Celebrity News

Captain Sandy’s beautiful love boat wedding

The beloved Below Deck star ties the knot in an intimate ceremony at sea
Captain Sandy Yawn on a wharf surrounded by boats

Below Deck Mediterranean star Captain Sandy Yawn is made of stern stuff. The fan favourite has been chased through the Red Sea by pirates, left for dead after a motorcycle accident in 2015 and survived 14 arrests when she was battling addiction in her youth. But Sandy reveals a softer side when she talks about her wife, gospel singer Leah Shafer.

“I just love everything about her,” Sandy, 59, tells Woman’s Day during an interview held, fittingly, on Auckland’s waterfront. “There’s not one thing I don’t love – her grace, her spirit, her love of God and her voice. I could listen to her voice all night. I wish she would sing for me more, though – she doesn’t sing on demand.”

Sandy and Leah, 50, tied the knot aboard the superyacht She’s A 10 Too on 11 May in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Viewers will get to see the nuptials on the new season of Below Deck, the show that’s made Sandy a star.

Sandy proposing to partner Leah, followed by a hug
She said yes! Sandy proposed to her rock Leah in Athens.

It was Sandy who proposed with a stunning diamond sparkler and violin players in Athens, but Leah – who owns a successful skincare business – was in charge of organising the wedding.

“It was all arranged by Leah,” says Sandy with a smile. “And it was fabulous! Our friend offered her a brand-new yacht, which was perfect.”

Sandy says she hoped to make it through the ceremony without crying, but it proved impossible. “The minute I looked at Leah and started reading her all the reasons I fell in love with her, I started to cry. It’s so amazing to find this kind of love in your lifetime.”

Due to space constraints on the yacht, they had to limit their guest list to 60 people. Kiwi Below Deck star Aesha Scott, who is back in the Mediterranean for this season of the show, made the cut.

“Aesha’s a great personality to have around,” shares Sandy. “Honestly, my cheeks hurt from smiling so much when I’m around her. It’s so great having her back! I hope she continues to stay with me.”

Sandy and Aesha talking over the bar on the boat
Sandy’s Kiwi co-star Aesha made the wedding guest list.

Other Below Deck alumni at the ceremony included chef Dave White, whom Sandy famously supported after he sent chief stew Natasha Webb a string of drunken texts in season seven. New Zealander Katie Flood was also invited but unfortuantely couldn’t make it on the day.

When asked if she has a particular affinity for Kiwis, given two of them got the nod to attend her nuptials, Sandy laughs, “Absolutely. The people in New Zealand are great!”

Although she’s delivered some of Below Deck’s most memorable moments since she joined the show in 2017, Sandy never dreamed of a career in television. Up until her mid-twenties, she was “a mess”, she insists.

“Addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful. Everyone thinks it’s a choice, but when addiction takes over, your choices are taken away. The minute you put a drink or drug in your mouth, you can no longer choose for yourself. I was arrested 14 times and kicked out of high school. I was on that merry-go-round.”

Captain Sandy having her photo taken with a fan
She joined Below Deck fan Brodie Kane at a recent Hayu party in Auckland.

She credits the director of Florida rehab centre Stepping Stones for helping her to finally get sober at the age of 25.

“I had to give her my paycheque because every time I got paid, I’d use,” Sandy admits. “She gave me five dollars to buy cigarettes because I smoked at the time. Because of her, I was able to pay off all my fines. I remember when I finally got my driver’s licence. There were 46 women that lived in this facility and everyone was celebrating it!”

Sandy is incredibly grateful to have been sober for 34 years. She still has an AA sponsor and attends meetings when possible.

“Being able to have joy and fun without drinks or drugs is the best gift on the planet,” smiles Sandy. “Leah and I have fun all the time. We laugh constantly and I just don’t have the hangover or the trouble.”

After their wedding, the couple sailed through the Florida Keys on a yacht – helmed by Sandy, naturally – for a five-day honeymoon. Shortly after, the star headed to Aotearoa and Australia to promote the latest series of Below Deck Mediterranean.

Sandy and Leah walking hand in hand up the beach after the proposal

Sadly, the newlyweds will be ships in the night when Sandy returns as Leah is heading away for work. However, the committed couple is used to spending time apart. Leah’s made sure Sandy, who’s famously fussy about things being ship-shape, will enjoy being back home.

“She was FaceTiming me, showing me what she’s done,” laughs Sandy. “She’s stripped the bed and made sure the sheets are really tight. She mopped the floors because I’ve got a floor thing and she’s filled the fridge with oranges because I love freshly squeezed orange juice – that’s true love.”

And the captain plans to return the favour. “She always tells me, ‘You don’t buy me flowers,’ so I’m going to buy the flowers! When she gets back, I’m going to make sure there are fresh flowers. And I’m going to make sure our dog Little Bear is clean!”

Below Deck Mediterranean is now streaming on Hayu and screens 8.30pm Thursdays on Bravo.

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