I first met Pixley, 50, on a Thursday afternoon after lobstering with the Bradshaws. We all stood behind lobsterman Mark Bradshaw’s truck while they chatted about harbor life and I tried my best to look like I knew (or was super interested in) what they were talking about.

Pixley was funny and quick. But he was clearly preoccupied by work and not at the center of the conversation, his mind on the many tasks he had to do. He later on told me he wanted me to be clear in this story that when he has work to do, he gets the job done and he does the job well. And I do agree with him on that.

I told Pixley I wanted to write a story about him and the Harbormaster’s Office. He gave me his number and was on his way.

Within a millisecond of meeting him the second time, Pixley broke out into song and dance. “I’m still standing, better than I ever did,” Pixley sang loudly and deeply, eye’s crinkled shut. He pointed to me and I knew this is my in. “Lookin’ like a true survivor, feelin’ like a little kid,” I sing along, trying to let go of my awkwardness.

After I reintroduced myself, Pixley went on an informative tangent about schooners. Because that’s the kind of person he is – eager to help, eager to teach and eager to show off…just a bit.

Steve Pixley was born and raised in Balmville, New York, a small town upstate on the Hudson, just 50 minutes out of the city. Steve learned how to sail on the river with his father, George W. Pixley.

As a young adult, Pixley attended SUNY New Paltz. He studied cartography, geography, English and logic. That wide breadth of knowledge is ever-present while talking to Pixley. The topic of conversation can go from sailing and the harbor to astrophysics, alternative health practices, and spirituality in the blink of an eye. It’s something Pixley is known for.

A local overheard Pixley expounding on the nature of time and space with me and was unsurprised. “Pretty classic,” he said.

Pixley set out on the water after finishing college, skippering up and down the coast for private boat owners and organizations such as the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. “One of the best summers of my life,” he recalls.

After a spontaneous decision to check out Camden, Pixley is now closing in on 19 summers on the harbor. Which is why he is known by everyone.

The way people respond when you bring him up stands out. It is clear he is known (and appreciated) for more than his position. Pixley always brings smiles to the faces of those who know him. Either for his kind words or wild ways.

When I mentioned him to Sarah Thorpe, captain of the Owl, she immediately laughed and mused about how much she adores Steve. That response was consistent whenever I mentioned him to other people that worked in the harbor.

I have yet to come across someone who does not adore him. Every person that crosses paths with Pixley leaves with a smiling greeting, a completed favor, an update on his latest health practice, or a new story about his adventures.

The harbormaster is most known for those stories. They may be about his time on the Hudson River. Or his most recent encounter with medicinal mushrooms that made him violently ill.

“One of the things of working with the Harbor Master is his stories. I noticed that the longest story always comes out at the perfect time,” said Garth Wells, captain of Schooner Lewis R. French. “It keeps me going while I continue to toil.”

Janet “Lady J” Halsey, the harbormaster receptionist, similarly (and fondly) concurs: “Steve is a ham.”

It’s safe to say that Pixley is a bit of an oversharer. He was told by friends and harbor workers, on multiple occasions, to stop sharing certain things with me on the record. He always brushed them off.

Pixley is also known for his generosity. One day on the docks while the summer season (and the copious amount of work it brought) was still on, Steve spent his time helping a new boat owner who didn’t “have a clue” about how to be a boat owner.

“I totally respect him, because he is going to learn as he goes,” Pixley told me. “He’s so nice. If he wasn’t friendly, I'd be like 'suck it buddy.' I want to help him out because he doesn't have a clue, but he's so nice.”

“Are friendliness and kindness the most important qualities to have to exist in this harbor?" I ask.

"Friendliness and kindness are the most important things, period. Forget about the harbor."

And that’s apparent on and off the clock.

Pixley stops in the middle of conversations frequently to yell 'hi' to those he knows passing by on the docks. He often pulls over to catch up with folks on the sidewalk while he drives. Brad's girlfriend. The woman who rents a house he built. Various harbor tenants.

“That's our job. Not just to manage the harbor but to work like an ambassador. We are the ones forming the energy. We determine if the energy is good or bad,” Pixley said. “I think that's why The Camden Harbor has turned into the place it is. Because I love my job so much.”

It is certainly accurate to equate the harbormaster’s office to an embassy, in some ways. It is undoubtedly the most important spot on the harbor. The brain, the heart, the location of all major intelligence. Pixley, along with Lady J, and Jim Leo, the deputy harbormaster, also spend the day answering questions and completing requests from fishermen, tourists, and locals alike, along with pesky local journalists like me.

In the hours I spent on the harbor, I saw many people ask favors of Pixley. And I never saw him say ‘no.’

And those favors never brought about half-assed work. I watched Pixley do the heavy lifting on someone else’s project, time and time again, with a smile on his face and a booming laugh. Pixley is always willing to get his hands dirty.

“Once I start something, I see it through,” Pixley said.

Perhaps, that’s in part because he knows, better than anyone, “It’s in the best interest of the town to ensure everything’s settled.” Even if that means people get extra help along the way.

What it really comes down to, though, is Pixley’s love of Camden Harbor. He is deeply passionate about the ocean, the harbor, and the history of the harbor. He has a great love for the harbor he runs that is not found at all ports.

“If there was no ocean, what else would this town be,” Pixley asks rhetorically. “I love it here. This life is an adventure.”

Kay Neufeld is a 2018 graduate from the New York University Arthur L. Carter School of Journalism. She lives in Hope and writes for The Camden Herald.