‘Below Deck Mediterranean’ Capt. Sandy Yawn inspires, entertains at Women in Conversation

Fans showed up for Capt. Sandy Yawn of ‘Below Deck’ reality show at The Press Democrat’s Women in Conversation event.|

Capt. Sandra Yawn, in her appearance Wednesday night before Women in Conversation Wednesday night, gave audience members life lessons, inspiring tales about succeeding in a male-dominated industry, and jokes about living aboard ship.

The super yacht captain from the Bravo cable network’s reality television show, “Below Deck Mediterranean,” attracted a good number of fans who clapped and “wooed” throughout the evening portion of the event, sponsored by Sonoma Media Investments, the parent company of The Press Democrat.

Earlier activities included shopping at booths run by women-owned businesses and sampling food and cocktails from trucks. The event was held at Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center and courtyard in Rohnert Park.

When asked for advice for up-and-coming young women just starting their careers who lack confidence, Yawn said, “Do the work. ... Learn your craft. I had to learn navigation — it’s a constant process. Be invested in yourself.”

The TV personality, known as “Capt. Sandy,” explained that “Below Deck Mediterranean” chronicles the lives of crew members on a yacht — “how hard they work, how they hook up, break up and make up. Some get fired.”

Yawn got her start working on ships after she was cited for driving and drinking and her father, a police officer, made her pay her fines.

A recovering alcoholic, she said she answered an ad for a job scrubbing boats. She did that hard work daily, learning how to scuba dive, until a man offered her a job. He taught her how to make money with boats, she said, adding that she worked her way up to captain and then had to learn how to “mold” her team.

Yawn said she was determined not to treat people the way she was treated.

“I once told a boss, I’m not a machine,” she said.

Yawn said she fights for her crews to get 10% more pay than other crews because of the hard life of living on a boat, seeing each other night and day, and getting no sleep.

“One day on a boat is like one month,” she said. “I tell them when they have a meltdown, count the money under your pillow.”

When asked by Press Democrat moderator Allison Gibson about her worst experience on a boat, Yawn talked about the time a fire broke out on a huge yacht off the coast of Yemen in the Red Sea.

She said she called a U.S. Navy warship to help them, knowing pirates who roamed the waters would overhear the call. The warship made it in time to tow Yawn’s ship, but the pirates were right behind.

“I’ve been chased by pirates,” she said. “You’re responsible for the lives of your crew.”

Before the start of this season’s “Below Deck Mediterranean,” she said she grilled every crew member about where the lifeboats are and how many there are.

Yawn also talked about her book coming out in January titled, “Be the Calm or Be the Storm” in which she shares anecdotes about the show and explains how one must be calm to be a leader.

“When I hire, what do I look for? Character,” she said. “I don’t ask them if they know the job. I ask them how they would do it.”

Yawn made several inside jokes about the show, and talked about how another cast member, Chef Mat, stressed her out and then quit. She said she had to learn how to cook oysters and other dishes.

The fans ate it up.

At the end of the night, Yawn held a 30-minute meet-and-greet with audience members, who queued up. Some, like loyal fans Cede DeFalco and Madeline Lawrence, brought flowers.

Fan Paula Camilleri, of Rohnert Park, said she never misses “Below Deck Mediterranean.”

“I think Capt. Sandy is my best friend and she doesn’t know it yet,” she said. “She is the most compassionate bad-ass woman around.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at kathleen.coates@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5209.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.