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Out of Office: Two Years and Counting Restoring a Boat

By:  James Curtis Dec 2, 2013
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Bart's Family

Bart is very thankful for his family's support.

This #OutofOffice monthly series highlights many of our Coca-Cola employees who agreed to share what makes them happy when they're away from the desk. This series was brought to life through our Coca-Cola Europe team who was sharing these stories internally. One story was sent to us, the Journey team, and we knew we had to open these up to the world. The stories are inspiring, fun and thought-provoking.

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Bart has had a passion for sailing since he was a boy.

Today we talk to Brussels-based Bart Carpentier. In his day job, Bart is a Retail Equipment Innovator, devising ingenious and high-tech solutions for our vending equipment

Tell us how you got started on this project.

Lona III

Sailing and the sea have always been very special to me – ever since I was a boy. I have enjoyed sailing for many years, but my ultimate dream has always been to restore a beautiful old yacht. I had been on the look-out for the ideal boat for a while and eventually found the perfect one. When I first saw her, she was in a sorry state and not at all sea-worthy, but I could see the potential. I knew it would take a lot of hard work, dedication and time, but I love setting myself a challenge. She is called Lona III  – designed by an amateur yacht architect and built at a reputed yard in 1907.

Replacing the 70 oak 'ribs' for the hull

Hand-crafting and replacing over 70 oak 'ribs' for the hull has been one of the biggest challenges.

How big a job is it to bring Lona III back to life?

It’s huge. I bought her two years ago and it took me the first year just to empty and dismantle her, leaving me with a bare hull to work on. The biggest job has been to hand-make 70 new oak ribs that hold the hull together with thousands of copper rivets. I knew a master shipwright – an incredible old man who taught me how to make the ribs before he died. I owe him a lot. He taught me some traditional wood-working skills that I am now using for myself – I feel very lucky that he passed some of his craft on to me.  

I’ve now reached a turning point in the project. The hull is finished, so the next steps are to install the engine, fix the rudder, create the interior and begin a lot of painting! It has taken me two years so far, and I think I am only half way through.

How do you find the time for such a big project?

Out of Office

Restoring the boat is a four-year labor of love.


I usually get to the yard in Holland where she is to work one day during the weekend, and often bring parts home to restore at my home during the week. I also enjoy planning the design for the boat on my computer. I have digitised the entire structure in a CAD programme, and often work on that in the evenings. My wife sometimes works with me on the boat at the weekends – she is a great help and knows how much I love the project. I couldn’t do this without my family behind me, including my son and two daughters. I would never have embarked on the boat project when the  kids were younger as we needed to focus on different priorities. Now they have left home and also enjoy helping me out when they can. We all look forward to when she’s finished and we can enjoy sailing holidays together, although we are talking about a small boat in the North Sea, so it may not be that comfortable!

craftsmanship

Bart's craftsmanship is helping to bring Lona III back to life.


Have you ever done anything like this before?

I actually designed and helped to build our house. Believe it or not, it’s shaped like a boat – so you can see how deep my passion is! I have also restored old buildings, and designed and built a new boat from scratch.

As you can see, I love designing and working with my hands. I am a product developer by training, with close links to architecture. As I become more senior in my career – including my current role at Coca-Cola – I tend to do less design and more project management, so it’s very satisfying to have a real design at my fingertips again.

Is there any cross-over between your boat-building and your work with Coca-Cola?

Restoring the boat

Restoring the boat is a four-year labor of love.

In many respects, they are totally different. On one hand, I am a developer, focusing on mass-produced machines. On the other, I am more like an artist, creating something unique. However, there are also important similarities that I find inspiring. With the boat and our retail machines, every component you design, and every decision you make, is critical. You can’t take short-cuts, and mistakes will cost you dearly.

There are also similarities in how I approach the projects. I can’t do my work for Coca-Cola or the boat by myself. I need to work as part of a team, with other specialists. With the boat it is craftsmen like the shipwright who taught me how to make the ribs. At Coke, I work with a broad network of experts, internally, at our bottling partners, and also with our suppliers and manufacturers.

Engraving the name

Bart reached a turning point in the project when he engraved the name 'Lona III" on the hull.

Ultimately, I love the balance these two sides of my life give me. I enjoy the innovation and sense of pushing technical boundaries at Coca-Cola. And then, with the boat, I love the fact that it isn’t hi-tech at all – it is all about the craftsmanship, working with my hands and lovingly bringing something back to life after over 100 years.

I don’t know what I’ll do when it’s all finished, apart from enjoying the sailing. I’m sure I’ll move on to something else. I always need a big project and a challenge!

Do you have a story to tell when you get off work? We've started a campaign to share everyone's happy hobbies when they're #outofoffice. We'd love to hear yours: Share your story here.