RESTORIATION work on the tall ship Alma Doepel has reached an important milestone with the final plank fitted to the ship’s hull.

During the 1980s and 1990s the vessel regularly sailed the waters of Port Phillip Bay, doing youth development programs for people from a diversity of backgrounds. 

Over the last decade, the ship has been on a barge in the Docklands precinct undergoing a restoration.

Restoration director Peter Harris said the project was “one of the most authentic, historic ship restorations underway anywhere in the world”.

“It’s unique, bringing together a mix of heritage, youth development and traditional craftsmanship,” Mr Harris said.

“Today is a great milestone in the life of this grand old lady of the sea. We have fitted the final new plank to the hull.”


Mr Harris said the work that had gone into the project had been enormous.

“The ship was pulled apart, the structural elements were totally rebuilt and her planks were replaced with new timber sourced from NSW,” he said.

Former youth voyager and now project board member Matt McDonald spoke of the role the ship played in his own life and the lives of many others.

Restoration work takes place on the Alma Doepel. Credit: Almae Doepel Restoration Society

“The youth development programs run on board youth sail training ships like Alma Doepel help young people build resilience and develop awareness of themselves and others—factors that are key in reducing youth suicide and building positive mental health,” Mr McDonald said.

The Alma Doepel is understood to be Australia’s oldest wooden tall ship with a history of almost 120 years including service in WWII.

A “dedicated team” of volunteers and professional ship rights are working hard to return her to her work with young people.  

The full restoration cost is $3.5m and there is still $1.2m to be raised before the ship can return to the water. More details can be found at