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Alma is high and dry

04 Apr 2013

Alma is high and dry Image

Historic sailing ship Alma Doepel is now high and dry after being raised out of the water last month for continued restoration work.

A team of volunteers has been restoring the 109-year-old topsail schooner at Shed 2 in Docklands for the past four years.

But the ship had to make a journey out of Docklands in order to be raised.

In what was the second attempt to raise the ship, the Alma Doepel was towed to Williamstown where British Aerospace Engineering (BAE) had offered the use of its dry dock as a community contribution.

An attempt to raise the ship had been made in December last year using a submersible barge which was floated into position under the ship before being raised by pumping air into twin submersible pontoons.

Unfortunately the ship became unstable during the attempt to raise it and the restoration team had since been exploring other options for raising her.

According to restoration director Peter Harris, a dry dock was ideal because it was the fastest and simplest way to do the job.

The blue stone dry dock, known as the Alfred Graving Dock, was completed in 1837.

“It’s a heritage-listed structure and predates Alma by about 30 years,” Mr Harris said.

A dry dock is a basin which can be flooded and drained and is generally used for the construction, maintenance and repair of ships and boats.

Mr Harris said the raising of Alma was a whole-day effort starting with the ship and barge being towed from Docklands into the flooded dry dock at Williamstown.

The 140 tonne barge was then lowered, by letting the air our of its pontoons, and fitted to support blocks on the floor of the dock.

Divers monitored the lowering of the barge and were in radio contact with the team above the surface to provide direction to ensure the barge was placed in exactly the right position.

Once the barge was in place the ship was pulled over the top of the barge with the divers once again monitoring below water to ensure the ship was in the right position.

The water in the dry dock was then drained to allow the ship to rest on the barge. The valves on the barges’ twin pontoons were then closed to allow it, and the ship, to float above the water when the dock was once again flooded.

Each element of the raising process required precision and about 40 people were involved in the process.

This group included BAE dock workers, marine engineers, naval architects, crane drivers, production crew, OHS staff and logistics managers and Fitzgerald construction, who built the barge, provided the use of its tugboat and crew.

The ship and barge remained at Williamstown for a week but were towed back to Shed 2 in Docklands on April 4 to allow for continued restoration work.

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