Hargrave Custom Yachts Lets the Owner Call the Tune - 09/02/2009

The process of buying a new large custom-built motoryacht can seem daunting to someone who hasn’t been through the motoryacht buying process before. The staff at Hargrave Custom Yachts knows that and has designed its customer relations process to be low-key, friendly and geared to whatever level of sophistication and detail the customer requests or needs. For example, some customers want to own a large motoryacht but feel out of their element when it comes to designing the interior and creating the décor, to say nothing of specifying all of the necessary equipment. In such a case Hargrave’s staff can design, equip and decorate the vessel -- after numerous consultations – down to the nat’s eyelash. In other cases, the buyer has strong ideas of exactly what he or she (usually BOTH he and she) want in nearly every detail of the yacht’s build. The astonishing thing about the Hargrave process is that the company can give this level of customization for the same price or less than that of a similar size and equipped production motoryacht.

Hargrave Saloon
This is the saloon of a 92’ motoryacht that Hargrave Custom Yachts built for a discerning owner. The buyer specified virtually everything you see in this picture and Hargrave’s staff was happy to comply with the owner’s every wish.

The First Meeting

Usually when a customer approaches Hargrave they have some idea of the size and kind of motoryacht they are interested in buying. The customer wants to go at his own pace – some fast and others slowly – and all want to get comfortable with Hargrave’s staff.

Hargrave Saloon
This Hargrave Custom Yacht was paneled in dark walnut with burlwood inlays and accents. All of the furniture, including the credenza to the right, fabrics, and sconces were specified by the client. Storage was placed under all of the sofas and chairs. All moldings, bulls’ noses, and inlays were designed by the client.

Step One

Step one is to zero-in on how the customer plans to use his new boat. Once that is determined, Hargrave shows the client drawings and pictures of previous boats it has built that come close to that specification and gives the buyer an estimate of what it will cost to have such a boat built. Hargrave has built over 75 yachts from 60’ to 120’ from which a customer can get inspiration. When the client finds a boat that is similar to what he or she has in mind, Hargrave moves to the next step.

Step Two

While large motoryachts may at first seem incredibly different one from another, the fact is that from an overall layout standpoint, the floor plans from all builders are remarkably similar. The reason for that is that there is only so much one can do in the constraints of the length, beam, draft and seakeeping requirements of any motoryacht. Accommodations and the engine room must all be on the lower deck. The “public spaces” of the saloon, dining area, and generally the galley at minimum are always on the main deck. A helm, day head, settee, and library might also be located here depending on the size of the boat. If there is a top deck, does it have a sky lounge, an open flying bridge, or a raised pilothouse design with a flying bridge? The client is given drawings of different layouts that show many of the possibilities in a given size and yacht configuration, and decides what he likes best.

Hargrave Saloon
Most furniture is custom manufactured by Hargrave’s vendors. For example, the table was custom-made for the beveled glass table top designed to make the space look larger. The étagère in the background was enlarged to be able to handle regular sized dinner plates. The chairs were sourced at the Dakota Design Center in Ft. Lauderdale, one of the largest in the country, and only a few minutes from the Hargrave offices.

Step Three

Once the client has found one, or more likely, bits and pieces from several of the drawings they would like to combine in the yacht of their dreams, Hargrave quickly produces new drawings of the yacht’s layout that incorporate the basic desires of the client. Not surprisingly, most clients want to know how much the boat will cost at that point, and while Hargrave can’t make a specific quotation it can give a ballpark estimate. In most cases, buyers are surprised to learn that the boat is the same price or less than production fiberglass boats they have been looking at.

It is here that the buyer’s new custom boat begins to take shape. Typically buyers live with these drawings for a week or so, imagining how all of the spaces will work and how they plan to use the boat. Changes are then incorporated into a second set of drawings. It is not unusual for buyers to decide that they need more room and enlarge the boat. Hargrave then makes a new set of drawings and submits these drawings to the client with a specific, itemized price quote. Now is the moment of truth. Typically it takes less than a month to 6 weeks to get to this point.

Hargrave Saloon
The client wanted a working desk opposite the dining area and Hargrave was happy to comply. The leather desktop is of hand-tooled leather made specifically by a Hargrave vendor to the customer’s design. The column, fluting, rounded wood treatments, bull noses, and molding were all specified by the client. Note the air conditioning comes out over the molding at the overhead, and to the left of the desk is the spiral stairway to the accommodations below.

Hargrave is Fast and Detailed

The amazing thing is that Hargrave can accomplish this initial design process quickly. Now the buyer has not only the drawings, but also a multipage line item listing with a description of each item of equipment on the boat along with a price for each item and a total price for the boat.

Hargrave Saloon
Mike Joyce, President of Hargrave Yachts.

Hargrave is able to produce that equipment list so quickly because it has years of experience building large custom motoryachts. It knows what must go into every boat no matter how big it is. Further, by using a similar boat that has already been built, it can simply duplicate that equipment list and update pricing. Because of the early meetings with the client, Hargrave knows what direction a client wants to go, ie minimalist on options to keep the price down, or load it up with options that will make the boat even more luxurious. The client has the last word.

In many areas of the boat’s construction, such as the décor, Hargrave simply gives “allowances” in the price specification list. For example, when it comes to furniture and fabrics, robust allowances are given for each. These details will be addressed later, after the contract is signed and the boat is under construction.

Hargrave Saloon
The large foyer below leads to the master and the other two staterooms. The buyer specified that every doorway should be arched – a small detail which gives the whole boat a more elegant look. The double door here leads to the master. Note the door in the master to the lady’s closet, all details specified by the client.

The Fun is in the Details

Veteran yachtsmen will enjoy the equipment specification process because they can carefully go down the list, examining each item, and cross-examining Hargrave as to why it has specified a specific brand or size unit. In virtually all cases, the buyer will discover that Hargrave has specified the leading and highest quality brand for every item of equipment. Hargrave staff will be able to explain chapter and verse why each item of equipment or brand has been selected. Uppermost in Hargrave’s collective mind is “reliability.”

Caterpillar is a Must

It is for that reason that Hargrave will only build a motoryacht with Caterpillar engines. This is an example where the company’s experience takes precedent over consumer choice. Hargrave wants its owners to have a rewarding yacht-owning experience and it has determined that using Caterpillar engines is the best way to that end. However, on most other items of equipment, if a client prefers another brand or capacity, Hargrave is usually happy to comply so long as it does not compromise the safety of the boat.

Time for the Contract

At this point, usually about a month after the buyer sat down for a first serious discussion, Hargrave will furnish the client with a contract that is breathtaking in its legal brevity and absence of confusing legalese and reassuring with its massive enumeration of the details of the build. Once the contract has been signed and the deposit paid, work commences in Taiwan on laminating the hull.

Post-Contract Time Line

Hargrave Saloon
This is Shelly Dicondina of Yacht Interiors by Shelly. She works with every Hargrave customer on their floor plans, interior decoration, woods, granites, furniture, appliances and virtually everything else that is not part of the mechanical operation of the boat, to make sure that clients get exactly what they want.

At this point there is still a lot of work to do on the boat; Hargrave will give the client a time line which explains when decisions must be made on certain details of the build. One of the biggest and most important jobs is determining all of the interior décor. That job comes in stages. Hargrave gives the buyer an “interior designer allowance” to use with any designer they choose. Most Hargrave clients choose Yacht Interiors by Shelly, which is located nearby and has a special relationship with Hargrave over many years which facilitates the speed, cost and quality of interior design work.

For example, all of the interiors you see in the pictures with this article were executed by the staff of Yacht Interiors by Shelly upon instructions and direction given by the buyer’s significant other. In this way the client got exactly what she wanted without the time-consuming hassle of sourcing, measuring, buying, warehousing, and over-seeing manufacturers – all of which are done by Shelly and the Hargrave organization.

Client and spouse working with Shelly on the interior layout and décor.

This, in a nutshell, is basically how the process of buying a boat at Hargrave Custom Yachts works. If you would like to have a meeting with Hargrave to explore the possibilities of building the yacht of your dreams, there has never been a better time to act.

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