Natalie Wood didn’t drown accidentally – she was a victim of foul play – that’s the incredible claim of the captain of her yacht the Splendour – who’s speaking out for the first time about the night the 43-year-old actress lost her life in the dark, cold waters off Catalina Island in November 1981.

In the newly released book Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour, skipper Dennis Davern and co-author Marti Rulli claim the glamorous Hollywood beauty died after getting into a drunken argument with her husband Robert Wagner.

But powerful pals covered up the events leading to Natalie’s death, according to the authors.

After agonizing for years over what he calls an inept police investigation and cover-ups,  Davern says he came to the conclusion that Natalie was the victim of foul play.

Robert and Natalie were on a Thanksgiving weekend cruise with actor Christopher Walken, who was co-starring with Natalie in the movie Brainstorm, when tempers flared.

Wagner believed Walken wanted to sleep with his wife, and Natalie wasn’t convincing him otherwise, according to the book.

By evening, Wagner started a screaming match with Natalie that turned into a punch-throwing fight in their stateroom, author Davern writes. Natalie died after the fight.

Wagner reported her missing, and Natalie’s lifeless body was found floating in the Pacific Ocean. Authorities theorized she heard a rubber dinghy banging against the yacht, and fell into the water when she tried to secure it.

Her death was ruled an accidental drowning.

Davern says he identified Natalie’s body and says he saw more than 25 bruises on her arms and legs where he believes she had been pummeled by Wagner during the fight in their stateroom.

Wagner was with Natalie when she left the boat and hit the water, Davern charges.

The boat captain claims he passed several polygraph tests about his version of the tragedy,and says he recounted the same story under hypnosis. Tormented by guilt over not coming forward with the truth, he began drinking heavily, according to his book.

Following Natalie’s death, Davern says that he felt threatened by Wagner, who tried to control where he went and to whom he spoke.

Today, Davern says he has conquered his alcoholism and is going public with his version of the story in an effort to have the case reopened.

Meanwhile rumors of gay sex and horrific discovery and drunken flight floated by Hollywood insiders remain unconfirmed as the REAL STORY of what happened may never be made public until the key principals are deceased.