September 2013 Issue 212: A hellish delivery


When it comes to boats and the sea, some folk just turn out to be lucky. Take for example the story recounted by Deborah Scaling Kiley in her book Albatross — a story that every sailor who has ever dreamed of crewing on a yacht delivery must read. The tale told here could have easily happened to any of us.

The drama begins innocently enough. In 1982, Kiley was in Maine and wanted to get to Florida for the winter. She was 24 years old and was the first woman to complete the around the world Whitbread Race, where she served as cook and sometimes deck hand aboard the South African entry, Xargo. So Kiley was no stranger to either boats or the sea. She befriended John, the skipper of a 58-foot center cockpit ketch, Trashman, and signed up as crew for a passage south.

What she was not so good at perhaps was judging the people with whom she was about to go to sea with. John, the skipper, a nice enough guy, was a bit casual on maintenance, and enjoyed his daily libations. Then there was John’s girlfriend, Meg, who despite her good intentions hadn’t a clue about how to sail. Mark was a contentious English alcoholic they dredged up in a bar in Annapolis. Finally Brad, Kiley’s friend, had enough sea time to make him good crew. This rag-tag assembly departed Annapolis for Florida in October 1982.

The western Atlantic is still affected by hurricanes at that time of year. Many deliveries commence at the beginning of November after the hurricane season is officially over.  

After clearing Cape Henry, Kiley and Trashman had good sailing for a day. The weather was building, however, and soon Trashman was in a 70-knot gale. One thing led to another, the sails were ripped and 40-foot seas smashed the cabin windows. In a matter of minutes, fun turned into hell as Trashman sank. The crew escaped in a rubber dinghy, but things were about to get worse.

Trashman wasn’t carrying appropriate charts so they could run for cover and there was no abandon-ship kit in the dinghy. Meg, the captain’s girlfriend, damaged her leg in the rig when the boat sank and she died a day later of blood poisoning. In the following days both the captain and Mark, delirious and probably suffering from alcohol withdrawal, went overboard looking for beer and cigarettes. Only Kiley and Brad managed to hold on for four days and be rescued by a Russian freighter.

After the rescue, questions were raised as to the role that the Coast Guard played. They had received a mayday call and a Coast Guard aircraft had over flown the vessel, but somehow Coast Guard believed that the vessel had tied up safely in North Carolina and called off the search. Kiley went on to become a motivational speaker and died at the age of 54 in 2012.

In the 1980s celestial navigation was still a primary method of offshore navigation. The captain would probably have done a simple LAN in order to ascertain his latitude.

The day in question is Oct. 26, 1982. We will use the 2013 Nautical Almanac. The DR of Trashman is 34° 25’ North by 73° 10’ West. We are taking a lower limb shot of the sun and the height of eye is 10 feet. There is no watch error. The Hs is 42° 43.7’.

A. What is the time of LAN in GMT?
B. What is the Ho?
C. What was the latitude that Capt. John found for Trashman?
(See answers below)

A. LAN is at 16:36:10
B. Ho is 42° 55.8’
C. Latitude is 34° 24.9’ N

By Ocean Navigator