Sandy Yawn, the coolheaded captain who has shot to fame on Below Deck has returned to the helm for season six, Below Deck Mediterranean. Speaking to BOAT International she opens up about her experiences of filming the hit US reality show shown on US network Bravo.
The opportunity for Sandy, 55, to first join the Below Deck series “landed on her lap” after an acquaintance recommended her to the showrunner five years ago.
Captain Sandy revealed that she was discouraged from joining the show but decided to pursue the opportunity anyway.
“Everyone was saying don’t do it, you’ll ruin your career and I was like ‘This just landed in my lap, I can’t say no to it!' I went to the interview and said if it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I thought well I’m already a successful captain, I can always get another job.”
Luckily, captain Sandy breezed through the interviews and was asked to join the second season of Below Deck Mediterranean, replacing outgoing captain Mark Howard.
Despite initial warnings not to join, captain Sandy said she was never concerned about her own portrayal on the show.
“You can’t make someone look bad if they’re doing their job right, no matter how you edit it,” she said. “I’m a competent captain. I’m a woman so I’ve had to work five times harder than anyone else to get there. I'm there to do the job and the TV bit comes second," she said.
She admits that her first season on the show, which saw her take charge of the 47 metre Heesen superyacht Sirocco during a busy charter season in Croatia, was a “huge learning curve” in comparison to working on professional charters.
“When you’re from the charter world, you’re used to having the best charter crew on the planet,” she said. “And then you step on board Below Deck and the chief stew has no experience.”
Working with “green” crew is a key challenge in filming Below Deck, she said. “When someone doesn’t have passion for the job or is just there to be on TV and hope their career is going to take off, that is hard for me. I don’t have time for it, and you can always tell – the camera never lies.”
One area that poses no challenges for captain Sandy is the logistics of filming the show. “I love the production side of it,” she said. “It’s all about logistics, which is what you do as a captain.”
The intense filming schedule squeezes 16 charters into a filming period of eight weeks. This means that two groups of guests will charter the yacht in a single week, giving the crew less than 24 hours to prepare the boat for the next charter.
“Charter means working 24/7,” captain Sandy explained. “We end charter and do the tipping thing, which we’ve always done, and then we start turning the boat around. The next day, the crew are all doing interviews and then we pick up charter again.”
Alongside chartering the superyacht, the Below Deck production also charters a second boat during filming to be used by the film crew for lunch breaks, as well as a large tender to ferry around cast and production crew.
Meanwhile, more than 60 hotel rooms are booked out to support the production while an average day’s filming will see around 30 people on board the yacht.
Captain Sandy is keen to emphasise the positivity of the show, which she says is “doing a great thing for our industry.” “It shows that there are so many jobs in the industry and that there’s an industry out there thriving.”