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Gary Hodge, IGY AYH’s Fuel Dock Manager Extraordinaire

Gary Hodge, on the fuel dock at IGY's American Yacht Harbor Marina, in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Credit: Dean Barnes
Gary Hodge, on the fuel dock at IGY’s American Yacht Harbor Marina, in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Credit: Dean Barnes

There are two seasons at the American Yacht Harbor Marina (AYH), a 126-slip Island Global Yachting (IGY)-operated facility in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Busy and busier. That’s just the way Gary Hodge, manager extraordinaire at the marina’s fuel dock for over 20 years, likes it. Different from many destinations where seasonality creates downtime, Hodge and his team keep sailboats topped off in the winter, the sports fishing fleet fueled up in the summer, and the center console rental fleet ready to go year-round.

Hodge was born on St. Thomas, grew up in Anguilla where he enjoyed fishing with his uncle, and moved back to attend and graduate from Eudora Kean High School, in Red Hook. Fuel and fuel systems has been in his career lifeblood ever since. He was first employed at the AYH-owned Esso gas station which formerly operated in the space north of Neptune Fishing Supplies, one of IGY AYH’s many shops. Later, when the long time station manager retired, Hodge was promoted to take his place and has worked in a managerial role at IGY’s AYH ever since.

“It’s the people, the customers and the camaraderie” he says. “It keeps me going.”

The fuel dock on the end of AYH’s A-dock accommodates marina-guest and transient boats. The dock can handle vessels up to 125-feet with a depth of up to 10-feet. PUMA-brand fuel products including 93 Octane Premium fuel and ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel are available. In 2000, AYH added in-slip fueling which delivers 25 gallons of fuel a minute. This mobile equipment enables Hodge and his team to provide fuel for yachts tied up in slips on A-, B- and C-docks. The marina stocks up to 30,000 gallons of diesel and 10,000 gallons of gasoline, therefore is fully capable of providing for customer’s needs even during the fuel-intensive peak of sports fishing season.

“The sports fishing boats have become bigger over the years, many are 60- to 70-feet and more, and so their need for fuel is larger,” Hodge says. “Now they can stay put and get their fuel conveniently. We offer in-slip fueling for our customer’s convenience whether its 2 gallons for a sailboat or 2000 gallons for a large sports fisherman.”

This year has been extra busy. That’s because, Hodge says, charter boats are staying later in the season due to demand for charter vacations and the sports fishermen are arriving earlier to get a jump-start on the fantastic blue marlin bite. He doesn’t mind.

“It’s all about customer service. If someone calls me before 5 p.m. and tells me they’ll be in around 6 or 6:30 p.m. and need fuel, I’ll wait for them. I’ve been here fueling at late as 1-1:30 a.m. during the Boy Scout Tournament,” he says. “Conversely, if I get a call in advance that someone needs fuel at 6 a.m. before heading out, I’ll come in early.”

AYH’s ideal location in Red Hook means that owners and crew can walk steps away to one of the many restaurants for dinner and come back to find their vessels are fueled. They can also trust that someone is looking after their slip, dock box and other equipment while they are out.

“After we get the boats fueled and out in the morning, we’ll walk the docks, perform any necessary light maintenance and make sure lines are neatly tucked in,” Hodge explains. “I’ve had some of the guys call me from out on the North Drop telling me they forgot something or left something out and if I can look at it or take care of it for them. I do. Like I said, it’s all about the customer.”

Many customers enjoy seeing a familiar face when they come back for the season. They also enjoy asking Hodge about his family: wife Aretha, son Jamoi, 24, whose toddler son and daughter have made Hodge and his wife grandparents in the last three years, son Jahbari, 22, and teenage girls, Janaya 18, and Janeed, 16.

“I know fishermen who haven’t been here for five years that come back and are happy to see someone they know,” he says.

Finally, what does Hodge like best about his job?

“It’s the people, the customers and the camaraderie” he says. “It keeps me going.”

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