Hargrave 98

The custom Hargrave 98 draws jealous glances wherever she goes.

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Any sailor worth his salt is alert to the fair of form as he walks the waterfront, so naturally, my attention was immediately drawn to the beauty that sat demurely at the end of the dock. Her green-eyed stare pulled me closer, and I quickly realized this was the lady I had been searching for. I said hello, but the voice that answered was not hers.

It was that of Mitch Armstrong, captain of Tigers Eye, welcoming me aboard this latest motoryacht from Hargrave Custom Yachts. The green eye, part of a stylized logo that graces the transom, passed from view as Captain Mitch accompanied me up the stern stairway to her spacious, fully shaded aft deck.

I had been aboard several Hargave skylounge models of differing lengths and was eager to see how the builder's custom program played out on this 98-footer. The short answer: This lady is all about fun. Tigers Eye was designed and built with entertaining in mind, and that focus is evident in both her arrangement and her outfitting.

I'm not sure how you best quantify the hospitality factor, but Armstrong was eager to tout his vessel's TVs (13) and toilets (10). Indeed, one of the yacht's three day-heads was underfoot as I boarded, tucked steps from the swim platform, just inside the transom door for the convenience of guests. There's another on the main deck and the third is in the skylounge, each of these two adjacent to the central stairway that spans all three decks.

This easy accessibility may seem like an obvious concept, particularly for a yacht that will charter extensively. However, it's just one indication among many that the owner, the interior designers, and the Hargrave engineering group put a lot of thought into exactly how this yacht would be used before drawing the first line or cutting the first piece of cherry. That design approach-understanding how the boat will be used and imagining yourself aboard-dates from the days of Jack Hargrave, the late legendary designer whose classic traditions are carried on in this line of custom yachts. Mike Joyce, president of Hargrave Custom Yachts, was a Hargrave associate more than 30 years ago (as was I) and is careful to preserve both the uncompromising integrity and bedrock principles associated with the name.

The basic concept of comfort and convenience carries throughout all three of Tigers Eye's decks, but perhaps the best place to start is at the top. By combining the pilothouse and the skylounge into a single enclosed space, and extending the top deck nearly to the stern, the yacht offers an amazing amount of guest area for her length. The command helm overlooks five electronic screens of information, monitoring, and control, and the windows front, side, and aft offer a view that totals very nearly 360 degrees.

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Comfortable helm seats are located on centerline and to starboard. In place of a third helm seat to port, Tigers Eye features a bar with seating for three. Abaft the bar is an L-settee for four surrounding a cocktail table, and both the bar stools and the settee face a large flat-screen video display that rises out of the cabinet surrounding the upper end of the central stairway.

In the aft corner of the skylounge is the upper day-head, with doors opening to both the inside and outside. It is equally convenient to those guests in the lounge or enjoying the open aft deck and eliminates the need for those in the whirlpool spa to track water across the skylounge carpet. In addition to the spa, the aft deck has another bar, this one for grilling and food prep, and a wraparound settee for seven with two small tables. The aftermost end of this deck carries a PWC and a RIB tender, both launched by the adjacent hydraulic davit.

Tigers Eye has a full-beam deckhouse in way of the saloon and dining room, but the forward end of the house narrows up to create side decks for access to the foredeck. This area, like the pilothouse and skylounge, has combined guest and crew functions to maximize the utility of the available deck space. The anchor windlass and chain-locker hatch lie fully forward. To shade the foredeck, a base to carry a large umbrella has been incorporated as part of the large adjacent sunpad when at anchor or moored.

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Just inside the door from the starboard side deck to Tigers Eye's country kitchen-style galley is the stairway to the yacht's crew quarters. When guests are using the elevated dinette for casual dining, the crew has a small mess available below deck. Otherwise, they can enjoy a little more space in this convertible area on the main deck-just another example of optimizing utility through multi-functionality.

Between the galley and the dining room is a sliding pocket door with a large frosted-glass panel. This provides privacy for more formal dinners while retaining the feeling of openness that characterizes Tigers Eye. The open-yet-separate feeling is reinforced by the dual columns that top a low cabinet between the dining room and saloon, and by the open design of the stairway that lies to starboard. The décor here and elsewhere is a nice blend of gloss-finished cherry, burl, and light fabrics that form a neutral background for various objets d'art. Curved cherry strips are inlaid into the overhead, creating visual interest, and focused lighting further defines the different areas without closing them in.

The starboard side of the saloon has a bar with three seats as well as a large video screen. Two overstuffed easy chairs with ottomans, plus an L-settee wrapped around a glass cocktail table, provide ample seating for those occasions when the full guest complement wants to gather together.

At the after end of the saloon, two sliding-glass doors, framed in polished stainless, bring light to the interior while providing access to the aft deck. The aft deck is open but is shaded by the extended upper deck. Its bar, table, and seating for eight, provide an ideal spot for alfresco dining when the sun's rays are a bit too harsh in the unshaded open areas forward or topside.

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Curved stairways both port and starboard lead down to the swim platform. From here, a central watertight door provides access to a small lazarette, where the lower day-head is located, and to the engineroom beyond. With the engineroom located aft and crew accommodations forward, all guest staterooms, including the master suite, are situated amidships. This is the ideal location, low and centered, where the yacht's motion at sea will be at its most comfortable. The queen-berth VIP stateroom anchors the forward end of the guest accommodations and with its en suite bath, spans the yacht's full beam. Two twin-berth en suite staterooms with Pullmans flank a central foyer, where the base of a mirrored niche displays the circular "eye" theme that recurs in several spots, including the shoji screens that grace each stateroom.

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The master stateroom is aftermost in the guest accommodations, and is buffered from the engineroom by a full-beam his-and-hers head with a huge central shower. In my opinion, this is the perfect spot for this stateroom, but some prefer the better view afforded by a suite forward on the main deck. Not forgetting these guests, the Hargrave designers have fitted the stateroom with six oversized ports, three per side, bringing in an abundance of light and view without compromising either the appearance of the exterior profile or the watertight integrity of the hull.

Over the past decade, Hargrave Custom Yachts has built a sterling reputation and a loyal-some might say fanatical-following by providing customers with two things: exceptional, continuing service, and yachts that are recognized for their value. Some, including myself and a number of Hargrave's customers, have argued that outfitting of the earliest yachts sacrificed a bit too much luxury in order to meet a price point, but those days are long over. Recent deliveries, including Tigers Eye, provide world-class interiors, beautifully equipped enginerooms, and well-engineered systems. At the same time, through clever design and efficient production, Hargrave has managed to continue offering attractive prices. Building better boats while maintaining the core principles of service and value is surely a winning formula for Hargrave and its customers alike. Could that green eye represent the jealous looks of others?

Hargrave Custom Yachts, (954) 463-0555; www.hargrave-usa.com