Best known for her strong leadership and no-nonsense management style, Captain Sandra Yawn and her crew are the shining stars of 'Below Deck Mediterranean'. But away from the cameras and the on-deck drama, we catch up with Sandy to get her insight into the world of yachting, discover all her favorite Mediterranean destinations and learn why "Below Deck is the best thing that has happened to our industry."
Captain Sandy Yawn has been at the helm of Below Deck Mediterranean since season 2 hit our screens in 2017, and has quickly become a fan favorite. The born-and-bred Floridian runs a tight ship on the hit Bravo reality TV show, but is known for her candor and honesty off-screen.
With a new season on the horizon, Captain Sandy has been busy filming on board the biggest yacht in Below Deck Mediterranean history. Coming this summer, Season 5 sees Sandy and her crew set course for the sunny shores of Spain.
In between filming, we managed to catch up with Sandy to get her thoughts on private yacht charter and get the scoop on all her favorite destinations in the Mediterranean.
You grew up in Fort Lauderdale, the so-called Yachting Capital of the World. Tell me a little more about you got into the yachting industry?
The truth is I answered an ad in the newspaper! So funny because this was a dream unrealized.
Have you been a captain on private yachts as well as charter?
I started out on a private yacht and worked on one for 10 years. It was a corporate vessel which was like chartering- but without the tip!
Do you notice any differences between the two?
Of course. On a private yacht, you have the same guests all the time, so you get to know what they expect. On a charter vessel, you have different guests all the time and you need to conform and adjust to their every need.
What's been the biggest hurdle you've had to overcome in your career as a captain?
My gender. I have been turned down for jobs because I am a woman. It's so shocking to me that there are few woman on deck today. If it wasn't for Below Deck I believe we would have even fewer women in yachting. I love that the show always has a female on deck.
If it wasn't for Below Deck I believe we would have even fewer women in yachting. I love that the show always has a female on deck.
You've previously said that being a female captain is an advantage because you can multitask and offer emotional support. How do you think your management style and attitude differs from other captains?
What can I say, it's a fact! I treat them how I would want to be treated, and that's how I lead the crew. Full stop.
Although plenty of wealthy individuals have the means to rent a superyacht, not all of them do. Do you think that Below Deck opens peoples' eyes to the possibility of chartering a yacht?
Below Deck is the best thing that has happened to our industry since Zero Speed Stabilizers! I love that it reaches middle America. Not only does it show its possible to charter a vessel but as you know we are at a deficit of good crew. What we need now more than ever is crew. I feel like I'm in the best industry in the world and I want it to continue to thrive.
The shipyards are aging out of some of the best tradesmen and women ever and they need young personnel who want to work hard and learn. Below Deck has opened the eyes of people all over the world. Bravo Network as a whole is an incredible bunch of people who I've grown to love over time. They care about how our industry is portrayed and they always want to elevate us. I work with the producers and they would never ask me to do anything that would jeopardize our safety or security. They do care.
Below Deck is the best thing that has happened to our industry since Zero Speed Stabilizers!
How do you think the reality of chartering a yacht differs from what viewers see on Below Deck?
The only part that is different is that Below Deck shows short charters. As you are aware, the crew really do act like you see on Below Deck, and as Captains, it's our job to to manage their behavior. It's part of the job. It's as real as it gets!
You once said your favorite yacht to work on was M/Y TUSCAN SUN (now BB). What do you think makes a great charter yacht?
Tuscan Sun was laid out for charter. The stew area was out of the way of the chef area, the cabins could be serviced through a hidden door that led to the crew quarters and it has 3 bars. For a 45 meter vessel, it felt like a 50 meter. The sundeck is the best part of the vessel. It has a wrap-around bar so the guest can sit across from each other and chat instead of turning their heads. The grill is placed out of the way but close enough to serve the food hot.
I love learning about the history of each place we are lucky enough to visit.
Where are your favorite places to charter in the Med? Do you have any secret anchorages or places you love taking guests?
I get this question often, and I like to ask; "What are you in the mood for?" Romance, history, beauty, a sexy setting, a scene where you can have some epic sundowners with a cool vibe? Or maybe you want an incredibly rich art history, a party that goes all night and some of the best tapas on the planet. In order that would be Italy, France and Spain. But the list goes on with many other countries.
As you know, there are so many incredible places to cruise and I must admit when my friends ask me where they should go I always ask what they're looking for. But for me personally; I love Greece, the Bahamas. America has an incredible waterway system and miles of coast with loads of places to stop and hang. Croatia is at the top of my list as well. I guess you can say my favorite is where I haven't been yet!
Any favorite restaurants in the Med that you would recommend to your guests?
I would always recommend eating on board the vessel you chartered. The yacht is the restaurant and the chef is most likely better than any land-based restaurant. Now- if you are on land and not on a yacht then the list is vast; Europe has some of the world's best restaurants. I personally like the family-owned restaurants and little tavernas. They have the most charm and character.
What are your favorite things about chartering in the Med, and the Caribbean? Do you have a preference between the two?
I personally prefer the Mediterranean. I grew up in Florida, born and raised, and in the early days of my boating career, I spent all my time in the blue waters of the Bahamas and Caribbean. I do love this region- it's like a paradise on earth! However, I love the rich culture and history the Med has to offer too. I love learning about the history of each place we are lucky enough to visit. I feel so blessed to be in this industry for that reason.
What's been your most memorable charter experience?
I had a one month charter where we departed from the South of France to deliver to Venice, Italy. From there, we cruised down the coast of Croatia, stopping in Montenegro and then passing through the Corinth Canal and cruising Greece. It was EPIC!
This article has been edited for length and clarity.
Editor's Note: This interview was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic. For travel updates and charter advice, please see our superyacht charter and Coronavirus guide.