The Big Dreams Of Tom West
Tom West doesn’t consider himself a great sailor, as his sole
experience consists of a few hours on a Midwestern lake aboard a
16-footer. Yet West, 71, believes that the 57-foot sailboat that he’s
building on his home tennis court in Poland, Indiana, will not only
float, but also sail around the world — with West at the helm and
his wife Marsha, also 71, by his side, and with as many as a dozen
friends along for the ride. This, the first boat he’s ever built, is also
largely steel and so, in his opinion, will be very forgiving of his
steep learning curve.
“I plan out my life ahead of time,” he explains, “and I thought
it would be neat to go from port to port when I got old.” Bold
words, perhaps, but West straddles the thin line between Jack
Of All Trades and Renaissance Man, so building a boat should be
small fry for him. He built his home, and in various jobs over a
lifetime, he has also built farm equipment and computer circuitry,
and rebuilt aircraft engines.
“I’ve got just about every tool you can think of,” he says. He
also has a bachelor’s in astrophysics and a master’s in physics.
“I’ve done a lot of things, built a lot of things, and I’ve never had
Once West retired from his last gig — a high-school tennis
coach with five state titles — he had plenty of time to accomplish
his oceangoing dream, a traveling boat built of steel. “I tried to pick
out the largest boat I could get out of here,” West said of the nearly
If you’d like to see someone included in This Boating Life,
a boater who’s also done something extraordinary, e-mail your
suggestions to editor@BoatUS.com
finished 30-ton vessel he built from plans. The exterior is painted,
and now he’s completing the interior. If all goes as planned, he
hopes to launch soon. “About half the state has shown up here.
The ones who know boats say, ‘My God, you’ve done a fantastic
job.’ But at the same time, I get people who say, ‘You’re nuts!’”
Tom West poses inside his creation.
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