ALAMEDA — Nearly 50 years after the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Storis found the centuries-sought-after Northwest Passage through the Arctic, the vessel made one of its final stops in Alameda on Sunday, having recently been officially decommissioned.

The ship made history in 1957 when it led two other Coast Guard cutters through icy waters near the North Pole and into the Atlantic Ocean.

It sailed through Panama and back up the West Coast to become the first United States ship to sail around the North American continent.

Small crowds, including some who served aboard the Storis and would like to save it as a museum, came to Coast Guard Island in Alameda to meet it on arrival Sunday afternoon.

"When's the last time you saw the Storis?" asked the ship's captain, Jim McCauley, as he met Robert Jackson, a 78-year-old Alamedan who served aboard the Storis in 1957-58.

"1958," Jackson replied, chuckling.

"Is that right?" McCauley answered. "Wow, probably looks a little bit different."

"Yes it does," Jackson said.

Among some of the changes: Crews

replaced a 3-inch gun mount near the stern with an incinerator for burning trash at sea.

There's also no longer a helicopter pad or an airplane crane for lowering seaplanes into the water.

Nowadays the vessel includes an entertainment room with a large flatscreen television and video game system — things it didn't have in the 1950s.

But Storis remains enough of its old self to bring back memories for those who served during the historic voyage.

"My eyesight's very poor now, but I'm trying to drink it all in," said 85-year-old Cornelius Farley of San Rafael, who retired from the Coast Guard as a commander and was touring the ship Sunday with his daughter.

The 230-foot ship, launched in 1942, was stationed for much of its life in Kodiak, Alaska.

The crew had a decomissioning ceremony for the ship in Kodiak on Feb. 8.

In Alameda, equipment will be removed, fuel taken out and repairs done before the Storis leaves for the "Mothball Fleet" of retired ships in Suisun Bay.

For some, the ultimate goal is to save the ship as a museum in Juneau, Alaska.

Jim Loback, who lives in Fountain Valley and was a senior petty officer on the Storis in 1956-57, said the effort would likely cost$750,000 to $1 million.

One ally Lobak and others have is U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.

Stevens spokesman Aaron Saunders said Stevens and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, were working to introduce legislation for the Storis sometime this year.

Loback said he had been "verbally assured" by people in Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer's offices that California's two Democratic senators would be supportive of the effort.

Capt. McCauley said, "I really hope that whole plan comes to fruition. I look forward to seeing her again up in Juneau."