* Poland couple nearing completion of hand-crafted boat
POLAND -- The large, sleek, grey sailboat yacht sitting in Tom and Marsha West's yard is no laughing matter anymore.
"A lot of people made jokes about it at first," Tom recently told The Brazil Times. "Now, more and more people stop to ask questions about it."
What started as an idea more than two years ago is coming close to completion, witha 60-foot steel boat located in an unused tennis court next to his Poland home on State Road 42.
While most boats like the one Tom is building are constructed out of fiberglass, he formed the steel housing by hand because of durability and safety concerns.
"It's safer and something I can work with if it needs to be fixed," Tom said. "There are a lot of safety features built into the boat, including some in case of pirates."
The boat is also housed with various pumps, radios, hydraulics systems and four individual power sources for maneuverability.
"The goal out on the open sea is to use the sail and the wind," Tom said.
Tom explained other amenities include enough room inside for 12 people to sleep comfortably, two complete bathrooms, a spacious kitchen, a lounge and a large technology/navigation center.
"We could have up to 100 people on the boat if we wanted to," Marsha said. "But I can't imagine that we would want that many."
If weather and time permits, Tom said the yacht would soon be painted blue with white trim and its 80-foot mast and other rigging would be attached sometime next spring.
"It's named 'Faith,'" because with enough faith we'll get it done," he said with a chuckle.
When Marsha's husband told her he was going to build a yacht in the front yard, she was admittedly quick to reply.
"I told him I wasn't going to help, but now, I do," Marsha said while laughing. "I enjoy watching construction, seeing things -- whether a quilt or a building -- being built (or created) from inception to the finished project. Working on the boat is like putting a puzzle together."
The retired couple has shared the elbow grease to complete the project.
"We've had some help from family and friends," Tom said. "But I'd say (we've) done about 99 percent of the work."
Creating something from the ground up is nothing new for the couple, or Tom in particular, who have built their own home, garage, a barn, several pieces of farm equipment and even a telescope, including grinding the lenses, by hand over the years.
A real "renaissance man," Tom -- who has multiple degrees, including one in astrophysics -- has spent a lifetime acquiring knowledge and the tools to implement his creative abilities.
"I have all kinds of tools, welders, a woodworking shop, a saw mill and 40-50 acres of trees to use for lumber. It's just time to put them all to use," Tom said, adding that the couple also enjoys many artistic endeavors too. "Marsha quilts and does many other artistic things too. I have painted, done sculpture and even tried my hand at poetry a few times. Building this boat is really an art project for us."
In preparation for the dream trip of a lifetime, Tom and Marsha have been attending boat shows around the United States and reading as many books as possible about sailing.
"The dream really isn't about the boat, it's about seeing the world," Tom said. "If you don't have a dream, life gets pretty dull."