Hargrave 101: Forward Thinking, Always Listening

Victoriano is the latest product of Hargrave Custom Yachts's winning formula.

Hargrave 101

When the stock market burped and the bottom fell out of the boat business, Mike Joyce was one of the first boat-business pals I called.

Joyce is CEO of Hargrave Custom Yachts and he has weathered more than one foul economic cycle in his 41 years in the business. He is a good friend and a straight shooter—his advice was blunt. "I can't predict the future, but I can tell you that the business models that have worked for the last 10 years are not going to work for the next 10." I thought about his words and wondered how he might respond with Hargrave Yachts. Now the wondering is over. His answer is Victoriano.

Victoriano is a part of the Hargrave Yachts's Capri Series, new designs that are intended to solidify Hargrave's position in the 90- to 110-foot market. "We can build pretty much anything anyone wants—however, we have found that our customers seem focused on this zone," said Joyce. The reason is simple, he explains, quoting the late, iconic designer whose company he now owns. "Jack Hargrave used to say that anything more than 100 feet LOA is simply space for more crew."

"Our customers are what we call 'the working rich' and they understand the value of a dollar and have worked hard to get theirs...they want us to design and build them boats that make sense," said Joyce. He makes the point that larger boats equal more expense, more draft, and less access to prime East Coast and Bahamian cruising haunts. Joyce knows his clients and Victoriano's owner is typical. She is the fourth Hargrave he has commissioned and he has been a customer since Joyce sold him a sailing yacht in the 1980s.

Measuring 101 feet, Victoriano is the second of three yachts based on a newly designed hull form (the first, Sassy, was launched last year). She features traditional raised pilothouse styling, a four-stateroom/six-crew arrangement, and contemporary decor. Victoriano has more of a Euro flare and is the second Hargrave in this size range with an on-deck master stateroom—a feature more commonly found on larger boats. Sassy is rather angular, while Victoriano has softly curved window lines. Euro influence, perhaps, but to my eye she is an American design free of the unnecessary winglets, arches, and clutter that typically pass quickly in and out of fashion. The third yacht in this series, Donna Marie, will blend styling elements of the first two boats and feature a country kitchen arrangement on the main deck. An experienced eye will appreciate that all three boats are distinct, yet share common Hargrave DNA. Joyce once worked for the designer and views his stewardship of the Hargrave brand in a historic perspective. "Jack shaped the modern American motoryacht; I think he would be very pleased with our efforts," said Joyce.

Joyce listens to his customers and their crews—particularly those that charter. "We consider satisfying the unique requirements of an experienced charter crew a benchmark for good design," said Joyce. On Victoriano this translates into a three cabin crew area that can accommodate six and has a comfortable lounge. There is direct access to the galley above— one of the largest I have seen on a yacht this size. A discrete entrance to the accommodations space allows the crew to provide service without stepping over the guests. A laundry area has two full-size washers and three dryers. The maindeck master stateroom and VIP stateroom belowdecks are equally lavish and two guest staterooms have movable berths that can be arranged as two singles or queens. The main saloon has an open formal dining area. Joinery throughout is finished in high-gloss cherry with exotic wood accents and is complemented by a décor package crafted by Yacht Interiors by Shelley. Exterior public spaces include an afterdeck dining area and a bridgedeck with a helm station, a full-service bar, a seating area, and a whirlpool bath. Above, a large sunroof retracts with the push of a button. The boat deck has room for a tender and two PWC. Joyce points out that no two Hargraves are the same and when I visited his office his design team was crafting several custom arrangements based on the new hull design.

The Capri Series is built at the same facility that builds the Monte Fino yachts that Joyce represents. The first Hargrave Yacht customer had in fact been inspecting a Monte Fino at the 1996 Miami boat show. “He was impressed with the quality of the boat but he wasn’t keen on the European styling,” said Joyce. “Wouldn’t it be great if these guys could build a Hargrave design like my last two boats?” said the would-be customer. “When he found out I owned Hargrave he lit up like a Christmas tree,” said Joyce. The two went across the street to the coffee shop at the Eden Roc Hotel. “This fellow knew boats, he took a placemat and made a rough sketch of what he thought the boat should look like and the sort of arrangement it should have,” said Joyce. “I told him that we could build the boat and promised a detailed quote and fixed price—he gave me a $10,000 deposit on the spot.” The boat was delivered 14 months later.

Sixty percent of Joyce’s customers have built more than one boat with him. Joyce views his business partners as part of the extended Hargrave family as well. “Our design team, our yard, and our vendors have a keen understanding of our product, but more importantly, we all agree on our goals in terms of customer satisfaction,” said Joyce. He suggests that most folks in this segment of the marine industry place too much faith in written warranties. “The fact is that in our company a warranty is pretty simple—at the end of the day it’s whatever makes the customer happy. When everyone involved in the process understands this, the quality of the product improves.”

Victoriano's bottom is solid fiberglass and her topsides and superstructure are cored with closed-cell foam. Structural engineering follows the recommendations of Norwegian classification society DNV (det Norske Veritas) and classification is offered. Systems are designed in accordance with U.S. standards, which Joyce suggests eliminates the confusion at the yard that sometimes occurs with boats built to European standards. Most of what goes into Hargrave yachts, from engines to sinks, is shipped from the U.S. to the yard for installation. "We start at the back end—reliability and serviceability," says Joyce who notes that Jack Hargrave was not into gimmicks, either. "There was no advantage to being aboard the first wagon train wandering west—the equipment we specify is proven." Victoriano is powered with a pair of 1,675-horsepower Caterpillar C32 diesels and has a maximum speed of 21 knots and a cruising speed of 18 knots.

"I figure I'm the luckiest guy in the world," said Joyce. "Folks that we build yachts for are some of the brightest, most successful people on the planet, and when they talk, I listen." Joyce is betting that boats like Victoriano are the future—and since luck's got nothing to do with how a Hargrave is made, odds are he's right.

Hargrave Custom Yachts, (954) 463-0555, www.hargrave.org