Troubled Sailing Vessel Sinks off Nantucket

Mast of the 88-foot sailing vessel Raw Faith protrudes from the water as the boat sinks in approximately 6,000 feet of water about 166 miles southeast of Cape Cod. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Cutter Reliance crew.

An odd, 3-masted sailing vessel with a troubled history sank in 6,000 feet of water some 100 miles southeast of Nantucket, Massachusetts, after becoming disabled in heavy seas while apparently en route to Bermuda.

U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer Randall Rice helps RawFaith owner and builder George McKay remove his survival suit at Air Station Cape Cod. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Luke Clayton.
RawFaith, Photo by ## Steve Cartwright##

The 88-foot wooden boat, called RawFaith, was homebuilt in Maine by George McKay and his sons, who intended to use it to take handicapped people sailing. The vessel, which resembled a 16th-century galleon, went down 100 miles southeast of Nantucket at 7:30 a.m. on December 8, less than 24 hours after the Coast Guard rescued McKay and another crewman by helicopter.

McKay had struggled with officials over the years to get the boat approved as a passenger vessel. However, the Coast Guard, which twice towed RawFaith back to safety after it became disabled in storms, refused to certify the boat. McKay was then forced to keep the boat at its mooring in Rockland, Maine. It is unknown why he was taking the boat to Bermuda.

The following article on RawFaith appeared in the June 2009 issue of Northeast Boating magazine

Test of RawFaith

by Steve Cartwright

It was the dead of winter, but an imposing, hand-built wooden sailboat bobbed in Maine’s Rockland Harbor. As her name suggests, RawFaith appears weather-beaten and raw. She is a product of one man’s spiritual call to build and sail a boat aimed at inspiring and helping others.

RawFaith owner and builder George McKay. Photo by ## Steve Cartwright##

Unfortunately for George McKay—RawFaith’s owner, builder and skipper—that goal has gone unfulfilled, as the 88-foot, 3-masted galleon he built has been stuck in port since 2006, when the Coast Guard had to rescue boat and its crew 50 miles off Mount Desert Island. RawFaith was towed back to Rockland Harbor, where the Captain of the Port at the Marine Safety Office in Portland ordered she had to stay until necessary repairs were made. McKay made the repairs, but 3 years later he remains in Rockland.

Although RawFaith was the talk of the town while she was being built by McKay, his family and volunteers in Addison, Maine, the vessel has lately become more of a subject of scorn by some in Rockland, a popular tourist destination known for its galleries, motels and marinas. Local schooner captains have groused about RawFaith’s less-than-polished appearance on the waterfront, but harbormaster Ed Glaser said no serious objections have been raised.

McKay, 52, and his 19-year-old son Rob currently live aboard RawFaith and wish they could to warmer climes during the off-season. Belowdecks the vessel is roomy but unfinished and looks more like a woodsy cabin than a ship designed to be sailed by a wheelchair-bound crew—with whom McKay had hoped to share the experience.

“It remains an uninspected vessel of a unique design,” said Coast Guard commander Mike Sams. McKay, who is appealing the port order to remain in Rockland, maintains that his boat is seaworthy.

To read more:

Cape Cod Online

Coast Guard Video:


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