Life on the water isn’t what it once was for Alex Propson.
Not only is the boat bigger, so are the waves he’s making.
The Fox Valley native grew up boating on Lake Winnebago and the Chain O’ Lakes. Sometimes he would go fishing on the Wolf River, where his parents had a cottage, and take the boat down to Lake Poygan.
“Beyond that, I never even made it to the vast seas of Lake Michigan,” said Propson, who was born in Neenah and spent most of his youth in Kaukauna.
These days, you’ll find him every Monday night on board the 177-foot Parsifal III in the waters off Sardinia, Italy, on Bravo’s “Below Deck Sailing Yacht.”
He’s a deckhand on Season 4 of the reality TV show that follows Captain Glenn Shephard as he oversees a crew that works hard — and plays hard. Charter guests sip espresso martinis, dine on eel fillets, leave $19,000 tips and break into tears when their cabin doesn’t have ample toilet paper. “Boatmances,” hookups and copious amounts of Champagne are a given. (This is Bravo, remember, the network home to “The Real Housewives” series, “Vanderpump Rules” and the original “Below Deck” and its spinoffs.)
The current “Sailing Yacht” season premiered April 10. New episodes air at 7 p.m. Mondays on Bravo and are available to stream the next day on Peacock.
“It’s been a ride, I’ll tell you that,” said Propson who filmed last summer but had to keep it under wraps until the cast was announced in March. “It’s been a year of angst, not really knowing what’s going to happen once the show does come out and how that’s going to affect my life.”
He left Appleton, got into yachting in Marina del Rey during pandemic
He didn’t exactly chart a course to an oceanic lifestyle or prime time television. It found him.
After graduating from Freedom High School and the former University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley, he was living in Appleton and working in sales when he moved to Los Angeles about five years ago. He got into yachting during the pandemic and met a couple from Minneapolis looking for a crew for their boat in Marina del Rey, California. They taught him everything he needed to know, and he later got his captain’s license through the U.S. Coast Guard.
He was cast on “Below Deck Sailing Yacht” after someone saw his social media. His Capt. Alex Propson Instagram is drenched in shots of him on, in or by water, from Greece to Montana to South Africa. After he and a group of friends from the Fox Valley toured Europe in 2018, he spent four months doing volunteer work in Thailand and embraced scuba diving when his travels took him all over Southeast Asia.
“Ever since then I’ve kind of just had this travel bug, this kind of spontaneous, adventurous part of me that sometimes needs attention,” he said.
He flexed his Wisconsin beer-chugging muscle for the cameras
Signing on to “Below Deck Sailing Yacht” felt like a well-timed opportunity to broaden his knowledge and his comfort zone.
“When I got started in Marina del Rey, it was a pretty new world. I had spent a lot of time on boats via scuba diving and other activities that I had abroad, but as far as captaining or crewing a larger yacht, it was starting from scratch,” he said. “Not a whole lot of open coastline in Wisconsin.”
Even with his captain’s license, he didn’t have a lot of sailing in his background, so he approached the show as a learning experience. The same went for getting comfortable in front of TV cameras, which, as it turned out, took care of itself.
“You have to be so focused on the work that you’re doing, because it is very important and sometimes dangerous work … the safety of other people is involved … that the television part of it kind of isn’t even there,” he said.
“You kind of forget sometimes that you’re doing it for television so a lot of what you see is very, very candid in regards to interactions with the crew and with the guests. Our crew nights out for sure we forget that we’re on camera.”
Those party nights are where the drinks flow and the hot tub flirting gets a little steamy. In an early episode, Propson made easy work of chugging a beer with a fellow member of the crew. Credit his roots.
“That’s definitely a muscle I have worked out before in Wisconsin,” he said, laughing. “Lots of time on the practice field.”
The dynamic of interacting with his crew mates in the close confines of a sailing yacht for reality TV was interesting.
“All I can really say is that you get close really fast. You get to know these folks really, really quickly, which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s tight quarters. It’s intense, hard work so you see the best side of people and you definitely see the worst side of people at times as well,” he said. “But what’s really I think pretty beautiful about the whole process is that you all have the same goal.”
It’s Shephard’s patience and cool demeanor that keep things humming on Parsifal III, Propson said, even when serious situations like engine failures pop up. He and the captain were bunkmates, so he got to know him well and appreciate his many stories from sailing around the world.
“Just an incredible man,” Propson said.
He lives a low-key life in Florida, but ‘new opportunities’ are ahead
Propson, who lives in south Florida, has made friends from the show he expects will last a lifetime. It has been fun to reconnect with people back in Wisconsin he hasn’t talked with in years who were surprised to see him turn up on TV.
“Sometimes you forget how cool it is what you’re doing, and it’s nice that I have tethers to Wisconsin and to the ground that kind of remind me of just how amazing these opportunities really are and remind you to stay present in what you’re doing.”
Being on the show has landed him some “new opportunities” he’s excited about but has not yet revealed. So far, with exception of a few more flights, life hasn’t changed much since his newfound fame.
“I live a pretty low-key lifestyle, and I think it’s going to stay that way, or at least I hope so.”