me and was like, “Eddie, as you know, Kate’s not coming back on the show, I could really use your help on this season,” how could I say no?
What was it like to come back onto a Below Deck boat without Kate Chastain there?
The two seasons that I worked with Kate was fantastic. She’s so witty, she’s quick, she’s sassy, [laughs] and as long as she’s on your good side, she really makes working there a great time. So going back in was a little bit of an unknown, but at the same time, I wasn’t too nervous about it. I knew that whoever Captain Lee had hired on for this season was going to be good, and I know Captain Lee was going to have my back 100 percent.
You seemed to have a pretty young deck crew. How was that for you?
Coming back now, at 35, it was, it kind of was like a wake-up call. Like, whoa, I’m no young buck. [Laughs] I can’t really hang with these kids as I used to, so I had to use my other strengths and leadership to pull my weight. There was challenges at times, especially with understanding this younger generation’s mindset and work ethic, and then also dealing with this younger generation as green crew, and having to train them and get them up to par of what it’s like working on a luxury yacht of this caliber. So there was some issues with that that you’re going to see throughout the season, but for the most part, I loved these guys that I worked with. Their energy was a big part of that, it kept me going.
The pandemic started to unfold as this season was happening. What was it like to be out on a charter while you were finding out about what was happening back in the U.S.?
It was crazy in a sense, but really, it was such an unknown thing. For lack of a better word, we were really ignorant to what was going on with the pandemic. You talk to your family, you talk to your friends, you hear what’s going on, but you can’t really — they’re saying, “It’s bad, it’s bad,” but I don’t have time to read the newspaper. It’s tough to really get a view of what was going on back in the States. When we were out in the islands, you really are in a bubble. I should’ve realized how fucked we were, but I understand it now. [Laughs.]
As the season went on, did you have to make adjustments to how you were working or filming?
No, we didn’t really have to make any adjustments. My mom was supposed to be coming out and visiting me, and I was actually going to be staying in Antigua and Barbuda for another week with my mom after we finished the season. Obviously, it was like, absolutely not, that’s not happening. She has a compromised immune system, so it was like, absolutely not, you’re not coming out here. Other than that, work didn’t really get affected by it until the end of the season, when there was some really drastic changes that happened.
What was it like to come back to the U.S. in the middle of all this and adjust to it then?
It was pretty strange. I flew in on, I’m pretty sure it was St. Paddy’s Day. When I first got to the airport, I had a mask on, I had gloves, I had friggin’ hand sanitizer in a quick-draw holster on my hip! And I was like, “Okay, goin’ in!” Had a layover in Miami, and I got out, I have my mask on, and people are looking at me like I was crazy! People were celebrating St. Paddy’s Day in a bar, 50 people in this tiny little airport bar drinking, having a great time like nothing was wrong. So I was like, Wait. Is there a pandemic? Like, What’s happening right now? And I was confused, so I just decided to start drinking. Then once I finally got home, that’s when everything started shutting down. That was pretty wild, to go from this Caribbean paradise to “Don’t leave your home.” But it was what needed to happen at the time.
You mentioned wanting to come back after what happened with Rocky on season three. Did you come back onto a charter yacht with a new outlook or rules about relationships?
Yeah. [Laughs] I screwed up season three. There’s no two ways about it, like, I screwed up. And it was appalling, my actions. I was thinking with the wrong head. So this season, I was going into it with a mindset of being way more professional and taking my job way more seriously, but also my job as a boss. Like, I needed to be a leader. I really wanted to set an example for the whole crew. I just wanted to go in and do the best job that I possibly can as the bosun of My Seanna. Having fun with it was also extremely important. Have fun with the crew, have fun with Captain Lee, and end strong. That’s what I wanted to do, is end strong.