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A new date for the Alma’s return to water

By Jack Hayes

The Alma Doepel’s long-awaited return to the Melbourne’s waterways has been delayed slightly, with a date between September 29 and October 1 confirmed.

The date is dependent on a specialty crane ship which makes a journey down Australia’s east coast to the Port of Melbourne just once every three months.

Alma Doepel restoration director Dr Peter Harris and his team will be at the mercy of the crane ship’s workload, and early estimates may need to “give or take a few days.”

According to Dr Harris, his team still has several logistical hurdles to overcome before the event, however, he expects that to sail smoothly and the occasion to do justice to a return 10 painstaking restorative years in the making.

“We will be able to finalise up a date once the crane ship leaves from Brisbane before its final stop in Port Kembla,” Dr Harris said.

“There is still come planning to go with the City of Melbourne, Development Victoria and Lendlease as to how the event will look and how many people, COVID permitting, we will be able to have viewing.”

“There will be filming all throughout the event, with time-lapse and drone footage, along with a streaming video with commentary which will be put together by Michael Smith from Spectre Films, who runs the sun theatre in Yarraville. He’s been a long supporter of ours.”

As the lowering of the ship is considered a maritime operation, COVID restrictions will not hinder the return date of the Alma, but it will, however, impact the ability of stakeholders, volunteers and interested onlookers to view the spectacle.

The Lady Cutler will again be on hand, as a spectator vessel, with Dr Harris planning a promotional campaign to notify residents of Docklands, many with front row seats of the process.

“There will be an exclusion zone of 100 metres around the ship, which the port security will impose, then when she goes into the water the crew will check everything off and the tug will tow the barge back to Victoria Dock,” Dr Harris said.

“We will have a welcome event publicised to the residents in their apartments who are looking for something interesting out their windows, but that will be dependent on COVID.”

“We will have the tugs providing a display coming into Victoria Harbour and hopefully some privately own boats to help lead the procession.”

The Alma Doepel’s return will be celebrated in an official re-launch on Friday, October 8 at the City of Melbourne marina lounge, coinciding with the ship’s 119th birthday.

All going well the ship will be moved across the harbour to NewQuay Promenade for the event, giving locals a chance for an up-close look at an integral piece of maritime history •

For more information: almadoepel.com.au

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