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.