A Brief History
The majestic sight of a 110 year-old topsail schooner under full sail was once seen on the waters of Melbourne’ s Port Phillip. But the struggle to return the Alma Doepel to her former glory was, in every way, as difficult as the storms weathered by this lady of the sea over the decades. This struggle has continued again over the last few years to return her yet again to all her glory.
Alma Doepel was launched on October 10, 1903, and sailed to Sydney on her maiden voyage. She was fashioned from local timbers in Bellingen, northern New South Wales, under the guidance of trader, boat builder and shipping entrepreneur, Frederick Doepel. On launching day he proudly named her in honour of one of his daughters.
During her first year the Alma Doepel plied the Tasman, and set a record for the fastest voyage by a sailing ship. In 1905 she traded along the New South Wales coast and became a familiar sight in the ports of Australia’s east coast over the next 12 years.
In 1917 ownership changed and she traded from Henry Jones (IXL) in Hobart to the mainland and the South Yarra Jam Factory. As part of the “Mosquito Fleet” Alma Doepel established another record, sailing from Hobart to Melbourne Heads in 58 hours 30 minutes. She was the only trader in that famous Bass Strait fleet to carry square sail.
During the Second World War Alma Doepel was commissioned by the Australian Army, de-rigged, and transformed to serve in New Guinea carrying supplies and troops. After the war she was re-rigged as a three-masted, bald headed schooner and resumed trade across Bass Strait. In the ’60’s she became a limestone carrier in Tasmania.