Oak Bluffs appoints Island’s first woman harbormaster

Emily deBettencourt officially takes the reins of the largest Island marina..

Oak Bluffs Harbormaster Emily L. deBettencourt. — Dena Porter

Updated March 29

The Oak Bluffs Select Board voted to appoint Emily deBettencourt to the position of harbormaster on Tuesday, making her the first woman harbormaster in Oak Bluffs. 

According to Island town officials, deBettencourt is also the first woman harbormaster in Martha’s Vineyard’s history. 

The Oak Bluffs Marina is the largest marina — and increasingly, the busiest — on the Island. It offers 80 boat slips and 50 moorings, capable of accommodating yachts upwards of 100 feet in length, and has thousands of boat visits per year. 

DeBettencourt, who had been second in command to longtime Harbormaster Todd Alexander, took over the role of acting harbormaster following Alexander’s retirement last year. Alexander had been Oak Bluffs’ harbormaster for 29 years at the time he stepped down in July 2022. 

“I’m extremely grateful to be in this position, having grown up in Oak Bluffs and worked at the harbor for 10 years,” deBettencourt said Tuesday. “I think it’s a good fit for myself, and for the town.” 

Select board chair Ryan Ruley offered deBettencourt a firm “congratulations,” before Town Hall’s meeting room erupted in applause. 

Martha’s Vineyard’s harbormasters are known for their often decades-long careers, and being deeply embedded in the community of their respective towns. 

The Oak Bluffs harbormaster is tasked with overseeing all aspects of operation at the marina, along with managing the hundreds of private moorings on the Oak Bluffs side of Lagoon Pond, and all boating activity as far as State Beach’s Big Bridge. 

The position also comes with the responsibility of supervising marina’s dock staff, routine patrols, managing reservations and moorings, and ensuring public safety throughout the town’s waters. 

Edgartown Harbormaster Charlie Blair expressed his excitement for deBettencourt. He said that she’s officially made her mark on history as the first woman on Martha’s Vineyard to take on the significant role. 

“Kudos to Emily,” Blair said in a phone call with The Times Wednesday. “Emily’s very capable … We wish her the best of luck.” 

Blair, who’s been Edgartown’s harbormaster for 28 years, and serves on the Massachusetts Harbormaster Training Council, noted there’s only a small handful of women harbormasters in the state. 

DeBettencourt now joins Rockport’s Rosemary Lesch and Sheila Lucey from Nantucket as the commonwealth’s women harbormasters. 

The select board had also considered former Chappy Ferry Captain Thomas J. Mello for the role, before approving deBettencourt’s appointment in a 4-0 vote with one abstention. 


  1. Congratulations! Great news for OB and the Island. I am also glad you will be giving the Lagoon moorings some much needed attention.

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