August 11, 2013

Bob Keyes: Risking it all on an act of faith

(Continued from page 1)

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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.

George McKay was driven by the desire to build this boat, a galleon that looked something like what you would see in a pirate movie. It was beautiful, with three tall masts and elegant lines. He wanted an open-deck boat that would accommodate his daughter, Elizabeth, who was afflicted with a condition known as Marfans Syndrome that restricted her mostly to a wheelchair.

He wanted to build a boat that would give people like his daughter the chance for sailing adventures that they otherwise would not have.

But he had no boat-building experience. People told him he was crazy, that he lacked the know-how and that the boat would sink.

McKay plowed ahead, motivated to provide a better life for his daughter. That's the story Roscoe wanted to get at -- the depth that someone is willing to go to make a difference in someone's life, and why. At some point, the line between noble and foolish goes a little gray, and that's where the McKay story gets complicated.

Roscoe got involved at a time when Raw Faith was floundering. It had been demasted twice at that point -- two times since its launching in 2003, it had gone to sea, lost its masts and had to be towed back to port.

McKay was in Rockland licking his wounds and feeling beaten down. He needed money to fix the boat before he could get his dream back on track.

Roscoe quickly learned that another Maine filmmaker, P. David Berez of Camden, was making a movie about McKay and Raw Faith. Berez had footage from the early years, from the time the boat project began through its second demasting. With the project stalled and its future uncertain, Berez turned his attention elsewhere.

Roscoe partnered with him to tell the rest of the story. Berez gave him access to early footage, and Roscoe followed the story from 2008.

The final chapter for Raw Faith began in fall 2010. McKay was able to get the boat back on the water, and sailed from Rockland to Portland and eventually to Salem, Mass., where he was permitted to give tours of the boat.

But he overstayed his welcome, literally staying on the Salem waterfront longer than his permit allowed. He was forced to leave, and set sail for Bermuda. A storm hit, and the boat went down.

"It's a sad, sad story. It's a story about loss, and it's a story about the strength of a family. For all the things that befell this family, they are still very close," Roscoe said. "They figured out how to be a family on their own terms."

I spoke with two of McKay's sons: Tom, 30, who lives in Bangor; and Aaron, 32, who lives in New Jersey.

Tom saw the movie in Waterville at the film festival. Aaron has seen a rough cut. Both said they appreciated that Roscoe treated them with an even hand.

There are things in the movie that make them uncomfortable. It's hard to watch such personal tragedy play out in public, they said. But they feel the family is portrayed fairly and accurately.

"It's a very controversial story," Tom McKay said. "But I felt like Greg did a really good job portraying different sides of the controversy accurately and unbiasedly. That said, there are obviously parts of my life that I wish were different. There are parts of things that have happened that I don't like, and those parts are portrayed in the movie. It definitely stirred up strong feelings. But that's reality."

Said Aaron McKay, "It's such an odd thing to be in a film that is being shown in public. I do not know how to react. I just run with it, I guess."

(Continued on page 3)

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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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