Full steam ahead for Alma’s restoration

Full steam ahead for Alma’s restoration

By Micaela Togher

Restoration of the historic ship Alma Doepel is going full steam ahead despite setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With new engines just delivered and gearboxes now en route from Germany, work is ploughing ahead to ensure the ship’s hull can be floated in April/May of this year.

Boasting a total of 350 planks, the ship’s planking stage of the repair has now been finished.

Caulking – the process of sealing the ship to ensure it is watertight – is also nearing completion, thanks in large part to the assistance of volunteers.

Alma Doepel Supporters Club vice president Bill Reid said the loss of volunteers due to COVID-19 restrictions last year was one of the biggest setbacks.

“COVID really did slow things down because volunteers couldn’t be on site,” Mr Reid said.

“Volunteers contribute a lot to the project in terms of labour that frees up the paid labour to focus on the more complicated tasks.”

Built in 1903 by Fredrick Doepel and named for his youngest daughter Alma, the ship was originally used to carry goods like timber, wheat and jam.

During WWII, the Alma Doepel was renamed AK82 and used as an army supply vessel running from Townsville and Darwin to Papua New Guinea.

First restored between 1976 and 1987, the ship returned to full sail in the Parade of Sail in Sydney Harbour in January of 1988.

She was used as a sail-training vessel until the need for repairs forced her into retirement in 1999.

Currently berthed at No 2 Victoria Dock, the Alma Doepel will again be used for sail-training purposes with a focus on helping young Australians at risk.

“The goal has always been that she will become a sail-training vessel to help young kids learn what they are capable of. We work with organisations who help kids at risk who have the potential to be saved by showing them what they can do,” Mr Reid said.

It is estimated a further $1.3 million will need to be raised in order the complete the restoration.

Mr Reid emphasised the need for donations to ensure continued progress on the remainder of repairs.

The next phases involve completing the deck, rig, engineering and accommodation.

It is anticipated this process will take a further two years following the refloating of the Alma’s hull.

“We are hopeful if the money comes in, that’s how long it’s going to take,” Mr Reid said •

For more information: almadoepel.com.au

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