August 11, 2013

Bob Keyes: Risking it all on an act of faith

Along with the rest of us, Gregory Roscoe watched with a sense of wonder as the saga of the 88-foot galleon Raw Faith unfolded over much of the last decade.

click image to enlarge

A still provided by documentary filmmaker Gregory Roscoe shows the galleon Raw Faith underway on a calm sea.

Courtesy photo

click image to enlarge

Courtesy photo

Additional Photos Below

This is raw footage from the actual 2010 U.S. Coast Guard rescue of Raw Faith 100 miles southeast of Nantucket, Mass., after the boat became disabled. Video by Air Station Cape Cod.


"RAW FAITH: A FAMILY SAGA" will screen at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the Strand Theatre, 345 Main St., Rockland; 7 p.m. Thursday at Nickelodeon Cinema, 1 Temple St., Portland; and 2, 5 and 8 p.m. Aug. 25 at The Frontier, 14 Maine St., Mill 3, Fort Andross, Brunswick

MORE: Visit for additional screenings.

The boat, designed by a Maine man with no naval background and deemed un-seaworthy by the Coast Guard, was launched in 2003 and sustained its final indignity in 2010 when it sank in a December storm off the coast of Massachusetts.

Roscoe, who lives in Falmouth, has just released a documentary movie about the boat and the family that built it. "Raw Faith: A Family Saga" tells the story of George McKay and why he upset the order of his life to engage in a mission that involved building a wheelchair-accessible ship to accommodate his daughter, while facing the criticism and barbs of the boat-building community that told him he was doing it all wrong.

The movie debuted at the Maine International Film Festival in Waterville last month, and has several screenings coming up around Maine, including Sunday in Rockland, this week in Portland and later this month in Brunswick and Ellsworth. It has just been accepted into the Newburyport Documentary Film Festival in Massachusetts, which will be held in September.

On the surface, the criticisms that McKay faced appear valid. Twice, Raw Faith was towed back to port, and it sank when a bilge pump failed while McKay and a sole crew member attempted to sail it to Bermuda. The Coast Guard rescued McKay and his mate, plucking both from the sea in December 2010.

But that is not what this movie is about. It is not intended to embarrass McKay or chide his decision to push forward when most people advised against it.

Roscoe instead focuses on the human elements at play and the motives that compel a man to risk his wealth, his reputation and ultimately his life in pursuit of a dream.

"Raw Faith" tells the complicated story of a man, his family, a boat and a mission without passing judgment on any of them.

"I just am really interested in stories where people step out of the mainstream and do something different, especially when it involves boats and alternative lifestyles," Roscoe said. "To use the over-used saying, this was right in my wheelhouse."

Roscoe, whose filmmaking credits include the 2008 documentary "Ice Blink" that aired on PBS, is a dreamer and boat builder himself, so the McKay story grabbed him in deep places and drew him in. As he read the stories about the misadventures and mishaps associated with Raw Faith, Roscoe reserved a measure of sympathy. He related to McKay, and appreciated what he was trying to do.

Roscoe had just finished "Ice Blink," and was thinking about his next filmmaking endeavor. Meanwhile, a big pile of wood sat in his Falmouth driveway, his own personal boat dream slowly taking shape over the years.

Roscoe bought plans for a 48-foot trawler more than a decade ago. He has been picking away at it, and with luck, will put the engine in this year. He's got two seasons of work to go before he can close in the hull.

"That's my Raw Faith," the filmmaker says, laughing. "My family calls the project 'Pile of Wood,' because that is what it most closely resembles. ...If I spent less time filming other people on their boats, I would have had my boat built by now."

Roscoe approached McKay in 2008 about making this movie. The family was in Rockland at the time, pretty much living on the boat. They had sold their house in Winthrop, and walked away from a comfortable middle-class lifestyle.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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A still provided by documentary filmmaker Gregory Roscoe shows Raw Faith builder George McKay at the helm.

Courtesy photo


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