Murphy was relentless about every detail onboard, visiting the yard in Taiwan and attending every meeting in the Fort Lauderdale offices. He even paired Howard—whom he'd worked with on interiors for three decades—with Shelley DiCondina of Interiors by Shelley, who's worked on more than 60 Hargraves thus far. That gave him two people on oversight duties, in addition to his project manager, to ensure he would get exactly what he wanted.
"He's a perfectionist," Joyce says. "He'll come in, say something looks wrong, and make you take it all down. He's running an empire, and he was in our office at least 30 times."
By May, around the time Cocktails launched, Joyce and his team had just about gone crazy. Getting things exactly as Murphy envisioned them had taxed everyone to the breaking point.
"It's not that we're not prepared to do it, but the reality is that we now have three levels of woodworking: basic, midrange, and over-the-top, like what Mr. Murphy did," Joyce explains. "Just in the galley alone, the number of wood cuts was up by 200 percent. Everything just took everybody longer. The marble and granite, the level of work involved, it comes from a town that's 200 miles from the shipyard. So our guy goes up to see the marble guy to find out why it's late, and he says that his guys don't want to do yachts anymore. He points to a building that's full of marble and granite sinks for luxury hotels around the world, and it's all cookie-cutter. Meanwhile, our stuff is a bunch of guys trying to cut a bunch of [unique] designs in. And they're not saying, 'What a great challenge.' They're saying, 'Not another yacht guy.'
"Having a customer like this is your worst nightmare," Joyce continues, adding that as Cocktails launched, his team seriously discussed making her the yard's last fully custom build. "I'm a big boy, and if it's time to shut down this custom program, let's agree to face the music."
Yet after taking a night to think the yard's future through, all the Hargrave principals came to the opposite conclusion. They realized Murphy had helped them take a giant leap toward providing smaller-motoryacht clients with big-time megayacht custom options.
"You complain when he makes you do it—it's like Chinese water torture—but when you get done building a boat with this guy, it really moves a program forward," Joyce says. "What's happening is that Hargrave is moving up the feeding chain. It's not that these people can't afford bigger or different boats. We're dealing with people who know what they want, who are willing to pay for it, and who will give you the time to do it. We're calling ourselves The Builder's Builder."
In the case of Cocktails, those details include oversize windows, free-flowing passageways, 7'2" headroom, feather-filled pillows in the outside as well as the inside living spaces, $63,000 worth of hand-woven seamless wool carpeting, theater-style lighting for better mood-setting, luxurious silk fabrics on sofas and beds, and a lighted onyx-top bar in the main saloon that is based on a design Howard and Murphy created for the Ritz-Carlton on Miami's South Beach.
They're the kinds of details Murphy wants to enjoy while cruising with his family, which includes three sons and four grandchildren, as well as while entertaining his high-end clients. He's also making the yacht available for charter through The Sacks Group in Fort Lauderdale, taking eight guests at a base rate of $35,000 a week.
The 122-footer that Murphy is now building with Hargrave will take the details found onboard Cocktails to yet another level, according to everyone involved. They're keeping the specifics a secret—for now—but agree they've borrowed a few more ideas from the rich and famous on land.
One thing all parties are relieved to say is that Murphy couldn't be happier with Hargrave's service both during and after the build, and that Hargrave is now looking forward to having him as a client for many years to come.
"I told them at the christening, we had about 150 people there at Fisher Island, and I said, 'I hope we deal with people as well as they deal with people,'" Murphy says. "They're terrific to work with. They're very professional, easy to get along with, not taking advantage around every corner."
"The next boat you see, if I sent you a copy of the plans right now, you'd be knocked over."
Having been stunned silent when I stepped onboard Cocktails, I'm look forward to seeing what Murphy and Hargrave can do next.
Hargrave Custom Yachts
This article originally appeared in the October 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.