Captain Sandy Yawn

Captain Sandy Yawn may be one of few female superyacht captains, but she never doubted she could operate a large vessel, meet her clients’ needs, and manage a crew with ease and grace. The 27-year industry veteran found fame on Bravo’s “Below Deck Mediterranean,” where she not only navigated the 154-foot Sirocco — a 2006 Heesen — she also gave viewers insight into how she skillfully navigates the needs of her clients, any unforeseen problems aboard the yacht, and the dramas that unfold among the crew.

MarineMax caught up with Capt. Sandy to ask her about challenges, accomplishments, and her newfound fame as the captain on “Below Deck.”

  • steering wheel

    When did you decide you wanted to be a captain?

    I worked on a boat and that captain wasn’t the best captain. He wouldn’t allow me onto the bridge. I thought in my mind, I want to be a captain, and I’ll never do that. I am a people person, I love interacting with people, and I think because I think about how I would like to be treated, that’s why I make such a good captain. 
  • rope tied to cleat

    Where are your favorite destinations?

    It depends on the mood. There are so many amazing places in the world to go. Even narrowing down the western Mediterranean is hard. Spain is all about the fiesta, the party. France is more sexy; everyone’s dressed, and it’s all about pastries and wine and cheeses. Italy, I describe as romantic; it’s about the food and romance. So many amazing places. Do I have a favorite? They’re all my favorite. It just depends on the mood.
  • boats tied up and anchored

    What do you do when people doubt your skills because you're a woman?

    My personality isn’t one to prove I’m the captain to people. My style is more finesse. On the 157-foot Trinity I used to captain, I felt so comfortable with the vessel because I went through the build process with the owner. I knew the boat inside and out. When I went to dock the boat and everyone would come out to watch, you could see them saying, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s a woman!’ I’d wink at them and smile. For me, it’s not aggressive; just be assertive and put it on the lighter side. Women actually have brains. They can learn and maneuver and negotiate.
  • wake in water with island in distance

    How did you find people within the industry handled a female captain?

    When the shipyard period came around, that’s when I really felt a challenge. I’d be on board with the engineers. I know equipment. They don’t have to talk to me like I’m an idiot. I selected engineers not by their knowledge, but by their attitude — because I had the knowledge. I felt confident knowing I had the numbers of all the manufacturers and vendors on my phone. They could learn that; the attitude they could not. 
  • boat on blue water

    How do you run your crew?

    The crew reflects on the captain, so I expect a lot, but I also believe in people. When I’ve had crew do stupid things, I tell them, ‘Look at where your feet are.’ As long as I believe in the crew and show I’m not above what I’m asking to do, they don’t want to let me down. You have to have people skills. You can’t be a dictator. I’m direct. I’m kind. When I’ve had to fire someone, I say, ‘I like you, I want to stay in touch with you, but I can’t keep you on board because you’re not doing your job.’
  • water with islands in the distance

    Do you encourage other women to captain their own boats and charters?

    There aren’t a lot of women on deck. I love the TV show because they’re putting a lot of women on deck in front of millions of viewers. My passion is grabbing these young women and saying, ‘You would make an amazing chef,’ or ‘You would make an amazing captain.’ In my industry, deficit of crew is a big issue. That’s where my passion is. We want more women boaters, but we also want more women captains.
  • stairs outside

    What do you think Below Deck has taught people about the industry that they didn't already know?

    It’s showing America that there is a job in the maritime industry and anything is possible. That’s the greatest thing about the American dream. The maritime career is possible for anyone in America. You have to show up and do the work. But that’s the American dream. I’m creating an ‘I Believe’ tour because everyone is asking how I did it. I believed. When I got knocked down, I got up, brushed myself off again, and I navigated.
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