Boat Bastard

A Love/Hate Memoir by Deborah van Rooyen

by Valerie MacEwan

24 July 2002


Son of a Bitch

“Love is what happens to a man and woman who don’t know each other.”
— W. Somerset Maugham

The poster child of tell-all, slam-the-bastard, blame-anyone-but-yourself books, Boat Bastard is one bitter angry woman’s diatribe of love lost and time wasted. A ranting, raving memoir of love and hate. Here’s a book I didn’t particularly enjoy but that I would recommend. Written by a woman who spent thirteen years in a seemingly dead end relationship, Deborah van Rooyen portrays her lover, nicknamed “The Captain”, as a selfish bastard who was rude, arrogant, and unfeeling . . . sometimes. But, readers take note: When he wasn’t a bastard, he was marvelous. For the life of me I can’t figure out why I kept reading on reading this book. By the middle of it, I thought she was an idiot. By the end of it, I knew she was. Yet still I read it all the way through.

cover art

Boat Bastard

Deborah van Rooyen

A Love/hate Memoir


An amazingly self-sufficient woman when she’s not with the Captain, van Rooyen has an extremely (by her accounts) successful advertising career. As a creative director, she travels internationally, working for the Queen of Jordan on a project in Palestine, in France filming commercials, gone for months at a time. Sometimes she gets to combine business with pleasure and film commercials with the Captain Bastard, an advertising film director. Sometimes she goes out on his 36-foot sloop with him. Sometimes she mentions her daughter, casually including the child, and I don’t mean references, I mean the child accompanying her through life, but only on rare occasions. Throughout the book I couldn’t help but wonder how the kid felt about being left with baby sitters all the time. At one point, the couple took an extended sailing trip, van Rooyen is not specific how long they were at sea. The daughter, six years old at the time, went along. When the child became bored, they would set her adrift, secured by a rope, in the sailboat’s dinghy to play Barbies until she whined to come back to the sailboat.

This is a spiteful commentary on a failed affair. And, like all gossipy stories, it’s hard to stop listening when someone opens up and pours their heart out and rips to shreds the other half of the couple they once were. If a book is considered worth finishing because it makes you think, then read this entire book. You’ll learn a smidgen about sailing, a lot about van Rooyen’s personal pet peeves, and a little about yourself, if you stop to consider your reactions to her rants. It’s like watching Montel. You keep expecting Montel to break in and announce, “Why, Deborah, would you like to tell the Captain how you feel? Well, you can. Bring out The Captain.” Out from behind the curtain steps a chagrined, aging man who probably just wants to be left alone to ponder his fate.

The book has its truly great moments. Anyone who’s sat dockside in a restaurant on a pier, or a yacht club, be they sailor or landlubber, will recognize the group she ridicules as she guts and fillets the yachting crowd. Ms. van Rooyen is the outsider during many intimate sailing gatherings and chances are, a lot of the readers will see themselves in her. Perhaps it is that sense of comraderie which is the book’s true strength—intimate details, bitching and griping, complaining about the other half of a relationship gone sour, of being the fifth wheel at a four wheel party, or of giving up personal preferences to keep the peace. There are parts of the book, when she speaks of the bastard, that will seem hauntingly familiar to anyone who’s ever been divorced, ended a relationship, or listened to someone whine and moan about good love gone bad. Wow, that pretty much covers us all, doesn’t it?

One sincerely hopes van Rooyen doesn’t want The Captain back. No sailor worth his salt would return to a woman this angry and petty, no matter how good she was in bed.

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