Friday 16th Nov, 2018

Alma Doepel restoration close to finished

Photo: David Sexton
Photo: David Sexton

RESTORATION on an old tall ship in Melbourne’s Docklands precinct is approaching completion.

It is hoped the Alma Doepel, built in New South Wales in the early 20th Century, may be back in the water late this year or early 2019.

Alma Doepel formerly sailed around the Australian coast, carrying timber, wheat and jam and was also used in World War II as a supply vessel for troops in Papua New Guinea.

Later she was used to carry limestone in the ‘60s and ‘70s before being sold for the scrap value of her engines.

Alma Doepel was later restored and led the Parade of Sail in Sydney Harbour in January 1988.

After a recent trip around Cape Horn on a square-rigged sailing ship, maritime analyst Peter van Duyn became a tall ship enthusiast and a director of Sail and Adventure Ltd, the company formed to restore and run the ship once the restoration process is completed.

He said the vessel was laid up for some time in northern New South Wales waters, whereupon it was infested by teredo worm, a scourge of wooden ships in warmer climates (but not of Melbourne).

“So a lot of the planking, especially under water, was damaged.

“We were in the process, and have been in the past six to seven years, of restoring it.

“We’ve lifted her out of the water – she sits on a pontoon at Docklands at the moment.” As the development in Docklands is progressing the ship has to be completed and find a permanent berth in Docklands as part of the heritage fleet.

Mr van Duyn said specialised planking had to come from northern New South Wales to match with existing timber.

“It is specialised (timber) and hard to get these days.”

Supporters and volunteers assisted by qualified shipwrights have been busy taking out the old planks and ribs.

“So hopefully this year, or early next year, when we get all the planks attached to the hull and painted – Hempel Marine paints has agreed to paint the hull with special paint free of charge.

“We’ve had 53,000 volunteer hours put in. The restoration director, Peter Harris, he has put in a lot of effort and we’ve had people fundraising.”


Mr van Duyn said the vessel was special as one of the last original remaining square rigged wooden ships in Australia.

Once the vessel is completed she will be used for sail training, youth leadership and education programme for young people as well as being available for charter and corporate events.

He said they had received support from people donating their time and money. A number of founding sponsors such as City of Melbourne, Lend Lease and Places Victoria have assisted with the restoration process as well as maritime related companies such as Svitzer, Mediterranean Shipping Company, and Port Phillip Sea  Pilots.

“Every year we have a gala lunch and a number of other events to raise money so it has been a gradual process.”

Those interested in donating or helping should visit the Alma Doepel website: or contact Peter on 0419 370 332.

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