Below Deck’s Rhylee Gerber: The tough-love BFF we all need

Rhylee Gerber is the tough-love BFF we all wish we had on speed dial. She’s a deckhand on Bravo’s Below Deck, a reality show centered around crew members who work and live on a mega-yacht and attend to wealthy, oftentimes out-of-touch guests.

Aside from feeling like you already know her, how else could you describe Gerber on the show, you ask? While it’s hard to neatly summarize a person, I’ll start with three things she’s not

       She’s not temperamental; she disallows mistreatment.
       She’s not fiery; she’s direct.
       She’s not outspoken; she stands up – to speak up.

Gerber is more than what you see on TV: she primarily defines herself as a hunter, fisherman, and “adventurepreneur,” and has devoted her career to working on charter fishing vessels, earning her Captain title in 2015.

She currently works in and travels throughout her home state of Alaska. You might catch her spotting baby cubs, jumping bare-bummed into glacial runoff, or hiking with her pup Dolce strapped to her back. Gerber crafts her own jewelry and skull art, and spearheads her most recent endeavor, “Uncharted by Rhylee,” a customized vacation package. (Who’s the guide? Gerber, of course!)

I was lucky enough to snag a Q&A with Gerber, who encourages that everyone work hard, speak up, and accept themselves – read on:

Working the ropes
Q: You talk about “living the life of Rhylee,” which is filled with adventures – ranging from you becoming a Captain in 2015 to being featured on Bravo’s Below Deck. People often struggle with finding their purpose. How did you discover your passions and know when they were worth pursuing?

“You know how names just seem to suit a person? It wasn’t until a few years ago that I first made the correlation between my namesake and that of the vaudevillian phrase, ‘The Life of Riley’. Adventures became a part of who I am, largely in part due to my fortune at having been born and raised in Alaska. They call it ‘The Last Frontier,’ because it’s truly just that. I grew up with my backyard the wild mountain terrain, boasting activities from fishing, camping, horseback riding, hunting, and hiking at my fingertips. As children, we weren’t allowed inside until the street lamps came on, which in the always sunny summer months sometimes meant days turned into nights without any measure of time, and adventures were around every corner. This instilled in me my passion to continue seeking adventure in all that I do, whether it be business, pleasure, or opportunity. I am extremely uninterested in a life without adventure and hope to continue to pursue that as long as I live.”

Q: On Below Deck, there were many episodes where I wanted to jump through my TV to help defend you (although I know you wouldn’t need it). If you can’t leave a job per se, what’s your top tip for women who work in – and have to stay in – a toxic environment?

“Working in a toxic environment can occur in any field. I’m very aware that I was not without blame; however, Courtney Skippon said it best when she stated at the reunion for Season 7 that she was unwilling to co-sign mistreatment by remaining silent about it. While she is far more eloquent in her delivery than I am, it has been a practice I’ve very clearly preached for as long as I can remember. While I would never suggest to any woman (or man for that matter) to stay in an environment they are ultimately uncomfortable with, I would encourage them to speak up about it. There’s a right way to do so, and a less right way…and then there’s the way that happens in the heat of the moment. I’ve admitted to having a quick temper and it’s something I will likely have to continue to work on my entire life, but to be silent during the mistreatment of anyone in any situation is to aid in the perpetuating of the situation to continue to occur. Ignoring it does not resolve it and, more often than not, leads to more unhealthy situations. At a job, you are there to work. You’d be doing yourself, your coworkers, and your employer a disservice to address a situation head on without sticking to the facts, but rather involving your emotions.”

Your work
Q: You recently bought a van that you’re building out to live in, so that you can move more freely. What’s the most liberating thing you’ve done with living your van life so far? 

“The van purchase was a long time coming for me. In 2014 my father bought me a forty-year-old 17’ pull-behind camper to reside in during my summer months spent working on charter in Seward, Alaska. The camper itself was nice enough, but with its age came plumbing and electrical issues that I had rather not deal with. This led to me completely overhauling the look of the interior, which resulted in gutting the kitchen and the bathroom, and making the camper a more cozy environment for myself and my dog. After a week of renovating, the camper was involved in a road accident, which then led to exterior remodeling. To this day, the camper still stands, but it sparked a fire in me to have that type of environment available to me in a more readily accessible means, like a van, as the majority of my off season is spent on backroads, exploring the countryside. Earlier this year, I had finally settled on a 2019 Ford Transit and set out with plans for the buildout with @TommyCamperVans, based out of Phoenix, AZ. The most liberating for me is the ability to up and go wherever and whenever my desire hits. Obviously COVID has brought on some limitations as to travel, but the good news is, home is wherever I park it. I am, however, contemplating selling this new purchase, but only to look into more van options with a buildout more suitable to my needs.”

Q: You’re also what you call an “adventurepreneur,” with your own jewelry and art lines, gin line, and “Uncharted by Rhylee,” a customized travel and vacation package in Alaska with you as the concierge. What’s one business mistake that you’ve made in the past that you’ve learned from?

“My mother and I thought up the term ‘adventurepreneur’. I tend to easily find ways to make money doing what I love, so, of course, the combination of the two terms is quite fitting. I realize I am fortunate in this moment to be able to live a life free from the typical 9-5 workday, but I must say, looking back, it was a decision that anyone can make in any situation. Life truly is what you make it. When people tell me they are envious or they live vicariously through me, I tend to respond honestly in that it’s not outside of their own reach. It’s just a matter of having the courage to go after what you want. Complacency isn’t something that sits well with me, so the desire to build off my passions is motivational. When it comes to business and ownership or new endeavors, it has been lessons learned. Experience comes with lessons, sometimes hard and other times disappointing, but never without learning. My gin line, unfortunately, is one that has been a lesson I thought I was prepared for, but ultimately led to disappointment as to who I put my faith and trust into. I haven’t given up on it yet, but I have realized that I needn’t let everyone in on everything I’m doing all the time, especially when the ink is still wet.”

What works
Q: How do you know when to accept who you are and when you should work to improve yourself?

“Oh lord! I struggle with this daily. While I am a confident and competent woman, I find myself reflecting sometimes negatively on accepting myself, my decisions, and my impulsiveness. Not to confuse you, as I’d rather be in this sort of conflict than to never experience the things I have as a direct result of my intentions in that moment, but it leaves me doing the one thing fans of the show know of me to do best and that is, argue. More than anyone, I argue with myself most. In trying to compensate for that, I debate and overthink when it comes to travel decisions or taking on new jobs and relationships. After some time, I realize it is what it is and I have to accept that or I’ll never fully be able to appreciate the situation for what it is and what it offers. Improving how I react to such situations will of course bring peace sooner, and one would think that is a remedy you’d wish to attain sooner rather than later, but of course that is easier said than done. I can only hope to never stop learning from my mistakes or mistakes of others. My intention is to always try and be conscientious of others, accepting and improving.”

Q: How do you define your own version of happiness?

“My version of happy? This is a tough one. Ice cream makes me happy, but twenty minutes later it leaves me feeling miserable. Love makes me happy, but in my experience has also led to heartache and pain. Fishing is a happy time but only when the weather is just right and the fish are biting. I think happiness is a state we all try to be in but isn’t necessarily realistic. What I much prefer is stability. Stability in knowing that even in the good and bad times, I am still loved. Even when the weather is poor, the experience on the water is more enjoyable than what I could be doing. Dairy-free ice cream isn’t better than non dairy-free but it satiates. I don’t look for my happiness in people or things, I try to find the bits of it and appreciate it while I have it. Happiness exists only when we allow ourselves to enjoy and fully appreciate the entire scope of a situation or event but, even then, it’s fleeting. I want to be happy in that I have made choices I can live with and in knowing that it was either to the best of my ability or with takeaways greater than if I were to not experience any ‘happiness’ at all.”

Q: Finally, tell me two truths and a lie*:

“1. I loathe this option as an ice breaker on dating apps.
2. I’m far more sensitive and mushy than my tough Below Deck exterior appears.
3. I am NOT a Bravo TV junkie.”

*Stay tuned for the lie!

Photo courtesy of Rhylee Gerber 
Learn more about Rhylee Gerber & follow her on Instagram


- Lisa Cleary