Owners Open RawFaith to Public Viewing
by Burndett Andres
Jonesport – In the pouring rain on Saturday, August 21st, friends, supporters and curious tourists found their way to 3 Rivers Wharf where the galleon RawFaith was docked at Moosebec Mussels courtesy of Ralph Smith. Many have wondered about the three-mast, eighty-eight foot, 14th century-style ship moored in Alley Bay since August of last year. It certainly has a different profile than the lobster boats that make up the greater part of the fleet in Jonesport harbor. The open house on the twenty-first gave them an opportunity to satisfy their curiosity.
Once onboard, the visitors met Captain George McKay; Captain’s Mate Jo, his wife; Helmsman Robert B. McKay, their son; Communications Officer Elizabeth McKay, their daughter; and Charles Brugh, Volunteer Factotum Extraordinaire. Here in the middle of the broad deck, Captain McKay shared a brief history of the RawFaith.
When the idea of building a wheelchair-accessible tall ship came to George McKay, he gave God the credit. The idea seemed too big to be his own. He and his family had never dreamed dreams of living on a boat. An electrical engineer by training, George McKay had no carpentry skills and had never built anything in his life, not even so much as a doghouse. More to the point, he had never sailed a boat of any kind. It took him three months to work up the courage to share this crazy idea with his wife.
Jo McKay assumed he was having a mid-life crisis. “Sure, sure,” was her response. “Couldn’t you just buy a Porsche?” But as the days and weeks passed and they talked about the idea and prayed together for guidance, they felt strongly that it was God’s will at work in their lives and a mission was born. Accessible Sailing Adventures would “provide an educational and therapeutic experience for children with special physical needs and their families through hands-on sailing of a tall ship.”
The McKays have first-hand knowledge of the stresses a handicapped child can place on a family. Their eldest child, daughter Liz now 22, was born with Marfan syndrome. Marfan syndrome is a hereditary connective tissue disorder characterized by abnormally elongated bones, especially in the extremities, and affects most particularly the skeleton, eyes, heart and blood vessels, nervous system, skin and lungs. Her first heart surgery replaced her mitral valve when she was just two years old. When she was twelve, she had six inches of her aorta and her aortic valve replaced. She has endured half a dozen back surgeries and has been unable to walk on her own since she was twelve.
“Children born with disabilities have an indomitable spirit,” says McKay, “which helps them to overcome personal and societal barriers. They are born with the faith that life is worth living. A raw faith. Thus the name of our ship, RawFaith.”
Another application of raw faith has been necessary for the McKays during the construction of the ship, which began in 1999 at the Addison Shipyard on the Pleasant River in Addison, ME. All materials used have been donated or bought by the McKays with monies from the sale of their home in Winthrop, ME, or with donations to ASA. The Lord has provided materials as needed and the concept has captured the imagination of some who have contributed volunteer labor, both individuals and groups such as the Agape Mission. Ian Jerolmack was biking along, happened upon the site and stayed for months. You can read about it in his own words on ASA’s donated website www.accessiblesailing.info. Still, most of the manpower has come from the gentle giants in the McKay family, father George and sons Tom, Aaron and Robert. Jo McKay acts as chief cook and bottle washer under the official title of Ship’s Stores Manager.
One body of critics was silenced on August 4, 2003, when the ship was launched...and floated. The family has been living aboard since that time and the RawFaith has been moored in Jonesport while she took on ballast, masts and rigging and sails. The greater test lies ahead as the ship prepares for her maiden voyage in early September. Stops are planned in Bar Harbor, Portsmouth, Woods Hole, and New Jersey as she makes her way to Florida where she will winter in Jacksonville/Green Cove Springs. Volunteer crew members are needed to make all or parts of the trip and funds are critically low. At this point, the old maxim “don’t applaud, just throw money” is appropriate. I’m putting my money on the McKays.
Note: January 2014 - A documentary has been made about the RawFaith
This article appeared in the Downeast Coastal Press Week of August 31-September 6, 2004
Ref. Maine, At Last - Out and About, Vol. III, Page 51
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