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10 Years On - July 2019

02 Jul 2019

10 Years On - July 2019 Image

By Sarah Murray

With much love and patience, work on the Alma Doepel, Australia’s last surviving coastal trader from the early 1900s, continues to move ahead. And, as she undergoes her major refit at Shed No 2 Victoria Dock, everyone is invited to come and have a look, or even join in.

Alma Doepel is owned by not-for-profit organisation Sail and Adventure Limited, and supported by VicUrban, the City of Melbourne and Lend Lease. The work is being undertaken with the help of a small band of volunteers, many of whom sailed on Alma in one of her more recent incarnations as a youth training ship.

Parts of the ship, such as the bulkheads and the deckhouse, made from 2000-year-old Huon pine rescued from fallen trees before the flooding of Tasmania’s Gordon River, are relatively new additions. According to Sail and Adventure director, Peter Harris, these were added in 1987 when she was restored and re-purposed from a cargo ship to a training vessel.

“She was never a passenger ship. The original crew was seven, but today a training crew is 50,” he said.

Ultimately the aim is to have her refitted to her 1987 condition and to have her commercial survey reinstated. But, despite the fact that they are still reviewing options as to how to tackle work on the hull, Peter says it hasn’t impeded their progress.

“We’ve been working every weekend to prepare the ship. Stripping out the parts below, removing the rigging, the three Douglas fir masts have been taken apart and removed by crane,” he said.

“Now, apart from the more detailed, smaller work, we just have to remove the middle deck-house so we can get to the engine and the tanks. In the meantime, we have a structural engineer working on a three dimensional model to calculate the strength and stability of the ship.”

Each part of the ship has been numbered and labelled and is laid out in the Shed

No 2 where they are restored as required with the guidance of Marine Safety Victoria.

With a total restoration budget of $2.7 million needed, along with their own fundraising efforts, Sail and Adventure has recently put in a major funding application for $2 million under the Kevin Rudd Jobs Fund so work on the hull can move ahead.

“The Jobs Fund provides money for projects that are fully scoped, budgeted and ready to go, in red alert, high priority job areas, which may mean that if we are successful work on the hull will need to be undertaken at the Western Port Slipway. Despite this, Docklands would remain our base and moving the hull would only be temporary,” Mr Harris said.

“Of course, work on the rigging would remain in the Shed No 2, and we have also put in a submission to the State Government Department of Planning and Community Development for a community project grant to set up a trainee program. This would involve up-skilling trainees while bringing the local community together.”

Ship lift wanted

Ideally, Mr Harris says the solution would be to build a ship lift at Docklands so they could raise the boat out of the water and work on her where everyone could see what was happening.

“If someone wanted to help fund a ship lift we would be delighted, but we’d need around half a million dollars. The third option is to move the hull into the shed. A crane that could do this is coming in from interstate for work on the Southern Star Wheel, but we haven’t really had any serious discussions about using it at this stage and anyway, the shed is so crowded now, I’m not sure the hull would fit.”

A small visitors centre has been established in Shed No 2 and visitors are enthusiastically welcome to come and see this fascinating work in progress.

Funding is still required and a major sponsor is still being sought but, in the meantime, the Alma Doepel is also available for functions. Call either Peter Harris on 0427 829 134 or Chris Coghlan on 0407 860 296 to discuss.

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