2011-12-20 / Front Page

72-Year-Old Poland Man Busy Crafting Ocean Boat At Home On State Road 42

Tom West To Set Sail From Kentucky Lake In Ideal Spring Conditions
by Michael Stanley Staff Writer


Tom West fastens interior paneling near the captain’s chair of his large ocean boat while working on his project late last week along State Road 42 in Poland. (Staff Photo) Tom West fastens interior paneling near the captain’s chair of his large ocean boat while working on his project late last week along State Road 42 in Poland. (Staff Photo) In a landlocked location such as the Clay-Owen county line area along State Road 42, the Wabash River and Cagles Mill Lake are about as close to a large body of water as area residents can get without planning a road trip.

Poland resident Tom West plans to make just such a trip, traveling about five hours south on U.S. 231 to southwestern Kentucky and Kentucky Lake to set sail for a long awaited voyage.

Growing up on a farm, West said he made his family ‘madder than hell’ when he left home to obtain a higher education.

The 72-year-old retired electronics engineer from Indiana University has a degree in Astro Physics and a master’s degree in Physics.

“I worked interfacing atomic energy equipment to computers,” West said. “I’ve got a hell of an education and a lot of experience. We hope to have this (boat) done by spring. I thought I’d have it done sooner than this; I thought it would be like building a house. Well, we put our house up in a week, but it usually takes people about 15 years to build something like this.”


Completely custom built from the ground up in the front yard of Tom West, the 60x16 ‘Faith’ is approximately four to five months from completion. The ocean boat can be seen while traveling along State Road 42 in Poland and is much more than a large scale toy. West has spent the last four years literally working daily on his labor of love. (Staff Photo) Completely custom built from the ground up in the front yard of Tom West, the 60x16 ‘Faith’ is approximately four to five months from completion. The ocean boat can be seen while traveling along State Road 42 in Poland and is much more than a large scale toy. West has spent the last four years literally working daily on his labor of love. (Staff Photo) The 60x16 vessel has been a nearly four-year la- bor of love for West. Completely crafted from the ground up, West explained that the curved steel body, framing and all other components were assembled in his front yard along State Road 42 in Poland. The 14 layers of paint currently on the exterior of the vessel aren’t quite the finished product, either, with a few more coats of Marine paint to come.

“It’s going through Spencer, because U.S. 231 travels down to Kentucky Lake and it doesn’t have too many height restrictions,” West explained. “Kentucky Lake has a waterway that goes all the way to the gulf at the other end. It’s called ‘Tombigbee Waterway,’ a lot of people that use Kentucky Lake take their boats back and forth in that waterway in the summer. The government built the waterway for barge traffic.”

At least four large sails of Dacron material are being made in Connecticut, at a cost of approximately $4,000 each.

On the rear of the upper decking of the boat are two wind generators to help gather any extra electricity for the voyage.

“I’ve got a guy helping me who’s a brother-in-law, he helps two or three days a week, then I have another guy I pay once or twice a week,” West said. Used to, I’d do just about all of it on my own, but I’m trying to meet a deadline now to get out of here when the water is high in the springtime.”

The interior of the boat is designed with several types of high quality hardwood finishes from sidewall paneling to kitchen cabinets and hand-crafted steps.

“It’s got three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, kitchen and you could put quite a bit more in it,” West said. “The inside steering station isn’t completed yet, but it’s complete with sonar, radar, marine radio, single-side ban radio, emergency radio and even auto pilot – it’ll sail itself. The radar, sonar and everything communicates to the auto pilot, so you can fall asleep as long as everything is working properly.”

He’s also put a lot of thought into general maintenance of the boat, including tanks on the underbelly of the boat.

“It’s got sewer tanks, water tanks and this whole area in the kitchen can be taken out by removing a few screws so you can get in there to work on those tanks we made,” West said. “There’s a diesel generator and two big banks of batteries.”

Having visited Hawaii a few times, but noticing the costly amount to stay and the large number of boats, West had an idea.

“I thought if I had my own boat, I could just stay there for as long as I wanted to and it wouldn’t cost me too much,” he said. “I didn’t really realize what it cost to keep these boats out the way they do... it can cost as much as $1,000 a day to dock one. So with big boats, you just anchor out. In Hilton Head (Island), if you go in the wrong dock, it’s $15 or $20 a foot, so you have to know where you’re going.”

West explained that many folks have expressed an interest in being invited for his eventual journey, noting that those who helped work on the project are welcome to go for a sail anytime.

While the vessel is a sail boat, it’s also equipped with a diesel engine and two 250-gallon tanks, expected to last up to 1,000 miles. West will need to utilize the diesel engines, he said, to get the boat to the ocean.

Although he doesn’t have a set route planned or a crew selected, West acknowledged he has plenty more work to be completed in the next few months before he can set sail and bid his naysayers a bon voyage.

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