Probably the majority of people who go cruising like it for the escape. Their time at sea is free from the obligations and commitments of everyday life. For Michael and Barbara Porter of Chebeague Island, work and everyday life are intertwined, so a sea passage means less of an escape than a journey with a purpose. Michael designs boats; Barbara is an independent research scholar. Neither profession requires long commutes or an office in the city they’ve worked this way on Chebeague for years.

The Porters have the dream many couples have as they enter middle age and the children have left the house. They want to travel and cruise the world. But they are not ready to retire yet, so their live-aboard boat needs to accommodate both work and home life while successfully navigating the world’s waterways. Michael Porter’s custom-designed Voyager is an attempt to do just that.

Porter calls his design the “Live Anywhere” boat. She is a 62-foot powerboat “designed for a couple to be able to live and work anywhere by water, including most canals in Europe as well as across oceans,” says Porter. “It’s an RV, basically.”

The canals that weave through interior France posed specific design complications because they limit vessels to a five-foot draft, 16-foot beam, and height above waterline of 11 feet. Meeting those criteria, according to Porter, means that their boat will be able to travel 95 percent of the world’s waterways.

“Pieces Of This And That”

Porter borrowed from several design concepts for the boat, which will bear his wife’s name, Barbara. “You can live on a 35-foot power boat,” says Porter. “But the way power boat designs get space is through width and size. Most don’t fit in European canals. We got around that keeping her narrow and low.”

"'LiveIt’s not a sailboat hull either, although her 15-foot-8-inch width is proportional to a sailboat of that size. But her bow isn’t long and pointy, and she has a square transom stern. Porter says that strength is usually achieved by adding depth in proportion to length — “you want it like a box girder.” But he ran into draft problems drawing her with a deep keel. “This is a displacement boat that is narrow at the ends — it puts the water right back where it was [when the bow entered it].” He opted for a shape that would be easily driven rather than fast. “She moves easily through water,” says Porter. “With its long, straight profile, it is easier to drive, it tracks better and you get good fuel economy.”

For longer crossings, Porter will run with stabilizers off the beam — what fishermen call “birds” or paravanes — to keep her steady in rolling seas. Also, he adds, “We’ll try to pick good weather when doing blue water crossings.”

With narrow proportions and aft pilothouse, her looks are reminiscent of older eastern rig herring seiners. “Having the pilot house aft, you can see where the boat is in canals from the helm,” says Porter. Unlike the old eastern rigs, he put on a reverse-angle windshield to eliminate glare in the dark from reflecting gauges and binnacle lights.

He powers her with a 255-horsepower six-cylinder Cummins diesel engine, which he likes because of its reputation for long engine life. The slow-turning (1800 rpm) motor turns one big, 36-inch propeller.

The “Live Anywhere” boat is clearly and simply laid out. Forward of the pilothouse, the deck covers a long trunk cabin. Beneath the pilothouse, a generous engine room is designed for ease of maintenance. The saloon, galley and dining area, and an office area are forward of that. Further forward, a guest cabin and generous-sized head can comfortably accommodate two. Forward of that is the forepeak, “with V-berths for the grandkids,” says Porter. “It can sleep six for a while, but on a longer passage you take four people.” Watertight bulkheads separate compartments. Aft of the pilot house downstairs is the owners’ cabin, featuring sleeping area, more office space and another head.

Live and Work at Home

"AluminumWith modern satellite communications, computers and the Internet, the “Live Anywhere” boat is designed to be a fully functioning home office no matter where she is docked. Michael’s wife, Barbara Porter, is an independent scholar specializing in Assyrian and Babylonian culture — the life and people of what is now Iraq — from the 12th to the 7th centuries B.C. Her work involves reading, writing, research and access to major libraries around the world. “What is wonderful about the way he’s designed the boat is that I will be able to do it from there,” she says. Michael began the design with an office for each of them. For Barbara’s purposes, that includes space for the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary — all 23 volumes, taking up about three feet of shelf space 18 inches high. “Plus its shorter, German equivalent!” says Barbara. She has a desk with space for files, reprints, a place to work and a good bit of bookshelf space.

Assyriologists are a rare breed — she estimates there are only about 300 in this country — but they are international. “What this boat means is, we can be tied up beside a major research library in Heidelberg, Amsterdam, Helsinki, Venice, Florence, or in the Middle East — places where I have good close friends who would open their library to me,” says Barbara. “The dream of this boat is that it provides for my life and profession. As long as I want to I can take my work with me. I can give lectures periodically in Europe, publish and write about the boat.”

Presumably, Michael will continue designing boats, perhaps customizing the “Live Anywhere” to other couples’ specifications. He does most of his design work using computer-aided-design, or CAD. He delivered the design for the “Live Anywhere” boat to Lyman Morse Boatbuilding in Thomaston in CAD-generated drawings. JB Turner, managing director, says from the design to the materials, Porter has made an efficient vessel. She will be built in corrosion-resistant 5086 aluminum, which in a boat this size is stronger for its weight compared to composite materials.

Porter’s design saves money in the building process, according to Turner. “One thing he has done is to include extra chines to make flat panels, rather than a bottom with curves or shapes. So you only need a good welder, not a tremendous welder. It’s straightforward.”

Aluminum plating will be 5/16-inch thickness for the bottom, extending 18 inches above waterline. Topsides and decking will be 1/4-inch. The plates, some as large as 20 by 4 feet, were pre-cut at a specialty shop in Canton, Massachusetts, using robot-controlled water jets to very precise tolerances. Turner says this will be Lyman Morse’s second boat out of its recently acquired metal fabrication shop.

When will the “Live Anywhere” boat be delivered? “He’s hoping to get it in 2005 with engines, drivelines, and systems installation,” says Turner. Porter will finish the rest himself. Meanwhile, will he have drawings and a model of the “Live Anywhere” at boat shows next spring? “If time allows,” says Porter. “There’s been a lot of interest.”