SALISBURY — After 16 years, Tuesday marks longtime Salisbury Harbormaster Ray Pike's last day making sure the town's waterways and boaters are safe.
When asked what prompted his decision to retire, the 74-year-old Pike said he wanted to spend more time with his family, which includes a daughter who has yet to have a father with a summer off.
"I love the job but you can't do it forever and family is more important," Pike said.
Pike's departure was announced by Town Manager Neil Harrington on Friday who named Pike's assistant, Willem van de Stadt, as acting harbormaster.
Harrington said he had confidence that van de Stadt and Deputy Harbormaster Reggie Santos, who will take on additional responsibilities, will able to keep the operation of the harbormaster’s office "flowing smoothly" during the summer boating season.
“Ray Pike has served the town well for many years, and I wish him well as he moves on to enjoy a new phase of his life,” Harrington said in Friday's statement.
The search for a permanent successor will ramp up after the summer season and into the winter, with the goal of making sure the new person is onboard by next spring and up to speed before the beginning of the 2021 summer season.
Asked about his time as Salisbury harbormaster, Pike said he was especially proud of establishing a "no wake" zone at the "The Toothpick," the iconic marker near the Merrimack River's mouth.
Since the zone was established, boaters, for the most part, have respected it. That has improved safety conditions in what is often a hazardous area, he said.
Last week, 11 people were rescued after their 20-foot Sea Ray power boat capsized in choppy waters in the mouth of the Merrimack on the way to gas up after visiting Gloucester's Wingaersheek Beach. Since the accident, some have questioned whether the pleasure craft had been overloaded and if that contributed to what could have led to drownings.
"It's not pushing it, it's well beyond pushing it," Pike said, calling it a "stupid decision" to have so many people on the boat.
The Massachusetts Environmental Police's Boat Accident Bureau is investigating the incident.
Despite stepping down as harbormaster, Pike said he will remain a familiar face around town. For the next few months, Pike will be concentrating on rebuilding his house.
In January 2019, a four-alarm fire tore through his Rings Island home. Pike said it has taken much longer than he hoped for his insurance company to award him enough money to rebuild it. With any luck, he'll be able to go back into the house by the end of August.
"I'm not going anywhere," Pike said.
Born in Salisbury, Pike spent time in Tokyo and Paris before coming back to his hometown. Along the way, he's been a teacher and a General Dynamics contractor. But when pressed to name his favorite job, Pike didn't hesitate when he said it was being Salisbury's harbormaster.
"It's a great job, the best job I've ever had," Pike said Monday morning.
Dave Rogers can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.