What You Don't Know About Below Deck Med's Captain Sandy

Sandy Yawn first made waves when she joined Season 2 of "Below Deck: Mediterranean" in 2017. Yawn — better known as "Captain Sandy" — is only one of a handful of female yachting captains in the industry and weathered some doubts when she joined the crew. The Fort Lauderdale native got her start in yachting 30 years ago, after a turbulent adolescence that saw her drop out of high school and have multiple run-ins with the law, per Vanity Fair. Those experiences, as it turns out, made her the perfect candidate for the sailing show.

Sandy has turned her hard-hitting personality into an asset on "Below Deck: Mediterranean" by leading her crew into the depths of the sea, while remaining calm and collected, as a mentor and a boss. While audiences have compared her to the great Captain Lee, Sandy has definitely held her own in a male-dominated industry.

The reality star is more than just a captain; she's dealt with hardships, found love, and earned a reputation for her strict managerial style. Read on to find out the untold truth about one of the most respected captains from "Below Deck."

Sandy Yawn wants her crew to respect her

As the captain of the yacht, Sandy Yawn automatically commands respect, but she does still set boundaries — especially when it comes to what people call her. "Anyone can call me Sandy," she told Decider in 2019 when asked about how she liked to be addressed. "What happens in the yachting industry is people think we're all friends because we live together," she explained. "And then they start losing that, 'Oh my gosh, she's actually in charge of me.'"

Sandy makes sure her team knows that it's all business when they work under her, even though she considers herself a "warm" and "funny" person when she's not working. "I always want people to feel I'm approachable," she said, while adding, "I also need them to remember I'm in charge, and if you don't set that precedent in the beginning, then they get confused because I play a lot."

Clearly, Sandy's leadership skills are working as she has not been involved in a lot of drama on the reality show.

Sandy Yawn almost died in a motorcycle accident

Viewers who watch "Below Deck" will know that Sandy Yawn gives it her all and takes on the hardest of challenges, but nothing could compare to her near-death experience in February 2015. The vessel that almost killed her wasn't her yacht, but her motorcycle. As Sandy revealed in an as-told-to Women's Health article in May 2017, she crashed her motorcycle into a car, when she was 49, and fractured the bones in most of her limbs. But as fate would have it, the crash also revealed another life-threatening diagnosis.

After undergoing surgery to reconstruct her foot and ankle, which were crushed in the accident, Sandy's urologist friend asked a doctor who worked in the hospital to give her a kidney scan. Although Sandy didn't have any pain or trouble urinating, the scans revealed a tumor in her kidney. Under the urging of her urologist friend, Sandy had the tumor laparoscopically removed a month later in March 2015. 

"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 added.

Sandy Yawn's 'Below Deck' nickname reflects her personality

Considering that Sandy Yawn escaped death twice to become one of the very few women to rein at sea, it's no wonder that she's established a reputation for being tough — so much so that her crew gave her a very fitting nickname. As noted in an interview with Boats in 2018, Yawn is known colloquially as "Bada** Captain" amongst her crew.

The nickname makes sense, as Sandy lives by her daily mantra of: "Wake Up. Show Up. Kick a**. Repeat." Her take-no-prisoners attitude has inspired audiences to lead with confidence, be less intimidated, and push themselves to do better in their professions. 

Sandy definitely lives up to the "Bada** Captain" nickname, even though she fell into this job by accident. She revealed that she worked as a cleaner first before captaining yachts and got her first opportunity after she told her former captain that "he wasn't good at his job." Yawn aspired to do better and she did. It's no wonder Bravo came knocking on her door.

Sandy Yawn believes that 'Below Deck' is her calling

Landing a Bravo show is a dream many people have, but Sandy Yawn believes she was destined to be on "Below Deck" because of the struggles she went through as a teen and adult, including overcoming drug and alcohol addiction, surviving stage-two cancer, and more. She saw the opportunity as God's way of telling her to give back to people, telling Vanity Fair in October 2020, "I just felt like God was using me. I said, 'Okay, dude, whatever you want me to do. I feel like you saved my life so many times, I've got to pay you back.'"

The greater purpose imposed on her by God is one of the reasons why Sandy has chosen to stay on the show, despite the challenges and personality clashes that play out in each season. 

"I love to invest in people," she explained. "I don't have an agenda other than to be the very best I can, every time I step on a vessel. I love 'Below Deck.' I like Bravo as a whole...it feels like I'm investing in something that's bigger than me."

Sandy Yawn's faith also led her to find her true love

Besides believing that God's divine intervention led to her starring on Bravo, Sandy Yawn also believes that her faith led her to girlfriend Leah Shafer. Sandy met Shafer, a gospel singer, on Facebook after the latter DM'd her about "Below Deck: Mediterranean." 

The message stood out because Shafer concluded with "many blessings," which spoke to Sandy's faith. The captain decided that Shafer was the ideal lover "because her music has a message," as she told CheatSheet in May 2019.

Their connection was so deep and instantaneous that Sandy relocated to Denver to be with Shafer. Shafer revealed that their shared faith brought them together, telling CheatSheet, "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."