In November 2004, Capt. Sandra Yawn and her crew transited the Suez Canal and began their voyage southward through the Red Sea. They were aboard the 131-foot motoryacht White Star bound for Dubai. They didn’t get far, however, thwarted as they were by hydraulics failure and engine trouble. They limped at 5 knots to a coastal island off Yemen, anchored and made repairs, but were soon surrounded by gunboats, the crews of which were apparently suspicious of this opulent vessel.
Repairs were completed after several days, but once more underway, the vessel’s engine again malfunctioned and the entire engine room burst into flames. They were now adrift in the Red Sea being swept toward the coast of Yemen – not an auspicious situation for Americans alone aboard a multi-million-dollar piece of movable equipment.
The story has a happy ending, however. Yawn and crew were able to douse the flames and contact a U.S. Navy ship, which diverted for a tow to Yemen. The vessel and its crew were safe.
Yawn and her crew were recognized for their seamanship and calm handling of the emergency at an awards ceremony hosted by the International Superyacht Society and Westrec Marinas at the Miami Boat Show in February. The Distinguished Crew Award for “exceptional professionalism and leadership” honors a yacht captain and crew for the handling of an emergency.
“They say you are only as good as the people under you,” the award report read. “The crew on this vessel report that the Captain remained cool and collected throughout their ordeal and never panicked. The leadership exuded by the Captain reverberated through the crew and provided quiet confidence in their professionalism as a team and courage under fire during their hellacious series of events.”