Retired Capt. Cecil Benson, 84, and other members of the Phyllis A Marine Association - Capt. Richard Arnold, John Hinckley and Doug Parsons - brought Phyllis A home for good Friday from Kennebunkport, Maine.
She came under her own power, a 6-71 GM diesel, with Don King's 38-foot lobster boat, Scotia Girl, accompanying her on the nine-hour journey.
"Our plan is to make her a central figure in a gillnet fisheries display," said Parsons, president of the association - about 30 members strong.
The Phyllis A now docks at the East Gloucester Marina.
The vessel's history makes her one of a kind in Gloucester. The port's oldest floating fishing vessel, Phyllis A "has always been in our family,"Arnold said.
His father, Capt. Albert Arnold, and partner Phil Beaudain had the former Warner's Shipyard in Kennebunkport build the yellow-pine-over-oak eastern rig in 1925.
After Albert Arnold retired in 1946, Phyllis A was skippered by his sons, Kenneth followed by Alvin and then Richard.
In a story in the Times two years ago, Richard Arnold reminisced about spring codfishing aboard the Phyllis A in Ipswich Bay from the 1940s into the 1970s.
"Sometimes, the gillnets came up so full of cod that they looked like (clusters of) grapes," he said.
Using sounding leads and marker buoys before the age of precision bottom-sounding and location electronics, the Phyllis A would often fill its gillnets with 10,000 to 12,000 pounds of fish.
The Arnolds idled the gillnetter in 2000 after 75 years of active fishing, hoping it would become a floating museum somewhere.
The following year, the Maritime Heritage Association, spearheaded by Rich Woodman, the grandson of Bernie Warner, the late owner of Warner's Shipyard, took up the challenge. Phyllis A was berthed at the Arundel Restaurant dock adjacent to where she was built, a living monument to Kennebunkport's shipbuilding past.
Retirement in Maine lasted only five years. Woodman's family obligations took precedence over Phyllis A and Parsons and his group were asked to take the vessel back early this summer.
Arnold said he knew there was only one thing to do. Other association members who have long loved Phyllis A, especially Parsons, agreed.
The association's immediate plans for the aged lady are to haul her and give her a good cleaning and paint job.
Although the vessel has been well-maintained over the years, some major hull work is foreseen down the road.
"But she's small and you're dealing with just 4-by-4 double framing," Parsons said. "Two guys working on this boat can go right along."
He and Hinckley are active shipwrights who know wooden boats and how to repair them. Just as important, Richard Arnold is familiar with every inch of the vessel.
The group said it will have to raise about $75,000 for maintenance, docking and a rainy day fund for future work. It is seeking help from the public. The association can be reached at 978-865-4658.