Alma Doepel

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Alma Doepel Under Sail.jpg
Alma Doepel under sail off Sorrento, Victoria, Australia. Late 1980s.
NameAlma Doepel
OwnerSail & Adventure, Ltd.
Port of registryHobart, Tasmania
BuilderBellingen, New South Wales
LaunchedOctober 10, 1903
IdentificationIMO number5011884
StatusUndergoing restoration as of 2019
General characteristics
Tonnage150.69 tonnes
Displacement256 tons
Length45.20 m (148.3 ft)
Beam8 m (26 ft)
Height28 m (92 ft)
Draught2.2 m (7.2 ft)
Propulsionsail, auxiliary diesel engine, 247 hp (184 kW)
Sail planTopsail Schooner, 12 sails, including triangular course on the foremast
Capacity36 cadets

The Alma Doepel is a three-masted topsail schooner and is one of the oldest such ships surviving.

Early history[edit]

Alma Doepel was built in 1903 in Bellingen, NSW, by Frederick Doepel and named after his youngest daughter Alma. Until 1915 she operated between Sydney and the northern rivers district of New South Wales. In late 1915 she was sold to Tasmanian owners and commenced operation in Tasmania, mainly carrying timber and goods between Hobart and Melbourne. She was fitted with an auxiliary engine in 1916, and again in 1936. In a 1937 refit her rig was simplified from having square topsails on the foremast to having a fore-and-after rig. In 1943 she was requisitioned by the army, refitted and renamed AK82, and used as an army supply vessel running from Townsville and Darwin to Papua New Guinea. After the war she was reverted to merchant vessel configuration, resuming operation in Tasmania in 1946. From 1961 to 1975 she was stripped of her rigging and used to carry limestone, before being sold, for the scrap value of her engines, to the Melbourne company Sail & Adventure in 1976.[1]

Alma Doepel on custom-made barge undergoing hull work as part of complete restoration. Docklands, Victoria, Australia.

This ship was also used in the opening credits of Quigley Down Under in 1990.


In July 1976 ownership was transferred to Sail and Adventure Ltd., a non-profit organisation formed to restore and use the ship as a sail training vessel.[2] From 1976 to 1987, Alma Doepel was comprehensively restored. Stage one of the restoration had been completed by mid-1978.[3] In mid-1978 the Port of Melbourne Authority provided berthing and storage facilities at North Wharf. By December 1979 a new deck had been fitted and lower masts had been stepped and rigged. During 1980 a new keel and rudder were fitted at a slipway constructed at Hastings. Sails were fitted in 1983.[4] Limited sailing occurred by January 1984.[5] She led the Parade of Sail in Sydney Harbour in January 1988. From July 1988 she was used as a sail training ship,[6] based in Melbourne, until 1999 when the need for work on the hull and lack of funds put a stop to this activity. In April 2001, Alma Doepel was taken to Port Macquarie where she was berthed at Lady Nelson Wharf and open to the public as a static exhibit. In January 2009 the Alma Doepel returned to Melbourne.

From 2013, she is berthed at No 2 Victoria Dock (Melbourne), mounted on a submergible barge, undergoing an extensive refit to return her to survey so she can recommence sail training. On October 16, 2021 she was lifted off the barge and back into the water by the AAL Shanghai and is ready for re-rigging and her internal fit-out.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McDonell, R. (Ralph); Alma Doepel Supporters Club (Vic.) (1987), Alma Doepel, the history of an Australian schooner, 1903-1975, Alma Doepel Supporters Club, ISBN 978-0-7316-1931-3
  2. ^ "The Alma Doepel - a gracious lady returns to Hastings". The Sun News-Pictorial. No. 7 February 1983. Herald and Weekly Times. pp. 8–9.
  3. ^ "Schooner to give youth a lesson". The Canberra Times. Vol. 52, no. 15, 639. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 17 July 1978. p. 3 – via National Library of Australia.
  4. ^ "The Alma Doepel - a gracious lady returns to Hastings". The Sun News-Pictorial. No. 7 February 1983. Herald and Weekly Times. pp. 8–9.
  5. ^ "Alma Doepel during a recent visit to Hastings". The Mercury. Tasmania, Australia. 31 January 1984.
  6. ^ "Schooner takes to the drink once more". The Australian. 12 July 1988.
  7. ^


  • Schauffelen, Otmar (2005). Chapman Great Sailing Ships of the World. Hearst Books. ISBN 1-58816-384-9.

External links[edit]