Captain Sandy Yawn Talks Challenges of ‘Below Deck: Mediterranean’ Season 7
Even after all these years, Captain Sandy Yawn still manages to find herself in uncharted waters on Below Deck Mediterranean. For Season 7, the no-nonsense head yachtie ventures to a fresh destination—Malta—and for the first time, she’s navigating a complex hybrid vessel.
Plus, aside from returning deckhand Mzi “Zee” Dempers, the crew of the 163-foot motor yacht Home is new to the captain. Rounding out the staff are chief stew Natasha Webb, stews Natalya Scudder and Kyle Viljoen, chef Dave White, bosun Raygan Tyler, and deckhands Storm Smith and Jason Gaskell.
Captain Sandy checks in from Denver to chat about what’s on the horizon for this round of charters on the longtime Bravo reality series.
Home is very contemporary in design and advanced in its technology. How was it acclimating to this complex vessel?
Never having been on a boat that has been hybrid, I think it’s super-cool because they are caring about our environment. We aren’t muddying the water. Owners are shifting and making boats that are better for our planet. I had a huge learning curve on that vessel because if I press the wrong button, I don’t have steerage. If I press a different button, I can steer the vessel but don’t have maneuverability. It’s a very futuristic bridge with an incredible bow thruster. Then there was the art of managing the temperature for the stabilizers, which you see in the first episode brings trouble for us.
What kind of unique challenges did you find in Malta?
In the harbor where we were docked, the dolphins [pilings] aren’t lined up. I didn’t have anyone opening the dolphins as I did in Šibenik, Croatia, where tenders would pull them apart. I had a really good crew to help with maneuvering the vessel. The crosscurrents of the winds were very shifty. However, it was a beautiful location, but because it was such a small area where we were around the island, it was always hard to find good protection.
How would you describe the team dynamic? How important was it to have at least one familiar face on hand?
Having Zee there was good because, obviously, he could tell the other crew how cool a captain I am! For me, having a new crew, I love finding out who they are as people and their work ethic. For me, Natasha was such a pleasure to work with. Kyle and Natalya, I laughed every day. For the deck team, it seems like every season I have a challenge in the beginning. We were down two deckhands, so it’s not really fair to the crew. I loved giving Raygan an opportunity. I like to have the women on deck. Someone gave me the opportunity, so I’m hoping she will pull through these and they come together as a team.
You state your expectations right at the beginning, but Raygan doesn’t appear to meet those at first.
I’m the captain with a three-strike rule. She was born somewhere and raised where they are used to smoking. I saw a lot of smoking when I watched that first episode. However, I’m going to give her an opportunity this season. I’m not just going to just bring the hammer down. I’m going to talk to her.
We’ve seen clashes between the chef and chief stew in the past. Here, a romance is blooming between Natasha and Dave. How does that affect things when you have two leaders?
They are professionals. My hope is they keep it professional. My hope is they keep it below deck and not on deck. The minute they stop respecting each other and that starts permeating through the crew and deck, I will step in. I don’t have a problem with hooking up. They have to have some fun too.
What about staff and charter guests?
That’s a no-go zone. I have no idea that happens. That’s fireable. That is not OK. That’s crossing a line. I don’t care what they do when they are signed off the vessel. However, in a professional setting, if you go out on a crew night out and hook up with a charter guest after a charter, that’s not OK. It sets a bad precedent for the rest of the crew and [crosses] a boundary that is [set] in our contract.
With the first episode, you have a challenging charter primary to serve right out of the gate.
It’s okay for a charter guest to have an expectation of the crew. But when they are just blatantly rude, that’s not OK. I think we’re always trying to please the client. There are some things that are out of reach. I’m there to make sure the client is happy. At the same time, they can get a little obnoxious and I have to reel them back in. I do want to make sure they are being pleased. My favorite part is watching the crew flourish, though.
What do you think the Below Deck franchise is accomplishing when it comes to representation and diversity within the industry?
I think it’s opening their eyes. Diversity has never been part of our industry. I think Bravo has done a great thing in showing more diversity and creating awareness within the maritime industry and showing middle America you can have a great career, travel the world, learn about different cultures and languages, and get paid for it.
When you hear about LGBTQ+ stories like Kyle’s, for example, how is it for you to see a new generation helping push forward?
The fact it’s a story and not just everyday life is a problem. Why can’t it just be, “This is who I am and who I love,” instead of having to go through all this. One day I pray that we live in a world where there is no judgment when it comes to same-sex. That would be incredible.
You have your significant other in Leah Shafer. How hard it is it for you to juggle a relationship with your career at this stage? Any talk of retiring?
I’m not going to retire. I’m going to work the rest of my life. For Leah and I, it’s only six weeks [apart]. It’s not that long. We see each other every day on Facetime. When we come back together, it’s like a honeymoon all over again
What’s the biggest part of everyday life you miss when you are away from home?
Going to concerts. Hanging out with Leah and the dogs. The freedom. When you’re working, it’s 24/7. Just being off and having her next to me. I love her. I miss her. Even when she goes to work for the day, I can’t wait for her to get home. When I see that garage door open, I’m like a little puppy. I get so excited. That’s my relationship with Leah. Everyday experiences. We love live music and going to concerts all the time. We just saw Waker Hayes on Fiddler’s Green and Stevie Nicks not long ago at Red Rocks. It’s an epic venue.
What stood out for you this Below Deck Med season?
There is a lot of laughter, beautiful food, and incredible drinks with a mixologist on board. I have a blast with this crew.
Below Deck Mediterranean, Mondays, 8/7c, Bravo