Mark Howard became a celebrity through his participation in the premiere season of the American reality television series “Below Deck Mediterranean”, or simply called “Below Deck Med”; he was the captain of the superyacht featured in the series in 2016. It was the first spinoff series from the popular “Below Deck” show on Bravo TV. The announcement of his death in 2021 saddened many people, including fans of the show and his former crew. There was speculation as to the cause of his untimely death, and it took two months of investigation by the police to identify the real reason behind it.
- 1 A brief background on Mark Howard
- 2 The Reality-TV Show, “Below Deck Med”
- 3 Highlights of Captain Mark Howard’s journey in “Below Deck Med”
- 4 Things the producers of “Below Deck” didn’t want the viewers to know
- 5 The death of Captain Mark Howard
A brief background on Mark Howard
Mark Howard was born in 1955, in Michigan, and was married to Susan. He was never fond of sharing details of his family or anything personal, most especially in front of the camera. Not much information could be found about him, except that he had been a yacht captain for almost 30 years when the show started. He chartered boats across the South Pacific, and all around the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean. He shared that it didn’t matter if the responsibility of a Captain was immense or if the job could become extremely stressful, as he would love to do it for a long time. Mark wasn’t only an expert in navigating yachts, but he was also a licensed pilot and found it exhilarating to fly helicopters, even just as a hobby.
The Reality-TV Show, “Below Deck Med”
Bravo Network TV had been successful in airing many reality/documentary TV series, which chronicled colorful careers and extraordinary lives. The “Below Deck” series gained so much buzz, and attracted loyal fans around the globe, that it would be a shame if Bravo TV executives didn’t take advantage of its popularity. When they thought of creating spin-off series, “Below Deck Med” was the first concept they had in mind. The premise of the show was basically the same as the original, except that this time it wouldn’t be in US waters, but in the deep blue seas of the Mediterranean. It documented the activities of the captain and his crew on a chartered superyacht, and how they served the demands of guests. The first season consisted of 13 episodes, and made its television debut on 3 May 2016.
The superyacht – Ionian Princess
The superyacht used in “Below Deck Med” was the Ionian Princess, built in 2005 by two powerhouse American shipyards, Christensen and Palmer Johnson. At that time, it was rated one of the biggest volume motor yachts in the 40-50m range. It was 150ft/42.73m long, had a beam of 28ft/8.53m, 460 gross tonnage, and a maximum cruising speed of 12 knots. The interior was designed by Pavlik Design Team, and the exterior was handled by the Setzer Design Group. The superyacht could comfortably accommodate 12 guests in six suites, a master suite, a VIP cabin, two double cabins, and a twin cabin. It carried a crew of nine members and its captain. It had been refitted in 2016 and in 2022, to give its guests an updated luxurious yachting experience.
The crew of Ionian Princess
To help Captain Mark in serving the charter clients were eight individuals. The core members were Bryan Kattenburg (Bosun/First Mate), Ben Robinson (Chef), and Hannah Ferrier (Chief Stewardess). They were his go-to individuals whom the Captain would talk to before a charter began, to smooth out any problems or give final instructions. The rest of the service crew were Julia d’Albert Pusey (2nd Stewardess), Tiffany Copeland (3rd Stewardess), Jen Riservato (Deckhand), Danny Zureikat (Deckhand), and Bobby Giancola (Deckhand). To assist them in navigating the seas were three of his most valuable crewmembers, who were all Greek seamen -Chief Engineer, the Second Officer, and one of the most experienced deckhands in the industry.
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Location of the first season
The “Below Deck” fans were treated to scenic views of Greece, as the first season of the spin-off series navigated its hot spots. One of them was the popular Greek destination of Santorini. Even the crew members were in awe of the whitewashed little houses with blue dome roofs built on the cliffs overlooking the blue seas. They also went to Mykonos, which was filled with picturesque luxurious whitewash villas and boutique hotels too, where the crew had an exciting party scene. Some of the charter packages they offered to the guests included beach picnics at night, going around the popular places near the shore, and water fun while the superyacht was anchored in the middle of the deep blue ocean.
Highlights of Captain Mark Howard’s journey in “Below Deck Med”
While Captain Mark Howard only appeared in the first season of the reality-TV series, the success of the “Below Deck” franchise launched him and the rest of the crew into mainstream pop culture. Here are some of the highlights of what happened to him and his crew during its first season:
A hands-on captain of the boat
It didn’t take long after the new crew boarded the boat when Captain Mark called for a first crew meeting. The situation on their first charter together seemed a bit unusual, since they had less than a day to prepare for the new guests. The interior of the boat was still in disarray, and they needed to clean-up everything. The Captain believed that there shouldn’t be any room for error, so it was important that they communicate well with each other. He reminded them that clients paid huge money to be on the yacht, and they expected the crew to serve them well.
Some of the crew found the Captain a little bit odd
From the get-go, some of the crew found their Captain a little bit peculiar, but not in a bad way. The resident chef, Ben Robinson, said that it was kind of expected, because most boat captains he met were somewhat strange, and explained that it was probably because most of their lives were spent out at sea.
The captain promoted the new Bosun to First Mate
When Captain Mark met his new Bosun, Bryan Kattenburg, whose job was basically to supervise the deck crew of the vessel, he offered him the job of the First Mate. He told him that they already had a Greek Bosun who could speak English, but they still needed more direct communication between the Bosun and the Captain. Bryan accepted the unexpected promotion, although Captain Mark reminded him that it was all probationary. Part of his duty was to direct the deck crew, and if one failed to do his job, Bryan should be ready to face the captain. His new first mate gladly accepted the challenge.
— Tiffany Jones (Copeland) (@NautiYachty) August 12, 2016
Breaking rules had consequences
Not all members of the crew were aware that certain rules weren’t made to be broken. Two deckhands, Bobby Giancola and Danny Zureikat, brought on girls after they said goodbye to their first group of guests. When confronted by the Captain, they said that the girls never entered the inside of the yacht, and only stayed on the deck, but they confessed that they served them alcohol. Captain Mark told them that he was responsible for the boat, and it wasn’t right that they invited people whom they didn’t know personally, even if they only stayed for 20 to 30 minutes. It was just the first strike, and after three strikes, they would be fired. As a consequence, they were given an additional watch schedule, on their first break after the charter was done.
Captain confiscated a crew member’s ‘phone
Fans of “Below Deck Med” were happy to note that Captain Mark knew how to handle rookie mistakes diplomatically, instead of firing off expletives just to get his points across. When Danny made another mistake, the Captain talked to him and made sure he wouldn’t do it again. Taking photos of the guests on the boat was a big no-no for them, and the newbie deckhand even made it worse by showing the photos to others. The captain told Danny that they had to adhere to the rule of discretion, which was whatever happened on the boat, stayed on the boat. As a consequence, he would take Danny’s phone during the start of the charter, and would only return it after the guests left the boat.
The captain fired a deckhand
In Episode 12 of “Below Deck Med,” Captain Mark realized that Danny created a rift with everyone except him, the chef, and one of the stewards, so he didn’t have any choice but to terminate his services. The great thing about the Captain was that he was willing to listen to Danny’s side, but in the end, he told the deckhand that he observed that he was toxic the moment he arrived on the boat, and that his work was subpar. He advised Danny to find another industry, because working on chartered yachts wasn’t for him. Danny was let go immediately, and taken to the nearest port, with an airline ticket, the teary-eyed deckhand saying, ‘The beautiful thing about the word ‘subpar’ was that it has room for improvement.’
The charter season ended with a bang
Captain Mark welcomed the last charter group for the season. The primary client had started a homebrew ginger beverage in California, and managed to develop it into a business empire. The successful owner brought a group of his highest-selling sales representatives as a reward for a job well done. When the Captain had a meeting with the core members of his crew, they weren’t quite happy with some of the listed activities they needed to prepare for, such as the picnic on the beach. It was windy season, and Hannah knew that it would be difficult to arrange a picnic during that time of the year. However, since they were all professionals and it was the last one for the season, they gave their best to give the group their most memorable yachting experience. Before the guests left the boat, the captain was given a thick envelope filled with money for him and the crew to share as their gratuities. The guests were happy with their experience, so each of the crew members received $2000, the biggest tip they received in the entire first season.
Things the producers of “Below Deck” didn’t want the viewers to know
After watching seasons of the “Below Deck” franchise TV series, many fans were curious to know if everything that happened every season was real or scripted.
Guests paid lesser fees for the yachting experience
Those who dreamed of having a yacht vacation could book Below Deck Mediterranean packages, as it was proven to be a budget-friendly way to be on a superyacht. The fees were much less compared to what was being marketed on most of the commercial yachting vacation packages. The only catch was that the guests should agree to be filmed 24/7, and that the package offered fewer days on the yacht. No privacy was afforded to the guests, as their conversations and actions would be documented and aired on Bravo TV.
The guests couldn’t play music on board the boat
Some fans wondered why guests never played popular music when everyone wanted to party during vacations. There were times the guests would only go out of their rooms to order food or drinks, and then locked their doors afterward. Some found it odd, but it was because the producers didn’t want any music played on TV due to licensing issues. The guests would often have their parties behind closed doors.
Rules to follow if you want to board “Below Deck Med”
There were a few rules that the guests must follow if they wished to be included in the TV series, such as never to say the word “Bravo” in front of the camera. Hidden microphones were attached to everyone, so everything was recorded. Another rule to adhere to was that no guest was allowed to speak to the producers of the show, the cameramen, and the audio staff.
Guests and crew members can be removed from the show
Violence and racism weren’t tolerated in the show. The show was edited, and while it was easy for the staff to just remove unwanted footage that couldn’t be aired on TV, it didn’t mean the captain or the producers wouldn’t remove the toxic person from the boat. Fans would become confused sometimes, when a guest or a crew member went missing from the remaining season without any explanation. It was largely because that individual probably broke the rules, most of the time, during a drinking spree – some people couldn’t handle alcohol that well.
The death of Captain Mark Howard
Captain Mark Howard wasn’t included in the succeeding seasons of “Below Deck Med” for unknown reasons. Hanna and Bobby were the only people who appeared in the second season, but Hannah told the curious fans that she was still in contact with the Captain at that time, so the fans were reassured that everything was okay. She posted, ‘Captain Mark and I, we send a message maybe once a year, just to touch base.’
News of his passing was reported in October 2021, but not all fans became aware of it; it was only when one of his former crew members, Tiffany Copeland, posted a tribute on her social media account on 29 October 2021. She tweeted, ‘RIP Captain Mark Howard. You were a joy to be around 💕.’ The former Deckhand, now a Captain, said that she learned about it from another former cast member, Bryan Kattenburg, but shared that the two still bonded after the filming of the TV series. Hannah also posted on Instagram, ‘You were a great captain, friend, and colleague. Always the gentleman. You will be missed.’ Bravo TV posted online, ‘Our thoughts and sincerest sympathies are with the family and friends of the respected Captain Mark Howard.’ The network said that he would always be remembered for his mentorship and contributions, especially during the filming of the first season of the spin-off series, and would forever be a part of the Bravo TV family.
The investigation of foul play and the official cause of death
According to some news reports, the Captain’s body was discovered in their Florida home by his wife. She was away attending a dog show in Ocala days prior, and she found it strange that he didn’t come out to greet her when she arrived. It seemed that he’d been dead for a few days before he was found. The Fernandina Beach Police Department reported that their investigators found it suspicious that there were blood droplets found on the floor next to the body, and traces of blood on his face. The police couldn’t tell if trauma was evident during the initial investigation, but also observed that there was blood on the right leg of the pants of his wife, but she said she must have gotten it when she discovered the body.
To rule out any foul play, the police studied the crime scene and investigated properly to figure out what had happened to him. After two months, the official medical examiner’s report stated that Mark died of natural causes, caused by hypertensive cardiovascular disease with chronic alcoholism. He was 65 years old.