Cruise: Superyacht captain reveals how she faced pirates at sea – ‘Surrounded by gunboats’

Below Deck: Mediterranean is a US reality TV series that chronicles the lives of crew members who work and live on a mega yacht. Each series films the crew, captain and guests on a charter season in a different location. The fifth season of the show premiered on June 1, and took place around the islands and country of Spain.


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As well as a chef, stewardesses, deckhands and a bosun, the life of the captain on board the superyacht is also documented.

Season five saw the return of Superyacht captain Sandy Yawn who has over 30 years of experience in the field.

Sandy, who has been in four of the five series of the show, has charted yachts from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf.

She is one of the few female captains in the industry and has earned an outstanding reputation.

But before she was on Below Deck, Sandy witnessed a chilling and terrifying cruise experience.

Sandy spoke exclusively to about the daunting experience that may explain why the superyacht captain manages to maintain her cool while filming Below Deck: Mediterranean.

Her experience began when she was making her way southward through the Red Sea.

She said: “When I got to the Red Sea, I always say ‘the gates of hell opened up’ because it was really rough.

“The boat was new, we lost an engine and we were drifting and then we had to go and anchor.

“And at that time, we were almost to the Gulf of Aden.

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“We found these two islands off Yemen, and made our way there at five knots on one engine and when we anchored, it was at about four in the morning.”

But that wasn’t the scariest moment from Sandy’s experience.

She continued: “When we woke up there was a military zone and we were surrounded by gunboats.

“And basically, all the women had to stay below [deck] and hide because we were in a place where women were not accepted.

“As a result of that, we tried to leave their territory and once we left, the boat caught on fire and that was about 15 minutes into our trip.

“I had heard a warship [on the radio], and what had stuck out to me was a female voice and I heard this female voice on the Navy warship 68 and she stuck in my brain because I was like ‘wow, that’s really cool’.

“And I called that war ship to rescue us, I just said ‘I’m an American citizen, our boat was on fire and we’re stuck in Northern Territory’.

“The coolest part about that was they said, ‘you are our priority and you will remain our priority until you are safe’ and then they came and rescued us.

“But during that time, I had a security guy that was telling me that pirates were coming because they heard the distress call.

“So, I was like ‘who is going to get here first, the pirates or the warship?’”

Sandy explained that this moment defined her career.

She added: “And that was a defining moment in my career. I won an award for that and my crew were fantastic.

“We did a fire drill the day before that happened so we managed to get the fire out very quickly.

“We were drifting in hostile waters, it wasn’t easy. I even had one crew member try and jump over board during the fire and I just told them ‘I’ve called a warship to come and rescue us.’”

The brand new season of Below Deck: Mediterranean is available to watch on Hayu now

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