The Mistletoe was a wood hulled side wheel steam ship built in Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1872. She was 152.6 feet long had a 26.7 feet beam, displaced 362 gross tons, 147 net tons and was powered by a 370 horsepower engine. The Mistletoe was originally a lighthouse tender; her official number was 222226. Her job of transporting supplies to lighthouses was eventually taken over by faster vessels, and the Mistletoe was sold to be used in the fishing excursion business.
At 8:15 AM, May 5, 1924, the Mistletoe left the Battery and churned her way towards the fishing grounds. She was under the command of Captain Dan Gully and carrying 76 passengers, including 15 women and six children. At 11:30 the vessel reached its destination and the anglers began to fish for whiting and ling. The NEW YORK TIMES reports that "at 12:45 a man went down into the after cabin to change his coat and saw smoke coming up from the hold" Captain Gully was summoned from the pilot house and upon seeing the fire ordered all passengers to the bow.
The crew tried desperately to extinguish the flames with both hose and buckets. Meantime the news that the Mistletoe was on fire had been reported to police headquarters by the nearby steamship Hamilton. Police boat #3 was dispatched. In less then 30 minutes after the fire had been discovered the passengers, with the exception of nine volunteer fire fighters, had been removed onto other fishing boats in the area. The NEW YORK TIMES report one interesting story during the rescue " William Holmes said that the only incident in getting off the burning craft was when a women weighing about 300 pounds, who was a passenger, fell into his arms and nearly carried them both over the side. With the aid of two other passengers she was lowered safely into the fishing boat along side".
Captain Gully was still fighting to save his vessel. At one point he was lost in the smoke, when he emerged he collapsed. After being revived he was taken off the Mistletoe in a tug. By the time Police boat #3 and the fire boat William Gaynor reached the site the Mistletoe was only a charred wreck and had burned to the water line. Shortly after she sank and now sits a few miles off Far Rockaway. It will never be know exactly what caused the fire that day, Captain Gully estimated the loss at $50,000. Fortunately everyone got off safely with the exception of a few minor smoke related eye injuries.
The Mistletoe now lies in 42 feet of water, four miles southwest of East Rockaway Inlet, ( Debs Inlet ) in an area known as Wreck Valley. Her remains provide homes for lobster, ling, blackfish and even small cod. Divers can recognize the remains of her paddlewheels and her boiler as well as lots of copper sheeting. The copper sheeting had been used to plate her hull so worms couldn't eat through the wood. Divers can also find brass spikes on the wreck, but most require a good amount of work to remove.
This wreck is usually surrounded with decent visibility, averaging from 15 to 25 feet. The Mistletoe is ideal for the beginner or novice wreck diver, her shallow depth, and lack of strong current make the dive relatively easy, and certainly enjoyable to explore. The Mistletoe is also an excellent spearfishing location. Divers should be able to find a few big Blackfish swimming around her boiler on almost every dive.
Excerpted from Wreck Valley CDROM by Dan Berg