Alma Doepel Book
Alma Doepel – The History of an Australian Schooner 1903-1975 by Captain Ralph McDonell
With a longer history of trading in the waters of Bass Strait and the Tasman Sea than perhaps any vessel in the history of modern Australia, it was appropriate that the Alma Doepel’s story was published in time for Australia’s Bicentenary celebrations.
Built of timber hewn from the forests of the Bellinger valley, in northern N.S.W., Alma was the climax of the shipwright’s art. Her design was sketched by Frederick Doepel on his kitchen table. Jumping ship when a seaman, he had no formal qualifications. But he understood the basics of construction that would survive all the tests that nature could impose. The ship’s back bone, the keel and keelson, has been her reason for survival. In the pages of this book, there is a mention of just about every hazard of the sea that has claimed a flotilla of vessels down the years and within the very waters in which she sailed.
In Australian history, probably no vessel has received more attention in the shipping columns including over for decades in the Hobart Mercury. After twelve years of trading to the Bellinger valley, Henry Jones & Co. bought her in 1916 for the “Jam Fleet”. From December 1903 until early 1959 she traded in S.E. Australia, with the exception of her Army days from 1943 until 1947, and a few timber runs to New Zealand in 1904.
Following her final, degrading use as a limestone carrier for fourteen years in southern Tasmania, the ship was rescued as a floating hulk in 1976, Alma Doepel was restored to being fully seaworthy, operating as a training vessel for Australian youth. A million dollars or so with countless hours of labour this proud Topsail Schooner was saved from disintegration.
Today with more than twelve years of training Australian youth under her belt and a further ten years laid up, Alma Doepel is now undergoing an extensive refit. The ship will return to the waters of Port Phillip and again provide the opportunity for further young people to experience training and sailing on a Tall Ship. To mark this next step in Alma Doepel’s life, this wonderful book of her trading history has been reprinted.
Proceeds from the sale of this book contribute to the refit of the Alma Doepel. So by purchasing a copy of this book you are assisting in the preservation of a remarkable part of Australia’s history and provide further opportunities for Australian youth.