Captain’s Tale Of Failed “Roll Of The Dice” Nantucket Sail

By Jim Armstrong, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – Captain George McKay has the clothes on his back tonight and not much else.

McKay had to jump into frigid waters 100 miles off Nantucket Tuesday so the Coast Guard could rescue him from a sinking ship — his sinking ship, the “Raw Faith”, a 118-foot vessel he built with his own hands.

“As far as what it cost me, it cost me everything,” Captain McKay told WBZ.  “We sold our home, sold our jewelry, sold everything to try to make this mission happen.”

WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports.

Since 2003, McKay has lived on his ship, running “Raw Faith Adventures”, traveling from port to port and taking wheelchair-bound kids and their families sailing for free.

He also offered free tours of his vessel, which he describes on his website as a “three-masted, three-hundred ton (without cannons) tall ship [whose] design is based on the 16th-century English race built galleons which are more stable and faster than their counterparts.”

The inspiration for the wheelchair-accessibility comes from McKay’s own daughter who is herself confined to a wheelchair.  McKay says he grew tired of watching his daughter be excluded from class trips and outings and so decided to build a ship she could enjoy.

The Raw Faith spent this summer and fall in Winthrop and Salem, offering free tours to anyone interested in learning more.

But  McKay says the US Park Service kicked him out of Salem – and forced him to sail unprepared.  The Park Service tells WBZ they gave McKay a permit to stay the month of October, and then allowed him to stay through November so he could find a new place to dock.  A spokeswoman for the agency says they never allow a vessel to stay in port indefinitely.

McKay left Salem on December 4th, and knew he was in trouble right away.  “Very much so, yeah, I knew the odds were not very good,” he explained.  “It was a roll of the dice that I took because I didn’t have any other options at that point in time.”

He encountered rough seas almost immediately; the one crew member he could round up got seasick before they even left port.

Bad weather ended the Bermuda-bound voyage after three days.  Following the rescue, a Coast Guard vessel stayed with the Raw Faith as it continued to take on water, eventually sinking early this morning.  As they were rescuing him, the Coast Guard told McKay to grab his belongings and toss them overboard, so rescuers could fish them out of the water.

“My entire life is now in two garbage bags.  So, it’s very, very difficult,” says McKay.

Now that the ship is gone, McKay doesn’t know what to do next.  “So what happens from here,” he asked.  “Like I said, I hope this isn’t the death of the dream.  The ship was a tool we were using to help facilitate that dream.”

To learn more about McKay’s work and the final days of his boat, visit his website.

  • David Iredale

    It’s a shame that you folks didn’t do any serious “journalism.” If you had, you would have learned that Raw Faith has NEVER taken even ONE handicapped child for a sail. The ship is not truly handicap accessible, any more so than any other tall ship in the U.S. And if you had asked any naval architect, boatbuilder, or experienced blue-water sailor, you’d know that Raw Faith was a disaster waiting to happen … she was poorly built and structurally unsound. Given that no one died, the sinking of Raw Faith should be counted as a happy ending — things could have been so much worse.

    • anon

      David, I appreciate your attempt to shed light on the subject, and you make some correct points. However, what you said about the hypothetical reviews by naval architects is untrue. The ship has in fact been inspected by two marine surveyors for insurance purposes and been rated completely sound. There is a well respected marina in Maine, whose marine engineers are thoroughly familiar with the boat, and who regarded it in sound condition. It’s also been boarded and checked out informally by many senior coast-guard officials and there has never been a specific problem mentioned.

      • aeromarine


        having a vessel surveyed for port risk insurance is worlds away from having it designed, ab initio, by a professional NAVAL ARCHITECT!!! I suspect that your “senior coast guard officials” never gave specific recommendations because the list would have been too long. sound condition for laying alongside in portland harbor is a damned far sight from winter in the north atlantic. the sea does not tolerate fools; you should know this by now.

      • David

        Sorry, Anon, but you have no idea what you’re talking about. The marine surveyors surveyed her for PORT INSURANCE only … in other words, is she likely to stay afloat while tied to a dock! Their work says NOTHING about her seaworthiness. As for the Coast Guard, they inspected the vessel only to determine whether she had the required safety and navigation equipment. The fact that they mentioned no problems says NOTHING whatsoever about her seaworthiness.

        As for the naval architects … Go to the forum at and read the threads discussing Raw Faith. You’ll find that experienced boatbuilders and at least one naval architect have carefully reviewed photos of her construction, and they believe that she was grossly unsound … unfit for anything more than a daysail in good weather.

    • James Malcolm

      Having had the “opportunity” to go on board the Raw Faith I can only say that the fact that she made it to Salem is a miracle. This self described “captain” has endangered the lives of Coast Guard members, cost taxpayers huge sums of money, ignored the law and used the media to portray him as something he is not. He has been kicked out of 4 ports that I am of aware of after ignoring lawful orders and regulations. He has fooled some supposedly intelligent people who have assisted him in his fool’s mission and I hope that they now see him for what he really is. This man is arrogant, dangerous and has no concern for the welfare of others. He knows nothing of the sea or seamanship. The word “captain” should never again be associated with George Mckay.

  • Jack Tar

    George McKay has a lot of nerve blaming the Park Service for his debacle. This “boat” had no prayer of passing inspection to take passengers sailing. He ignored any accepted method of boatbuilding or design, and ignored the advice of professionals and skilled amateur alike.

    Want to look at what sailing for the disabled looks like? Look at the outstanding programs in Boston like Courageous Sailing or Piers Park Sailing Center.

    What McKay did is an insult to legitimate charity organizations.

    But his folly did not stop at merely creating this laughing stock of a boat. He went further to recruit crew to serve and sail upon this dangerous vessel. Venturing to sea in this thing was lunacy at best, and yet his choice (yes choice!) to set for Bermuda with two souls aboard a powerless “sailboat” that couldn’t outrun a child’s sailing dinghy was even more reckless. In the end it cost the tax payer ANOTHER USCG rescue, this time using two cutters, falcon jets, a helicopter, and endangering the lives of USCG pilots and rescue swimmers.

  • Jack Tar

    Jack Tar is the name of the editor of the web site and he did not leave this comment. Please remove the name from it.

    • Jack Sparrow

      Jack Tar is a fictitious name. The person who used the name here has as much right to the name as you do. Get over yourself.

  • shavasanayoga

    I need not depend on the opinions of others, “experts”: or the CG. A simple eyes on row around this hulk confirms her lack of ANY facet of a boat ready for SEA. McKay should be held accountable for the money he has cost us all. In order to make this money he needs to stay out of jail but a good month in the stocks on Boston Common would be just by any standards.

  • Jack Tar

    “Jack Tar is the name of the editor of the web site and he did not leave this comment. Please remove the name from it.”

    Really? So Jack is the editor of the web site. According to wikipedia, “Jack Tar was a common English term used to refer to seamen…[and that] both members of the public, and seafarers themselves, made use of the name in identifying those who went to sea”

    But it does not surprise me in the least that anyone associated closely with Raw Faith, or those that would defend Mr McKay, have any knowledge or respect for any aspect of seafaring tradition.

  • Neha Anand

    Hi, i think that i saw you visited my blog thus i came to “return the favor”.I am attempting to find things to improve my web site!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!

blog comments powered by Disqus
Taz Show
Download Weather App

Listen Live