News from the deck of the Alma Doepel

News from the deck of the Alma Doepel

Have you had a chance to take a walk down North Wharf Rd towards the Bolte Bridge where the old Victoria Harbour Control Tower sits?

Well, you will have passed by the tall ship Alma Doepel and perhaps not noticed her hiding under covers and not looking very tall!

Alma has been in Docklands since 2013 undergoing a major restoration involving professional shipwrights and engineers alongside volunteers who have put in more than 100,000 hours of work. For eight years she was effectively in “dry dock” on a custom-built barge where extensive work was completed on her 120-year-old hull to bring her back to sailing condition. Her ageing frames and planks had to be painstakingly removed and used as pattens for new or recycled timbers ensuring the hull remained intact and the shape faithful to the original.

Two years ago, Alma was returned to the water when the AAL Crane Ship Shanghai was in Melbourne and generously gave some of her time to lift Alma off her barge and back into the water. That moment was a major milestone in the restoration project marking the completion of the hull and returning Alma to the water for the first time in 10 years. Around 6000 people watched the delicate operation that took more than five hours.

Since that day progress has continued apace. The deck has had to be re-laid and made watertight, while below deck work continues on a fit-out that includes electrical, plumbing, tanks, engines, accommodation and much more.

I spoke to the project director Dr Peter Harris OAM who has given many years of his life to the Alma Doepel. I asked Peter where he sees the next major milestones, the work involved and, where this places Alma Doepel in the program to return to operational service.

“The most obvious changes will be removal of the covers and raising of the three lower masts, now ready to be moved out of the shed and lifted by crane onto the ship,” Dr Harris said.


I think of Alma hiding for years under her covers and then, like a caterpillar leaving its chrysalis, shaking its wings before taking off as beautiful butterfly. This will be an emotional moment for all of us and we would be delighted to share it with you as join us at the mast-raising ceremony.


“Mast-raising is being planned for the end of May this year so watch for updates!”

“Next stages will be completion of the rigging, fitting of deck equipment and deck houses, completion of the engine room, galley, and accommodation fit-out and ‘bending’ the sails.”

“We are planning to have this work completed by November 2025, when we are due to haul the ship out of the water for final survey inspection and commissioning of engines and other systems.”

Getting to this point in the restoration will represent a significant milestone. This has only come about through amazing work of our volunteers and our shipwright team. We are indebted to the very generous support and donations from our supporters and the tireless work of our fundraising team.

Behind the scenes a huge fund rising effort is under way by a dedicated group of volunteers. They are running a “Community Bunkhouse Sponsorship” campaign presently to engage with Victorian Rotary Clubs who have strong Youth Support programs. There has been an encouraging take up of this sponsorship with a number of other Rotary Clubs showing strong interest. Once fully subscribed the Community Bunkhouse will be a place where young trainees can feel comfortable during their nine-day youth development voyage on the Alma Doepel. These Youth Development programs are designed to provide participants an opportunity to learn about themselves, hone their leadership skills through learning about teamwork and resilience. At the same time provides an immersive experience which can develop passion, empathy and life changing skills while having the best time of their lives!

If you want to know more, every Thursday between 10am and 2pm the Friends of Alma Doepel volunteers are on hand to take the public on a behind the scenes tour of the restoration.

There is an Australian Heritage Festival Open Day planned for Sunday, May 5 10am to 3pm. There will be a sausage sizzle and a paint out by well-known local artists from the Australian Society of Maritime Artists. All welcome. •

Meet Peta Brehaut

Meet Peta Brehaut

May 29th, 2024 - Docklands News
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