Celebrity Cruises keeps it all in the family regarding its new ship, Celebrity Ascent. First came news that brothers Dimitrios and Tasos Kafetzis would share the captain’s chair. Now, reality-TV star Captain Sandy Yawn of Below Deck fame and her sister, Michelle Dunham, have been named the co-Godmothers of the latest Edge-class ship.
Why Celebrity Picked Captain Sandy and her Sis
While many think of a ship’s Godmother as being little more than ceremonial, the symbolism behind the role and what it represents is incredibly meaningful. They are considered the spiritual embodiment of the ship in their metaphorical charge, inspiring, protecting and positively impacting the lives of those who sail the ship.
Ever since the Edge class was launched in 2018, Celebrity has used the Godmother position as a platform for purposeful and inspirational women. Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai accepted the position aboard Celebrity Edge, the first ship in the class. She was followed in 2021 by Reshma Saujani, founder of the international nonprofit Girls Who Code, who became Godmother of Celebrity Apex. Most recently, Olympian Simone Biles was named as Godmother for the Celebrity Beyond.
“We are honored to have Captain Sandy and her sister, Michelle, join the legacy of Celebrity’s Godmothers, as they are both inspirational women who have dedicated their lives to making a positive impact in the world,” said Laura Hodges Bethge, the line’s president. “Captain Sandy’s life story is one of resilience, leadership and strength, as a pioneer in the maritime industry and as an inspirational role model for young women.”
Her sister, Michelle, meanwhile, “is a tireless advocate for children with autism and shows us what is possible when you follow your vision for a better world.”
Dunham, founded the Jacksonville School for Autism (JSA) based on a model she developed in order to provide son Nicholas with the best learning opportunities possible.
“Both women live by Celebrity’s values,” said Bethge, “and we have no doubt they are the perfect choices for Ascent.”
“She Has Always Been My Biggest Inspiration”
Clearly moved by the honor, Yawn said that she was “deeply honored to represent not only the spirit of leadership, but also the strength of women empowerment. This role serves as a reminder that women can steer their destinies with grace and determination, commanding the seas of possibility and inspiring others to follow their own paths with courage and conviction.”
She added that she was thrilled to share the honor with her sister, as “she has always been my biggest inspiration in her selfless pursuit to help my nephew and other families impacted by autism.”
For her part, Dunham said that alongside her sister, “we aspire to elevate lives, create boundless possibilities and set sail toward a brighter, more inclusive future for all who grace our path through the charities we founded, Jacksonville School for Autism and Captain Sandy’s Charities.”
Captain Sandy: Beyond Below Deck
Although no doubt best known to many for her stint on the Bravo series Below Deck — which chronicles the lives and loves of a superyacht crew under her command — Yawn is far more than a reality star. As she has openly discussed (and written about in her best-selling autobiography), she struggled with addiction issues before getting her life together and forging both a career and a name for herself in the yachting community.
In 2006, Yawn received the Distinguished Crew Award from the International Superyacht Society for the leadership and bravery she displayed during a catastrophic fire and pirate threat off the coast of Yemen. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that she has become a motivational speaker, given her passion for sharing her life story as a way to inspire others to overcome the obstacles standing between them and their dreams.
During Celebrity Ascent’s official naming ceremony on December 1, 2023, both sisters will bless and christen the ship, bringing good luck and protection for the crew and all passengers onboard. The ship will spend her inaugural season sailing out of Port Everglades in Florida.