Below Deck Mediterranean season 8 star Captain Sandy Yawn recently retold her story about nearly getting taken prisoner by pirates. However, a more detailed account of the harrowing experience — where she and 13 other crew members’ lives were in jeopardy repeatedly — was explained in her book Be the Calm or Be the Storm. In the chapter “True North”, the Below Deck Med star recounts the ill-fated trip where she and her crew had to abandon delivering a heavily damaged brand new superyacht. Captain Sandy’s pirate story starts off with a lot of other dangers presenting themselves beforehand.
In recent interview with FOX Business, Captain Sandy told a host: “Honestly, you know, when you have 13 souls on board that are looking to you to lead them, and you go, by the way, the pirates are on the way. Is a warship going to rescue us or the pirates? It’s very scary. It was a race between the two,” she explained. But missing in her interview was most of the rest of the incredible story.
In her book, Be the Calm or Be the Storm: Leadership Lessons from a Woman at the Helm (available on Amazon), Captain Sandy sets up the sea tale much better. (Show Star News earns affiliate link commissions on links in this article.)
“The plan was to deliver my boss’s brand new, 157-foot yacht to Dubai south through the Red Sea, past the Gulf of Aden, then up along the coast of Yemen and Oman in the Arabian Sea to the United Arab Emirates — a 20-day journey of 4,997 nautical miles that would get us there before the end of Ramadan,” Captain Sandy wrote in her book.
Below Deck Mediterranean Star Captain Sandy’s Pirate Story Explained
“It was November 2004, a year into the U.S. war with Iraq and numerous other skirmishes across North Africa and the Middle East. But no matter — one of the world’s wealthiest had some celebrating to do, and I did not want to disappoint,” Captain Sandy continued.
The first signs of trouble on the failed expedition took place in Egypt. Captain Sandy’s chef at the time, Deborah, flipped out at a man beating his wife publicly while they were visiting the pyramids in Giza. Captain Sandy had to get her to stop before they got arrested. From there, Captain Sandy dealt with the overt sexism in that region when crossing the Suez Canal and other boats they dealt with. Superyacht White Star — still in operation today — then hit some very choppy waters of 8- to 10-foot waves. Captain Sandy in her book described it as “like a cork in one of the bottles of the champagne for which [the boat] was named.”
Considering the vessel was brand new, Captain Sandy was worried whether or not the boat was assembled properly. Unfortunately they found out the hard way. The boat started taking on water. So Captain Sandy sent her first officer, Derrick, who found out one of the deck drains hadn’t been installed properly. Despite suffering from severe sea sickness due to the huge swells, Derrick managed to block the leak. But that was just the start of their troubles on the $60 million motor yacht.
Hydraulic failure and overheating engines forced Captain Sandy to decide to get close the coast of Eritrea or Yemen. She opted for the latter, and they put down anchor by a small island at 3 a.m. Only a few hours later, Captain Sandy and crew were surrounded by Yemeni military gun boats. Evidently they’d stumbled into an unmarked military zone.
Below Deck Mediterranean Star Captain Sandy Wins Award For Bravery After Yacht Disaster
One of Captain Sandy’s senior crew members advised her and the other women aboard to hide. At first she objected, as she was the captain, but she realized it was the best option considering the Yemenis wouldn’t recognize her authority because of her gender. After the Yemeni navy left the crew alone to fix the engine, five days passed before things were supposedly fixed and they set sail again.
However, things went awry again almost immediately. A fire broke out in the engine room not long after hauling anchor.
“Right after Brad spoke those words, the entire vessel lost power. Flames were coming out of the exhaust when a giant fireball suddenly ripped through the engine room.” Captain Sandy recalled in her book. The engineer was almost killed because Derrick pulled the CO2 extinguisher, directly violating Captain Sandy’s order. The two men almost got in a physical altercation as Captain Sandy deescalated the situation.
Captain Sandy, only age 34 at the time, then called in a U.S. Navy warship captained by a woman, too, to come rescue them because they were sitting ducks floating at sea without any working engines. Her distress signal was overheard by local pirate ships. Luckily Warship 68 came in the nick of time. Only recently back then an American naval ship had been attacked and killed 17.
But Captain Sandy’s trial and tribulations didn’t end there. She was stuck in Yemen with the boat for weeks and also became ill with malaria. Of course, Captain Sandy tells the story way better in Be the Calm or Be the Storm: Leadership Lessons from a Woman at the Helm (available on Amazon). And that’s all in just the first chapter. The book also includes lots of crucial lessons about leadership from Captain Sandy’s life.
Captain Sandy also won an award for staying cool under pressure during the ordeal, and making sure all her crew stayed safe. She also saved a stewardess who was attempting to jump overboard when the fire broke out.