The untold truth of Below Deck's Captain Sandy

Below Deck's Captain Sandy Yawn made major waves when she climbed aboard spin-off show Below Deck: Mediterranean in Season 2. As one of only a handful of female yachting captains in the industry, Yawn, who is a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., started off at an immediate disadvantage upon joining the crew.

However, Yawn — known best as just "Captain Sandy" — has turned her unique position into a major selling point, leading the charge through season after season of the hit Bravo show, all the while proving herself calm under pressure, a great mentor, and an even better boss. Comparisons to the legendary Captain Lee abound but this is one lady whose style is all her own.

The reality TV star had her hardships, found love in a modern, tech-obsessed age, and even earned a nickname for her impressive managerial style. This is the untold truth of Below Deck Med's inimitable Captain Sandy.  

She's Sandy to her friends but Captain Sandy to her Below Deck crew

It's difficult to know how to refer to Below Deck's Captain Sandy Yawn — should people use her surname, call her Captain Sandy, or even Captain Yawn? The folks over at Decider were similarly confused, so they asked the Below Deck Mediterranean fan fave how she likes to be addressed. "Anyone can call me Sandy. What happens in the yachting industry is people think we're all friends because we live together. And then they start losing that, 'Oh my gosh, she's actually in charge of me,'" she explained. 

Captain Sandy ensures her team knows who's the boss right off the bat, even though she considers herself a "warm" and "friendly" person by nature. "I always want people to feel I'm approachable. Having said that, I also need them to remember that I am in charge, and if you don't set that precedent in the beginning, then they get confused because I play a lot," she said. Considering how beloved she is among staff both past and present, clearly whatever Captain Sandy is doing is working. 

Below Deck's Captain Sandy almost died in a motorbike accident

Anybody who's had even a fleeting glimpse of Below Deck's Captain Sandy Yawn in action know she's a total boss babe. But her strength goes beyond leading a difficult crew on the high seas. As she revealed in an interview with Women's Health, a near-death experience ended up saving her life. Yawn recounted how, in February 2015, when she was 49, she crashed her motorcycle into a car, which left her with fractured bones in most of her limbs.  

After having full reconstructive surgery on her foot and ankle, which were both totally crushed in the accident, a chance meeting with a urologist friend-of-a-friend led to a tumor being discovered on Captain Sandy's kidney. She had laparoscopic surgery less than a month later to remove it. "Who would have ever thought they would be grateful for being in a motorcycle crash? But I was. As the doctor explained, it might have been years until that tumor was found. At that point, the cancer would have progressed, and it would have been too late," she revealed. 

Below Deck's Captain Sandy is not the crew's mother, she's their leader

The casts of Below Deck and Below Deck Mediterranean might not be as debauched as, say, the Vanderpump Rules lot, which features the likes of Lala Kent and Stassi Schroeder, but spending so much time isolated on boats together does bring out a certain... element in people, particularly young, hot crew-members looking to quash their boredom between shifts. Thankfully, Below Deck's Captain Sandy Yawn couldn't care less what her charges get up to on-board, just as long as they keep things kosher when the time comes.

"How I handle it is, I don't care who you sleep with or if you all sleep together, but the minute you come up on deck you better be professional. I don't want to see that behavior on deck and do your job. And they do. Most of the time they do their jobs," she told People. Although Captain Sandy has had to intervene a few times, she makes it clear that she's "not their mother" but "their leader." And, as their leader, the Below Deck Med star understands that "they have to have outlets," adding, "You can't demand what we demand from these crews and not let them have these outlets." 

Shared faith helped Below Deck's Captain Sandy find love

After years of working in a male-dominated industry, wondering whether she'd ever find someone who could fit into her insanely busy life, Below Deck's Captain Sandy Yawn found love in the unlikeliest of places: on Facebook, where gospel singer Leah Shafer sent her a sweet message about Below Deck Mediterranean. It stood out among a multitude of DMs because of the "many blessings" at the end, which struck a chord with the faith-focused yacht captain. After researching Shafer, Captain Sandy realized she'd be ideal for her "I Believe" speaking tour "because her music has a message," as she told The Cheat Sheet.  

When the two finally met in person, they knew instantly. Captain Sandy even relocated to Denver to be with Shafer. Their shared faith brought them together, with Shafer revealing, "It was like a spiritual connection in the beginning. She has a passion for inspiring through music and the youth. And broken people and so do I coming from the gospel industry. That's what brought us together. And then, of course, the attraction and falling in love with a beautiful soul and knowing you want to be with someone forever. I've never felt that way before." 

Below Deck's Captain Sandy thinks being a captain is "pretty hot"

She may have found her ideal partner, but Below Deck's Captain Sandy Yawn still has to fend off unwanted attention from horny yacht guests. As she told Bravo, it's largely because of her standing on the ship. "It's sexy. It's pretty hot," the Below Deck Mediterranean star said of being a captain. Guests are attracted to a woman at the helm because they don't see it very often, and they instantly want to know everything about her. 

According to a psychological study about the connection between power and sexual attraction, the two are intrinsically linked. The report found that power heightens sexual attraction. Both male and female high-powered individuals were significantly more attractive to participants than their low-power counterparts, which is great news for a woman captaining a super-yacht for sure. We guess being in a powerful position is just one of many surprising traits men find attractive, and it seems Captain Sandy has doubt about her effect on guests. 

Below Deck's Captain Sandy has a nickname at sea that's very fitting

Considering she beat cancer and came back from a devastating injury (via Women's Health) to be one of a tiny group of women helming a yacht, it's no wonder Below Deck's Captain Sandy Yawn is taken as something of a trailblazer in the industry. More than that, though, she's a major bada**. Quite literally, as noted in an interview with Boats, the Below Deck Mediterranean star is known colloquially as "Bada** Captain." 

It's something she leans into 100 percent. Her daily mantra is: "Wake up. Show up. Kick a**. Repeat." With Captain Sandy working consistently in a male-dominated industry, running yachts well above and below 100 feet, fronting a reality show about the industry itself, and frequently battling daunting professional and personal circumstances, the nickname is totally fitting. At its core, "Bada** Captain" showcases this lady's focus on inspiring everyone to follow her lead and push themselves to be the best they can be.  

Below Deck's Captain Sandy didn't always want to be a yacht captain

Watching her work, it's impossible to envision anywhere else Below Deck's Captain Sandy Yawn could possibly be more at home. And yet, being a yacht captain wasn't her end goal. In fact, it wasn't even a goal — period. As she reminisced with Boats, she "fell into it," admitting, "It's not like I said, 'I have to be a yacht captain.'" 

Growing up in Florida, she was always on the water, even cleaning boats as an early job. The captain of the yacht on which she landed her very first crew position wasn't great, leading her to realize she could do better. After being hired by the owner of a 67-footer, who paid for Captain Sandy to earn her captain's license, she stayed and worked with him for almost ten years. Below Deck came calling in 2015, looking for her to be a part of their new Mediterranean spin-off. "I thought, 'Why not?'" she shared. "This show reaches the middle of America and people who knew nothing about charter."

Below Deck's Captain Sandy has an empathetic response to homophobia

One of Below Deck Mediterranean's most shocking moments saw Mila Kolomeitseva — the first female chef featured on the hit Bravo reality TV franchise — making homophobic comments to other members of Captain Sandy Yawn's crew. Kolomeitseva's issue surrounded her young son seeing "two men kissing each other," which was something she wanted to avoid. When questioned about the incident by Too Fab, Below Deck's Captain Sandy said she heard it through the grapevine only, rather than being told directly.

As for how she feels about Kolomeitseva's demonstrably homophobic attitude, the no-nonsense leader explained, "People grow up in different countries and are programmed a certain way to think," referring to the chef's Siberian upbringing. Captain Sandy elaborated, "That's her opinion. That doesn't reflect [me]," adding, "She can have her opinion. I don't really care. Doesn't reflect on me. It reflects on her."

The girlfriend of Below Deck's Captain Sandy is everything the star was looking for

Meeting Leah Shafer was fate as far as Below Deck Mediterranean star Captain Sandy Yawn is concerned. "It was meant to be because I wasn't really looking for it," she told Too Fab, adding, "I wrote a list of the person I wanted, and she's the list," she explained. 

Their connection was instantaneous, of course, but Below Deck's Captain Sandy was quick to note that the honeymoon period has continued on regardless. "You know when you meet that person, you know? And then you say, 'Okay, they're on their best behavior.' But she's actually normal, and I wake up happy every day of my life," she explained. 

The Below Deck Med fixture previously told Bravo's Daily Dish, "I want someone who wakes up happy, just is happy to be alive. Like, that's how I wake up every day of my life," and it looks like Shafer certainly fits the bill. 

Below Deck's Captain Sandy almost lost her life to addiction

Aside from a deadly motorcycle accident, which in turn led to a cancer scare, Below Deck's Captain Sandy Yawn also almost lost her life to addiction, something many people don't understand. Although it's difficult to imagine the inspirational female captain as anything other than a total bada**, she explained to The Cheat Sheet that, particularly as a teenager, she "was a mess." Captain Sandy elaborated on her troubles, admitting, "No matter how much money you have, it's not going to save your life if you are an addict or an alcoholic. And I was a major addict and alcoholic." In fact, she said she was frequently in and out of jail for drunk-driving.

Nowadays, Captain Sandy utilizes those troubled experiences to teach others to stay on the right path. "The only way I can help is to share my story," she said, adding that school was a nightmare for her and self-medicating may even have been a response to her burgeoning same-sex attraction. Her mother was an alcoholic, making Captain Sandy's home life difficult, too. Thankfully, by 25, she was ready to turn her life around. 

Veganism didn't agree with Below Deck's Captain Sandy

Watching her confidently steer the ship on Below Deck Mediterranean, it seems there's nothing Captain Sandy Yawn can't do. And yet, something as relatively simple as going vegan beat the tough-as-nails leader. As she explained to Bravo's The Feast, driving a vessel for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society made her conscious of what she eats, in particular fish. She's toyed with the idea of going vegan, but it unfortunately didn't work for her.

"Honestly, I try, but I didn't feel well to be honest. I didn't have the energy. Some bodies just aren't cut to go vegan. I tried," she said. These days, it's actually her partner, Leah Shafer, who decides what they eat because Below Deck's Captain Sandy is so laid-back about it. "I'm not that person [who has to decide]: As a captain, we constantly make decisions. When I'm with someone else, I don't want to make a decision. I don't want to choose," she said. 

Below Deck's Captain Sandy would love to welcome some Real Housewives aboard

Most people watching Real Housewives couldn't imagine tussling with any of the ladies in the ever-expanding franchise, but Below Deck's Captain Sandy Yawn would welcome some of the mouthiest broads on-board. In fact, she'd relish having them as guests. When Decider asked which show in particular she'd like to see stars from, Captain Sandy chose New York City. She explained, "New Yorkers have an edge. I love to be challenged by clients. When clients are yes-ing you to death, I know that it's not perfect because that's impossible. I need the client to tell me the truth. They'll tell the truth."

As for who her real-life Bravo favorites are, Captain Sandy advised, "I have to admit that I didn't watch The Real Housewives of Potomac, but after meeting Gizelle Bryant...her vibe. I love NeNe, Dorinda, I love them all. But after spending time with Gizelle, we didn't even really talk a lot, but she was so gracious. She's cool." The Below Deck Mediterranean star confirmed, "She's cool on the show, she's real. ...So I have to say, she's probably won me over."

Below Deck's Captain Sandy doesn't appreciate the Captain Lee comparisons

So-called "stud of the sea" Captain Lee Rosbach is a Below Deck mainstay but if there was anyone who was going to not just follow in his footsteps but blow him out of the water (pun intended), it would be Captain Sandy. Even so, she's not terribly impressed with the comparisons. As she told Decider, "When people compare me to Captain Lee on Twitter, that makes me realize they have no idea who I am, or who he is. It's just what they watch. We have two very different career paths. I was a busy charter captain in the Mediterranean. That wasn't Captain Lee."

Below Deck's Captain Sandy was quick to note, "I have respect for him. We get along. He's great, he refers to me as kiddo. He's a great guy." Still, she also asserted, "As a woman in this industry, I worked hard to get to where I am. When you're a guy it's an easier climb, right?" She explained that everything has to be 100 percent by the book because mistakes aren't as forgivable for a female captain. 

Below Deck's Captain Sandy sees being a female captain as an advantage

As much as being a woman made it harder for Below Deck's Captain Sandy Yawn to make her mark (via Decider), she doesn't necessarily see it as a setback. She told Bravo, "Being a female captain in this industry is challenging and inspiring because I thrive on problem solving. Being a woman in the male dominated yachting world is an advantage due to my ability to multi task while managing the emotions of the crew. I choose not to come from a place of power and control and it really, really works."

She continued, "I prefer to be hands-on, firm, and compassionate. That's how I navigate my leadership." Furthermore, Captain Sandy sees her role as inspirational too, telling The Little White Lie that this is her time "to inspire other young ladies to jump in and say YES to taking a risk." She continued, "It's so worth it! If you fall short don't give up, just pick yourself up, brush yourself off and go for it again."