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Fans of Below Deck Mediterranean know Captain Sandy Yawn as a seasoned maritime professional, but before she found success on the sea, she was struggling to navigate through her own life. Now, she is embarking on a whole new adventure in her career, and hoping to change the lives of kids who may be facing some challenges she can relate to.
In an interview with The Daily Dish, Sandy opened up about the early days of her career, and how she’s drawing inspiration from a period in life in which she was “still lost” to help students with her new educational program, Captain Sandy and the Ocean Rangers.
“I was always in trouble, always like, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ Just on that merry-go-round,” Sandy explained. “And then, I answered an ad in the paper. Back in the day, that’s how we got jobs. I went to work for this guy, and I started working on this boat. We went to sea, and then I realized, ‘Wow, I could be a captain.’ The captain driving the boat, he drank all the time, we crashed the boat everywhere we went, and I was like, “That’s all it takes? I could do this.’”
Although she had a natural connection and interest in the ocean—“I’m a Pisces, so I’m very water connected”—plenty of work went into fine-tuning her skills to become the successful captain she is today. Remembering a time “back in the ‘80s” where the maritime industry looked drastically different without the laws and licenses that exist today, Sandy noted that she went to school with the help of a mentor, John Flint, who “invested” in her. She mastered subjects from engineering to navigation and became increasingly motivated when she found that her knowledge would bring her to places like the Bahamas, where she could admire “dolphins and sharks and all the sea life” through clear waters while driving a boat. Years later, as Sandy became a recognizable face on Below Deck Med, she found that the job came along with an unexpected bit of responsibility.
“I realized how many kids—which is shocking that their parents allow them to watch the show—come up to me,” Sandy said. “And I’m talking 7 and 8-year-olds. It’s pretty wild. I was at a Pink concert and a kid went, ‘Captain Sandy!’ A kid!”
From there, Sandy saw an opportunity to tap into a piece of her personality that isn’t as apparent when she’s at the helm of a yacht.
“You don’t get to see this side of me that’s really playful. 90% of my personality is childlike. 10% is adult-like. If you talk to my family, they’ll tell you I’m a big kid. I am that person. I love animation, I love kids’ stories,” she shared. “The reason I’m so organized is, you know Smokey Bear? When I was a little kid, I watched this program, and [the characters] didn’t put the tools back in the toolkit to go fight the fire. So when he came back to look for his tools, he couldn’t find them, so the forest burned down. So that message for me was, you just put your tools back in your toolkit. Little messages like that help shape the minds of kids.”
Sandy’s enthusiasm for animation, education, and the sea resulted in the creation of Captain Sandy and the Ocean Rangers, an animated classroom program designed to teach children in grades two through four about keeping the ocean safe. Through a variety of cartoon expeditions, students will learn important lessons about boating, teamwork, extinction, recycling, ocean life, and more. With a fundraising goal of $200,000, Sandy hopes to get the program into select elementary schools in her home state of Florida.
“My passion is to be able to educate kids. Because when I was a kid, my sister was really smart and a straight-A student. I was not that kid,” said Sandy. “I was in special education classes because I was that slow learner. If I would have had something like this…I think I would have had a very different path.”
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