Capt. Sandy Yawn will soon be a familiar face to fans of Bravo’s reality TV show Below Deck Mediterranean, when she becomes the first female captain on the series this season.
The Florida native has 25 years of experience in the megayacht industry and holds a USCG Master of Oceans 1600T/3000T All Oceans license. Her career at the helm has taken her through the Suez Canal, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, and she has extensive knowledge of the U.S. East Coast, the Gulf Coast, the Bahamas, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.
In 2004, Yawn and her crew were recognized for their handling of a shipboard fire in the Red Sea with a “Distinguished Crew Award” from the International Superyacht Society. A member of the Captain’s Advisory Council for the Seakeeper’s Society, Yawn is also an avid scuba diver and skier.
First memory of being on a boat: I was around 4 or 5 years old, and my family would always go to a place called Fort Hamer in Palmetto, Florida, to water-ski.
First boat you skippered: I worked as a crewmember on a 112-foot Broward in 1989. [Starting] in 1991 I worked on a 67-foot Hatteras for nine years. The owner sent me to school, and in 1992 I got a 100-ton license.
Last or current boat: The 154-foot Heesen Sirocco in the Mediterranean for Below Deck Mediterranean.
Favorite boat you’ve skippered: The 148-foot Tuscan Sun. I had the best crew and charter manager ever. The boat had the perfect charter layout, and we made a lot of money!
Your dream boat: A Lürssen, of course!
Most rewarding (sailing) experience: We had a one-month charter from Venice, Italy, cruising Croatia and transiting the Corinth Canal on our way to Greece. It was spectacular! A dream come true to run a boat through the Corinth Canal.
Scariest adventure aboard: Fire in the Red Sea. We were making our way to the United Arab Emirates. The owner wanted his boat there to celebrate Ramadan. We had security on board because of the pirate activity in the area. We sustained a catastrophic mechanical fire and were drifting off the coast of Yemen — not a place one would want to holiday! We were rescued by a U.S. Navy warship monitoring the Red Sea as part of the NATO coalition and towed to Al Hudaydah Port in Yemen, where I spent 13 days in hell waiting for the insurance company to find us a transport ship for the vessel. As the captain you stay with the vessel until it is safe and secure. Maybe I should be the chef!
Most memorable experience aboard: Anchored off Mount Stromboli, watching the volcano shoot flames as the sun was setting — the sea was like glass, and we had a cool breeze. I was on the bridge-wing watching … one of the most serene and surreal moments in my life.
Longest time you’ve spent at sea without setting foot on land: 22 days.
Favorite destination so far: There are so many favorites; I think it all depends on one’s mood. I like to describe Spain as the fiesta country, France as the sexy country and Italy as the romantic country — the U.S. is adventure! But if I had to choose one it would be [Italy’s] Amalfi Coast, and that is because I am a romantic at heart.
Favorite nautical book:Shackleton’s Way by Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell. It’s a leadership read. I love how Shackleton kept his crew alive during the Antarctic winter. He was a true leader.
Favorite nautical cause you support: The International Seakeepers Society. It promotes oceanographic research, conservation and education (seakeepers.org). I love what it stands for and the people involved!
Favorite quote about the sea: “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” — Jacques Cousteau
This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue.