A landmark moment for Alma

A landmark moment for Alma

By Meg Hill

After 10 years of fundraising and restoration work, the historic tall ship Alma Doepel is set to re-enter the water by the end of the year.

Restoration director Peter Harris said the project had just reached a major milestone, with Docklands News photographer John Tadigiri capturing the moment the last plank was placed on the boat on May 21.

“We’ve had a major milestone reached with the last plank of around 300 was nailed in place and we had the gold nail used, which is a tradition,” Mr Harris said.

“We plan to relaunch it by the end of the year. We’re past the talking about it stage and we’re in the countdown stage.”

Mr Harris said there were a few more stages to go in the project.

“Right now, we’re levelling the outside of the hull with planers and sanders, it sounds a bit like disturbing a beehive,” he said.

“Our volunteers are busy drilling in the last of the timber plugs for holes where old nails have been pulled out of the wood. There are around 6000 of them and we’ve finished about 5500.”

He said that one volunteer had been working from home to facilitate social distancing while making the timber plugs.

“We think that will be finished by the end of this month and its looking absolutely amazing,” he said.

“We’ll be caulking between the planks next month and that will take three months. Then we paint, fit the propeller shaft and the runners and we plan to relaunch by the end of this year.”

“All of the masts and the rigging will go back on, it’s all in the shed ready to go on.”

Mr Harris also said that Development Victoria had extended the Alma’s lease at North Wharf in Docklands, which was a huge relief.

Mr Harris said he had been with the ship in Docklands for 35 years. The last time a crew did training on the ship was in 1999 when it needed work done and the years since then have been a battle to have the historic ship restored.

The Alma was built in 1903 and was first used to carry timber to New Zealand from northern New South Wales. By 1916 she was transporting jam. That year is also the year of the earliest re- cord of the ship entering the Yarra River.

Later, the ship was taken over by the Australian Army in the Second World War.

Help with the restoration came from differ- ent directions.

The ship carried some of the timber that was used in an old wharf in Docklands, now demolished to make way for a Mirvac development.

That timber was then donated by Development Victoria to the restoration project, and some of it is now part of the ship.

A government grant also provided the project with the ability to hire a curator, a historian and a designer to put together an exhibition on the ship at the restoration sheds.

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