Beneath gray skies flickering with heat lighting, Lark, a 45-foot Alden gaff cutter, was relaunched from the Gannon and Benjamin Marine Railway in Vineyard Haven Thursday afternoon.

Now owned by former Secretary of State John Kerry, wooden cutter was entirely rebuilt at Gannon and Benjamin over the winter. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Now owned by former Secretary of State John Kerry, Lark was first built in 1932 for Ralph Forbes of Naushon Island, a distant relative of Mr. Kerry. Lark stayed in the Forbes family and was used for day sailing around the Elizabeth islands until 1972, when she broke loose in a tropical storm and was hurled against the rocky shoreline in Woods Hole.

She was sold as salvage to Capt. Eric Little of Woods Hole, described by many at the boatyard Thursday as a master shipwright with a big heart and an ego to match. He restored the ship and sailed her until his death two years ago. Over the years, Mr. Kerry said he would see Lark on the water while sailing, occasionally drifting close enough to identify her as the storied vessel that once belonged to his family.

“Lark was sort a beacon of the harbor, and it was a great privilege to be asked, at 12 years old, to go out for a sail on her,” the former Secretary of State recalled at the launching Thursday. “We sort of have this vessel ingrained in us.”

Mr. Kerry found Lark last spring, derelict and hauled up in a dusty shed in Woods Hole. He said he was eager to return her to the water and the family name.

After Lark’s maiden voyage last summer, which he said ended with the vessel leaking and losing power in the Vineyard Sound near Naushon, Mr. Kerry brought her to the Gannon and Benjamin boatyard for a complete restoration.

The team of local shipwrights, riggers, painters and sailmakers began an overhaul of the vessel in October. She was stripped down to the keel, refloored and replanked with respect for the original design. The project went on through the winter, with a six-week hiatus due to the pandemic, before the mast was stepped Thursday. All that remains of the original vessel is the lead ballast, wooden keel, bowsprit and head door.

“She’s basically a new boat,” said Ross Gannon, who owns the boatyard along with Nat Benjamin and Brad Abbott. “The only original piece of her is five feet underwater.”

Lark, back in the family again. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Standing in sawdust inside the boatyard shop, Mr. Kerry raised a toast to the crew.

“Everybody who touched this boat, really touched it with a great sense of history, of appreciation for what she symbolizes and is as a wooden boat in an age where there ain’t much left of that kind of appreciation for quality,” he said. “The value of workmanship and artistry, of loving what you do, is special.”

Later in the afternoon, Mr. Kerry could be found sitting on Lark’s deck alongside his brother in law David Thorne. He looked out over the water, where he had learned to sail in his youth, and reflected on a life spent near the water, from digging clams to a Navy tour aboard a frigate in the Vietnam Mekong River Delta, to a political career that included breaking ground on fishing regulations and establishing marine protective areas.

He said the vessel will debut for the annual Round the Island race on August 1.

“That’s the real maiden voyage,” Mr. Kerry said. “We are just enjoying our first moments on the boat, feeling her move is really nice, really special.”