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Alma is coming out

27 Mar 2012

Alma is coming out Image

After three years moored in Victoria Harbour, the tall ship Alma Doepel looks like being finally raised out of the water next month so restoration work can start on her hull.

The volunteers behind the restoration project have struggled to find a way to raise Australia’s last-remaining, locally-built, wooden, three-masted, trading sailing ship.

They are currently constructing a submersible barge made from two massive pontoons which were found in a yard in Portland following work towing a gas rig into position in Bass Strait.

The barge is being built in sections in Truganina and the two 30-metre pontoons will be brought by road and assembled in the water.  It will form a floating dock so that work on the hull can continue outside Shed 2 at the mouth of Victoria Harbour.

An army of volunteers has already put 14,000 hours into the 108-year-old ship, with some 600 hours being chalked up already by volunteers from the National Australia Bank during “community allotted” days.

Everything above the deck has already been removed and is being worked on inside the shed and, in recently months, a nylon cover was added to protect Alma from the elements during the hull restoration.

While the organisers are hopeful that the hull can be raised later this month to coincide with an open day, they admit that it is more likely to occur in May.

And, with Lend Lease gearing up to develop the “peninsula” area of Victoria Harbour, they are aiming to complete the project by late next year.

The open day is being held on Sunday, April 22 as part of the National Trust Heritage Festival and the public is invited to inspect the hull and the 1000 components which are currently being restored inside the shed.

When hull repairs have been completed the ship will be re-launched and work will commence to return the many restored components from the shed.

Once restored, Alma Doepel will return to service as Melbourne’s sail training ship for youth development programs.

She will also grace the Docklands skyline as an eye-catching tourist attraction alongside Melbourne’s foundation ship, schooner Enterprize.

Following the hull repairs, “Alma’s Barge” will be available for other purposes and the volunteers hope to commercialise the 480sqm floating deck to help fund the restoration.

Because the deck will be submersible, it will be able navigate the upper reaches of the Yarra as well as provide temporary moorings or event space downstream and around Port Phillip Bay.

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