One Woman's
True Story of
Shipwreck and

Deborah Scaling Kiley
With Meg Noonan

In October of 1982 Deborah Scaling Kiley set sail with four others in a routine journey to Florida. They departed from Maine on a fifty-eight foot cruising sailboat called Trashman, owned by a Texas man who had made a killing in garbage (he wasn't along for the ride.)

Kiley was no greenhorn, but rather, an experienced ocean-going sailor. She had been in Race Week Antigua, and the Whitbread --- the prestigious English race. (Indeed, she was the first American woman ever to sail in the Whitbread.) But nothing prepared her for what was to occur on the Trashman: a vicious storm, a captain who was more interested in drinking than the necessary preparedness for sailing, along with his live-in girlfriend (who hated boats), and a crew member by the name of Mark who was nuts.

Days after they left from Narragansett Bay, they ran into a brutal storm and the Trashman sank, and the five of them ended up on a Zodiac. Their week or so on the tiny dingy make up the bulk of Untamed Seas, and it's enough to make you and me forswear ever setting foot in an oceangoing boat for the rest of our days.

They were adrift from 24 October until 2 November, and in that period of time, John the Captain and crewmember Mark drank seawater and went bananas and disappeared overboard (both saying something like they were heading out to the nearest 7-11 for cigarettes). The captain's ladyfriend up and died from exposure and from the wounds that she had suffered when the boat went down, and lay there mouldering in the Zodiac with them for hours. Then it was only Brad and Deborah, swatting the sharks and lying in their own waste waters (it kept them warm) or covered with sargasso seaweed (it protected them from the cold, but the tiny crabs nipped them mercilessly.)

The most astonishing part of Untamed Seas is not the wreck or the survival in the stormy waters or signs of heroism. In fact, heroism seems to be in short supply with these five characters. The dialogue that goes back and forth between them while they are presumably fighting for their lives is worse by far than anything you've ever heard from the Bickersons:

    I got out from under the rubber cover to find Mark yanking on my little toe, saying, "I told you just to pull it off. It's so infected it's just going to fall off anyway."

    "Leave it alone. Don't touch it!" I kicked at him and caught him in the chin. He fell back against the side.

    "Did you see that, Brad?" I asked. "The guy tried to rip off my toe."

    "Mark, don't rip off Debbie's toe," Brad said without emotion.

    "She's going to lose it. I was trying to help."

    "Don't touch me again."

    "I don't want to touch you."



Can you imagine being stuck on a liferaft with this bunch for an hour --- much less a week --- without getting fed up and diving overboard just to get away from their piddling, noxious, noisy endless nagging?

Debbie, the author of the book, turns out to be a weird one indeed. She confesses that she's been bulimic all these years, scarfing down big meals and then hotfooting it to the bathroom to upchuck it all. You'd think being shipwrecked at sea without food would be a dandy solution to her problem: no need to eat anything much less barf it all back up. Come to think of it --- maybe that's why she survived when Meg, Mark and John didn't. There she was, adrift, for days and days, without the temptation of hamburgers, or big fat juicy steak sandwiches, or a huge rich chocolate fudge sundae dripping with whipped cream, maraschino cherries and nuts. Instead, lost somewhere off of North Carolina in the barren, rolling seas, she was in a virtual feastless world, a paradise for your standard anorexic/bulemic.

--- Maria Winters
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