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A part of Alma’s history returned

03 Sep 2019

A part of Alma’s history returned Image

By Alex Dalziel

The team of talented shipwrights working to restore the Alma Doepel at Victoria Harbour was gifted a number of treasures from the ship’s past last month.

The 116-year-old topsail schooner has been moored at Victoria Harbour in Docklands as part of a 10-year long project to restore the vessel to its former glory.

In August, the team working on the restoration was gifted several relics from the ship’s past, including the original building plans from 1903, a wooden model from 1904 and a copy of the original plans made in the 1970s.

The great-great grandson of the ship’s original builder, Paul Webb, presented the gifts to the restoration team on August 15.

Boat builder and shipping entrepreneur Fredrick Doepel built the Alma Doepel in 1903, which he named after one of his daughters. Fredrick is the maternal great-great grandfather of Paul Webb.

It was a family coincidence that led Paul to discover the re-creation of the original plans.

Paul told Docklands News that after his paternal grandfather passed away in the 1990s, he found the copies in his grandfather’s garage.

“We found this rolled up bit of paper that had Alma Doepel written on it, not knowing that he had any connection to the boat at all at this stage,” Paul said.

“When we found the plans all we thought was, why would he have these for?”

Paul eventually found out that his mother’s family had engaged a draftsman to make a copy of the original plans, which turned out to be his dad’s father.

It was a surprise to Paul, who had not known that the two sides of his family had been connected so long ago.

When Paul’s maternal grandfather, Jeff Doepel, passed away, the original plans and wooden model were given to him, uniting two important parts of Alma Doepel’s history from two different families.

The shipwrights working on Alma Doepel graciously accepted the gifts, and compared the original vision of the boat with their modern restoration.

Tom, a lead shipwright working on the Alma Doepel said he felt privileged to work on the vessel.

“It’s exciting to have an opportunity to work on a vessel as great as the Alma with as much history. It feels good to be working on something that is going to provide a long lasting legacy for future generations,” he said.

When the Alma Doepel is completed volunteers will use it as a youth sail training vessel along the Victorian coast. The Alma Doepel program would take 35 kids from all walks of life and put them on a nine-day sailing journey, teaching them how to operate a boat as well as providing valuable life experience.

“We would take future leaders, as well as kids who have been going through a rough time or have had trouble with the police, and give them an unforgettable experience,” Collin, a volunteer working at the Alma Doepel, said.

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