A town fuel dock that debuted this summer has far exceeded the expectations of the Oak Bluffs officials who pushed for it. The fuel dock sold about twice as much fuel as predicted.

The town set conservative estimates for the facility, which was installed last spring beside the harbor master’s shack, predicting that in the first year the facility would dispense 40,000 gallons.

In fact, they sold more than 81,000 gallons from late June to mid October.

“From a financial standpoint, it looks like a smashing success,” town administrator Robert Whritenour said this week. 
The facility operates just like a regular gas station. Boats pull up to the floating dock, uncoil a gas or diesel hose and begin fueling.

Fuel is stored in a 10,000-gallon tank underground, beneath Circuit avenue extension, and a pair of dispensers are installed along the sidewalk.

While they’re docked, boaters can also pump out their holding tanks and load up on fresh water.

The early success of the fuel dock reflects broader growth in the Oak Bluffs harbor, which brought in record-breaking revenues this summer — more than $1 million in gross revenue.

Since the recession, the harbor’s income has been slowly creeping upward, harbor master Todd Alexander said, but this summer represented the biggest leap to date.

It was also the first summer without the annual Monster Shark Tournament, an annual event which ran for 27 years. Some predicted that the end of the tournament would hurt the harbor revenues.

But Mr. Alexander says the most significant factor is weather, which was pleasant this summer and early fall.

“The shoulder season will make the difference for us,” he said.

Mr. Alexander has reconsidered his original estimates for the fuel station, and now expects to sell as much as 120,000 gallons next summer, now that more people know about the service.

The fuel dock will be open earlier this summer, in mid May, and will stay open through the fishing derby, an event that proved profitable this year. He also hopes that the availability of fuel will boost harbor receipts going forward.

In recent years, fuel has been available on a limited basis from a private filling station at Church’s Pier.

But in July of 2012, the fire department ordered the facility closed pending the installation of new fuel lines after a 15-gallon leak that fire officials said originated from a fuel holding tank.

Soon after, the town stepped in to build their own facility, a project that was subject to review by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, the regional planning agency for Dukes County.

During that review, Mike and Mark Wallace, who owned the private filling station, said they were reluctant to repair their own facility if the town was going to become a competitor.

As a result, for the past two summers, fuel has been hard to come by in the Oak Bluffs harbor.

“We would send boats to other harbors to get fuel, and encourage them to come back for lunch,” Mr. Alexander said. But this model doesn’t make a lot of sense, he added

The town-sponsored fuel station gained town meeting approval in April of 2013, and installation was completed this past June, in time for a late June opening. The facility is modeled after a similar operation in Wellfleet, a town on Cape Cod. The tank is encased in a leak-proof enclosure, per commission conditions, and is subject to inspection by the local fire chief.

The installation cost the town $268,877.

Town officials say the project is already beginning to pay for itself, and will soon make money for the town. This summer it brought in just over $59,000 in net income for the town.

It also provides a reliable service to boaters, who no longer have to wonder if the fuel docks will be open or not, Mr. Alexander said.

“Now we can guarantee the stability of the service,” Mr. Whritenour said. “From a service standpoint, it has greatly increased customer satisfaction with the harbor.”