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Crime News Deadly Waters with Captain Lee

Captain Lee Reveals His Run-In with the Law After "Unique" '80s Drug Smuggling Operation

Below Deck's original captain found himself in hot water when the U.S. Coast Guard apprehended him and his buddies for suspected criminal activity.

By Jax Miller

The new host of Oxygen’s Deadly Waters with Captain Lee is diving into one maritime misadventure that left its mark.

How to Watch

Watch Deadly Waters with Captain Lee on Oxygen Saturdays at 9/8c and next day on Peacock. 

Navigating his way from Bravo’s Below Deck franchise, the no-nonsense Captain Lee (whose real name is Lee Rosbach) plunges audiences into the depths of true crime on the high seas, from fatal vacations to ghost ships and more. His new series premieres on Saturday, June 1 at 9/8c on Oxygen True Crime and exposes the wicked intentions of those who thought committing crimes on the water would shield them from justice," per a press release.

But first, the fan-favorite mega-yacht captain sat with Oxygen.com, where he was asked if he’d ever witnessed anything strange or suspicious while on the sea.

“I guess you’d have to define strange,” said Captain Lee.

Captain Lee talks run-in with the law

The Michigan-born captain then recalled an event in the 1980s when he was working in the Caribbean.

“I was delivering a sailboat off the Turks and Caicos Islands with two buddies of mine,” he explained.

At the time, sailors could keep their vessels within the British territory, but only for six months at a time. To stay within the confines of the law, a person could pay their duty fees to extend their stay. Otherwise — as was quite common — a person could sail to another country, check-in, and have their six months renewed upon return.

Someone whose expiry date was approaching hired Lee and “a couple of his buddies” to take his Formosa sailing yacht to the Bahaman capital of Nassau, with plans to return quickly to Turks and Caicos.

Captain Lee Rosbach on Watch What Happens Live

“Well, they had a surveyor who was on the boat a day before we left, and the surveyor knew this manufacture of boat really, really well,” Lee continued. “That was back in the ’80s when, if you turned in a boat and it was a smuggling boat, you got to keep 10 percent of whatever was on board or whatever the action turned out to be.”

The surveyor “promptly” called the U.S. Coast Guard and said, “This is a drug boat,” according to Captain Lee.

“So, we got boarded by the Coast Guard, and they stayed on board, drug our asses all the way back to Miami, and kept us there for three days,” he continued. “The drug hole that was on board was empty, but it was kind of a unique way they did it.”

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Captain Lee went into detail about the sailboat, explaining how the Formosa was fitted with a master cabin, a galley, bunks on the starboard side, and a day head (a small bathroom) on the port side. In the day head, there was a floor-to-ceiling mirrored wall and a commode (toilet) with a toilet paper holder nearby.

“Come to find out, where the wall was, was supposed to be a bathtub, but that wasn’t there,” Captain Lee explained. “And behind the toilet paper holder, there was a little, tiny pinhole that controlled electric magnets.”

Captain Lee on Deadly Waters with Captain Lee

The detail, as noticed by the surveyor, suggested to authorities that the boat was used to transport drugs.

Lee said the smugglers would “come down” to the day head and apply suction cups to the mirrored wall before sticking a paperclip into the pinhole, which would “trip the electric magnets” and allow the wall to become unattached.

“Load it up with bricks of pot or whatever, put the wall back in place, you got your payday,” he explained.

Ultimately, although the boat was fitted to smuggle drugs, there was nothing on board to keep Lee and his friends in custody, as they were completely uninvolved with the boat otherwise.

“We didn’t get anything except hassle,” he said.

Eventually, authorities “tore the boat apart” before it was sold at 10 to 15 cents on the dollar, according to the Deadly Waters host.

“They went through it with chainsaws,” the captain continued. “They knew where the hidey-hole was.”

Who was behind the smuggling operation?

Captain Lee didn’t give a name for who owned the boat, and whether he even learned it was unclear. He said, however, that the man “spared no expense” to outfit his luxury boat to best carry out his criminal activities.

“But, what the hell, it was drug money,” said Lee. “He didn’t worry.”

When Lee and his shipmates returned to Turks and Caicos, the owner was “nowhere to be found.”

“He was long gone,” he continued. “And he had just bought into a hotel, had a brand-new home on the ocean, and just walked away from it all.”

As Captain Lee recalled, the unnamed man ended up doing time in federal prison.

See more harrowing tales when Deadly Waters with Captain Lee premieres Saturday, June 1, 2024, at 9/8c on Oxygen. Episodes will stream the next day on Peacock.