RawFaith damaged in gale – again


ROCKLAND (AP) – A tall ship built to accommodate people with disabilities was severely damaged in a gale just hours after departing from Jonesport on a voyage to New Jersey.

The RawFaith lost all three masts during high seas and strong winds off Mount Desert Rock. Captain George McKay bumped his head and the four-person crew became seasick in the episode that led to the Coast Guard coming to the rescue late Tuesday.

The 81-foot ship, built in Addison in the style of a 16th-century galleon, was designed to accommodate people with disabilities and was funded by an organization called Accessible Sailing Advantages. But it has been plagued with problems.

McKay said funding problems kept the ship from being the best it could be. The vessel will stay at Rockland Harbor until it can be repaired.

For some, there was a sense of deja vu to the crash.

On Thanksgiving Day 2004, the RawFaith was damaged by stormy seas 80 miles off the coast on its first attempt to sail to Cape May, N.J., where McKay hoped to fulfill his dream of taking disabled kids sailing. It was towed to Rockland then, too.

After the first failed trip, RawFaith remained at anchor off Rockland for nine months while undergoing improvements ordered by the Coast Guard.

In August, the ship was given permission to sail to Jonesport for mast work. It was given permission on April 23 to set sail in reasonable weather conditions, said Lt. Daniel McLean of the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Detachment in Belfast.

The ship set sail sometime Tuesday during rainy weather and by 5:50 p.m. had lost one of its masts, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer Joshua Ryan. By 7 p.m., McKay reported all three masts had fallen and the ship, which had no engine, was adrift.

The Coast Guard determined RawFaith was too heavy for any of its local vessels so the 270-foot Seneca, based in Boston, was dispatched to tow the galleon.

When Seneca located RawFaith at 3 a.m. Wednesday, the conditions included winds gusting to 40-plus knots and seas of 9 to 12 feet, Ryan said.

The 175-foot cutter Abbie Burgess met up with the Seneca late Wednesday to bring RawFaith into the harbor.

Jeff Totman, a recreational sailor from Camden, blamed McKay for lacking proper respect for the sea or the proper skills to safely navigate safely.

“He just built himself a boat and headed out to sea. And every time he does, he has to be rescued,” said Totman, who posted a disapproving message on the RawFaith Web site. “He’s tilting at windmills and he’s going to hurt someone.”

McKay did not immediately return a message left by The Associated Press on his cell phone.

The RawFaith’s masts were known to be too small, but McKay had undertaken some “unconventional” repairs to strengthen them, McLean said. “There was strengthening. Obviously, it was not strong enough,” he said.

The Coast Guard planned to keep the RawFaith anchored off Rockland once again. “We will issue another captain-of-the port order,” McLean said. “It will be a lot firmer than it has been in the past.”

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