It was a dream come true Monday for LaPorte area resident Terry Marks once the 56-foot steel and aluminum boat he spent nearly 18 years building was placed into the water at Michigan City.
"I've been waiting for this day for a while," said the 64-year-old retired welder from Bethlehem Steel.
Marks set out to make a profit when he started building the sky blue vessel named Significant at his home on LaPorte County Road 200 East north of LaPorte.
Much of his spare time was invested building the boat and he never considered quitting once he got far enough along in its construction.
"It gets to a certain point and then it's too late. You got to finish it or take a big loss of a lot of money," said Marks.
The boat, along with the five semi trucks it took to haul it to the lakefront, were given a police escort in a 10 to 15 mile-per hour procession on U.S. 20, Ind. 212 and U.S. 12, often taking up both eastbound and northbound lanes on each state highway.
"It was kind of interesting to watch them maneuver through the roads," said Mick Kazmucha, 66, of Michigan City.
He and a friend, Norm Drenton, 78, also of Michigan City, began following at about the halfway point of the half-hour drive.
"It pretty well tied up traffic all the way," said Drenton.
The boat sat in the parking lot outside the U.S. Coast Guard station for about two hours while crews hooked up all of the straps and other gear it took for a crane to lift up the vessel and sit it into the water.
"It's an amazing feat to build that sucker," said Kazmucha.
Julie McKiel, 53, of LaPorte has been Marks' girlfriend for the past nine years and knows firsthand how much time and effort were involved.
She would lend a hand whenever she could.
"It's just really amazing to see him finally have his dream come true," said McKiel.
Marks said transporting the boat to the lakefront cost about $30,000.
He's not sure how much money he has invested in the boat and doesn't know if he'll make a profit, saying the market has been down for several years.
"It's been a huge weight off his shoulders now that it's actually sitting where it should be sitting," said McKiel.