As Below Deck Sailing Yacht season three draws to a close, Dockwalk catches up with Parsifal III’s first officer Gary King in a rare moment of downtime between charters in St. Maarten.
Gary King is Below Deck Sailing Yacht’s lovable first officer and right-hand man of Captain Glenn Shepherd on board the 54-meter Perini Navi Parsifal III. Never shy of onboard romances (or bromances for that matter), his flirtatious charm and spirited temperament have often landed him in hot water. But despite his reputation as the series Don Juan, he runs a tight deck and is ready to leap into action when the boat needs rescuing from a tricky spot.
The 31-year-old was born in South Africa and found his way into yachting while travelling in Europe. “I spent my money too quickly and had to find some work. I had heard about yachting and thought I’d give it a go. I did what most people do — I dockwalked asking if the boats had any work for me.” He was lucky enough to land a role on the 65.3-meter classic schooner Creole where he spent the best part of a year working as a deckhand. “I haven’t looked back since,” he says.
Although he appeared to join the industry on a whim, he was committed to working his way up the ladder from the outset. “I don’t ever want to do something half-heartedly,” he says. “As soon as I joined the industry, I realized there was a ladder to climb and no one wants to stay at the bottom forever. I thought let’s try and progress and build a career in yachting.”
He briefly considered going back to South Africa to study photography but became hooked by yachting. “I thought maybe I’ll do just one more season. I was getting paid good money and they were paying me to travel, so it was a win-win situation. And 11 years later, I am still in the industry.”
His resumé includes a stint on the 27-meter Swan 90 White Lie, where we worked as first mate, the 37.5-meter Perini Navi Ludynosa G, and he ran the shadow boat for the 69-meter Oceanco motor yacht Helios.
“It was just me running the deck on White Lie; I stayed in that position until I got my tickets, which is actually what allowed me to be the chief officer on board Parsifal III." Even when the cameras stopped rolling on Below Deck, he found himself a permanent position on board alongside Capt. Glenn who, he says, is “definitely one of the better captains I have worked for.”
Reflecting on the last 12 years, he admits the industry has its highs and lows, but that is made worthwhile by the people he has met along the way. “The people that you meet and the places that you travel to make up for everything. You do get crew that you don’t really get along with but I’ve been quite fortunate and the majority of the crew that I’ve worked with, I’ve formed a strong bond and kept in touch for many years after.”
He even likens life on board to “living in a frat house” or “a little boarding school.”
He found his way onto Parsifal III and into the Below Deck franchise after being contacted by a crew agent — and with a gentle nudge from his mother. “She [the crew agent] sent me messages throughout the years saying she thought I would be good on the show, but I ignored them because I never saw myself doing reality television.
“Just before lockdown happened, it [Below Deck] came on TV in South Africa, one of the motor boat ones, and my mum says ’I think you should apply from this shows I can watch you from home on TV'. The next morning the crew agent sent me another message saying she thought I would be great for the show. And because it was a coincidence, I messaged her back and said okay, where do I send my CV? The rest is history.”
King now runs the deck on Parsifal III as first officer, although it is unconfirmed whether he will be returning for season four of Below Deck Sailing Yacht.