Did Bethenny Frankel Make Up Her "Lost at Sea" Story for Her Reality Show?

The man who rescued the reality star's ship after it had been blown off course says that she was never in any real danger

In September, reality star Bethenny Frankel took a day trip on a sailboat and ended up lost at sea for 20 harrowing hours. Or did she? A skeptical journalist contacted the man who towed Frankel's boat back to harbor -- and heard a different version of events than the one Frankel told to the press.

The way the Bethenny Ever After star tells the story, she was sailing with her husband Jason Hoppy, her therapist and a Bravo camera crew when the boat was thrown off course by a big wave. The boat's GPS was malfunctioning, explained Frankel, so they drifted for hours without knowing their location before finally being rescued by the Coast Guard at 4 a.m. On Twitter, she called the experience "the worst night of my life" and said she kissed the ground upon returning.

But the guy who "rescued" Frankel remembers things differently. In a conversation with the Jewish Journal, boat captain Tim Russell explained that the GPS system on Frankel's ship was working, because he was able to find the exact coordinates when they rang him up.

Mr. Russell, incidentally, does not work for the Coast Guard, but a private tow company. The Jewish Journal confirmed that Frankel called the Coast Guard first, but that they refused to come get the ship because it wasn't actually in any danger. Russell, too, told Frankel's therapist that he wasn't sure why they were calling him, but he agreed to come out at 5 a.m. and lead (not tow) the functional boat back to shore. He also says that Frankel didn't tip him, seeing as he doesn't work for tips. (On The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Frankel claimed that she tipped the rescuing captain $2,800.) And he says that Frankel did kiss the dock when they arrived -- but not until the cameras were rolling.

Bethenny, however, is sticking to her story. On Twitter, she listed the claim as one of "last week's idiocies," along with reports that she's pregnant, getting divorced and hiring a "nice" coach. She tweeted that the alternate version of her boat trip story was fabricated by people who are "nuts and bored."

"I wish that boat trip were fiction rather than the nightmare it actually was," she tells E! Online. "My truth is stranger than fiction."

Whose version of the story is true? The reporter at the Jewish Journal freely admits to having a vendetta against Frankel, whom she believes to be a pathological liar. And yet the boat captain, Tim Russell, has no such vendetta; he told his version of the story to the press only when contacted, and didn't have any malice against the reality star.

Here's a theory: What if Frankel exaggerated the events of the boat trip without even realizing it? Reality stars are paid to ratchet up the drama, and Bethenny has been followed around by a camera crew for years now. Maybe a momentary panic attack got blown up into a near-death experience because she sensed it would make good TV. Or maybe she really did think the GPS was broken, and misunderstood what happened with the Coast Guard and the towing service. Only the Bravo camera crew knows the truth -- and we'll get to see their version when Frankel's reality show returns for its third season.

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