October 1982 Shark Attack - Shark Attacks - Both of them calmly slid off the dinghy into a sea full of sharks, convinced they were going to the store for cigarettes. They were killed by sharks -- one right underneath Kiley's dinghy, she says.
Kiley, now 50, also had misgivings about going on the trip that almost cost her life.
It was October 1982 and she was 26 years old when she boarded a sailing yacht in Maine.
She joined three men and another woman who planned to sail to Florida. But there were signs early on that the trip would not be smooth.
The men bickered, the yacht's captain was lazy, and the ship wasn't properly maintained, Kiley says.
The yacht was soon caught in a fierce storm. It was tossed by 60-knot winds and huge waves. The yacht sank so quickly that the five-member crew barely had time to alert the U.S. Coast Guard and inflate the rubber dinghy, she says.
During the next five days, the survivors battled dehydration, hunger, exposure and massive infections. No ships spotted the rubber dinghy and they drifted alone in an open boat.
The crew eventually divided into two camps, Kiley says. Two men in the boat started arguing with and assaulting the others. They were falling apart emotionally and physically.
Then the crew began to die. Two men couldn't take their thirst anymore and drank salt water. They became delusional and started hallucinating. Both of them calmly slid off the dinghy into a sea full of sharks, convinced they were going to the store for cigarettes. They were killed by sharks -- one right underneath Kiley's dinghy, she says.
A third crew member, a woman who suffered ghastly wounds to her leg when the yacht sank, soon died, Kiley says.
Kiley wondered if she would be next. When sharks attacked one of the men in front of her, Kiley says that she thought she was going to have a nervous breakdown.
"I closed my eyes and prayed and waited to die," she wrote in "The Sinking," an account of her survival.
The sharks moved on, but Kiley had already made a series of small decisions that helped save her life, she says. Instead of expending much of her energy bemoaning her fate, she planned for survival. She covered herself with seaweed for warmth. She took on the role of protector, watching out for another man in the boat.
She also made a ruthless decision. She kept her distance from two male companions in the boat who bickered and cursed with the others. She sensed that they were going to die and she didn't want to waste precious energy fighting with them.
Even the act of prayer was a survival strategy. Kiley didn't know if she believe in God, but her prayer helped her avoid the loss of control that doomed some of her companions in the boat.
"Surviving is about keeping your wits when everything is falling apart," she says.
Kiley says she was also conditioned to be a survivor from her childhood. She grew up in rural Texas where she learned to survive in the outdoors. Her mother was married several times and was a victim of domestic violence.
"I learned as child how to live and adapt to the environment I was in," she says. "You never knew what was going to come up."
After five days in the open ocean, Kiley and another man were finally spotted and rescued by a passing freighter.
She says the accident changed her. "I learned to accept people for who they are and who they're not," she says. "God doesn't need me to judge anyone else."
Gonzales, who examined Kiley's survival in his book, says Kiley's background helped her survive.
"She grew up having to fend for herself," he says. "She was also a very independent thinker and has strong ties at home to her mother. She had the whole package and was able to use her own anger to motivate herself."
Kiley still sails when she can today. But she says there's hardly a day where she still doesn't think about the accident. She still has flashbacks from that night at sea that come at the oddest of times.
"One minute I would be standing in the shower washing my hair and the next minute sitting in the tub sobbing uncontrollably," she wrote in her book. "And I was never free of the dreams."
Today she lives in Texas where she is a fitness specialist and a yoga instructor. A Discovery Channel documentary was made about her ordeal at sea and she continues to lecture about her experiences while raising money for domestic violence charities.
More than anything, she says, it was her will to live that helped her survive.
"You can never give up," she says. "No matter how bad it gets, something good is going to come out of it."
A little anger also helped her push through, she says.
"At the point you're alone and scared, you have to create a vision for the future," she says. "The vision I had was washing ashore and going to the Coast Guard office and saying, 'Where the hell have you been!'
"It was enough to help me survive."
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