Captain Sandy Yawn From ‘Below Deck Med’ Reveals What It’s Really Like to Be a Yacht Captain
Although Below Deck gives viewers a peek into what it is like to work on a yacht, fans still don’t truly know what life is like for a yacht captain. Captain Sandy Yawn, from Below Deck Mediterranean, provided exclusive insight into what life is truly like as the captain of a superyacht.
She discusses with The Cheat Sheet what it took for her to get where she is today, what a year in a yacht captain’s life is really like, and the tragic side of yachting.
This captain can truly do it all
Below Deck viewers see superyacht stews and deckhands working their way through the ranks, with a few ultimately becoming a yacht captain. However, Yawn says when she embarked upon her career in the 1980s, the concept of the “superyacht” wasn’t readily available. As a result, her hands-on education resulted in literally doing it all on a boat.
Her career began by simply answering an ad in the newspaper. “I started by washing boats,” she revealed. “In the day where I started, there weren’t these big superyachts. I did everything. Interior, exterior. I didn’t cook but I cleaned toilets, I cleaned everything.” She even worked in the engine room where she changed fuel filters. She eventually went to school to be a licensed captain but also took engineering and air conditioning classes.
Slackers need not apply
— Captain Sandy Yawn (@CaptSandyYawn) November 20, 2018
Viewers see Below Deck captains in action during the filming season, but don’t get a sense of what a year in the life of a yacht captain looks like. Yawn says if you want to make money, you always need to be gunning for that next job. “Our season in the Med starts in the beginning of May,” she says. ” And then we go full back to back charters until the end of September.” Then the boats cross the ocean and hit the Ft. Lauderdale boat show. Then the Caribbean season kicks off. Boats that don’t do the Med do New England, she adds. In a season she could do 16 to 20 weeks of charter. But when Below Deck films, it is only six weeks.
Before the show, Yawn said she was constantly on charter. “I did back to back, I never said no,” she admitted. “I like to make money. You would drop a charter and pick up another charter in 24 hours.” Yawn also says in the real charter world, you are typically working with an experienced crew. On Below Deck, charters can be shorter and greener crew are featured.
And you have to be a salesperson too
In addition to being always on charter, captains also need to be constantly networking. “You are always schmoozing the brokers because you want them to book you,” she says. This probably explains why Captain Lee Rosbach and Yawn often seem to be more anxious when boat brokers book a charter on Below Deck. If the crew lets them down, it could impact everyone’s career. “You are in competition with every boat on the dock during boat shows too, so you want to have the most fabulous dinners and best parties,” she describes.
Ultimately, you always need to be on your toes. “It’s a lot of work but worth it,” she says. “It’s a great life. But, I like doing the show because I can get a break. Then I miss it [chartering]. But then I like coming home every night too.”
This is the tough side of yacht life
— Captain Sandy Yawn (@CaptSandyYawn) November 16, 2018
Yawn says she really didn’t have much downtime before the show. “We don’t have lives,” she says. “I never keep a relationship. My mom died while I was sea. My dad died I was at sea. It’s so hard.” Yawn said she hadn’t seen her mother in two years before she died and was devastated when she realized how much time had passed.
“We sacrifice a lot as a yacht captains and crew,” she says. “We are people people, in the service industry. But we are very disconnected from our families.” She’s had some crew leave because they miss their families too much.
But she loves her industry and wants to inspire young crew members. The one thing that will propel you in life is drive, she says. “Drive is something you are born with. I tell kids to walk with a purpose.” Yawn continues to be a fan favorite, so will viewers get to see her again on Below Deck? “Stay tuned,” she teases.
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