Former Mayor Dick Stryker was not only a terrific mayor but was, and remains, a great historian, particularly when it comes to his hometown. Dick also saves lots of newspaper clippings to remind him of events he probably remembers in great detail without them. He was only a kid, of course, but he remembers some great stories about the Mandalay excursion boat. Here’s one.
The Mandalay was only one of the many excursion boats that brought crowds from the city down to enjoy the beaches, amusement parks and beauty of the Bayshore in the 19020s and 1930s. There was one summer when the boat was making its last trip back to the city, loaded with customers.
However, because it was so crowded, the boat left 14 stranded at the pier, unable to get on. Still, the folks were not concerned and did not even take out their frustration on Atlantic Highlands Pier Manager John Brasilius. Mr. Brasilius quickly got the authorization to see that the 14 got back to Manhattan, albeit not by the ease and comfort of the excursion boat. The company paid for a bus from Depot Garage to take the customers, at $1.25 each, ticket paid for by the boat company. The incident gave the boat company the idea to let all its passengers know they would always be guaranteed return passage by land if the boat was too crowded to accept them for the trip home.
It could have been even worse had the weather been better. There were 3,000 planning to disembark in Atlantic Highlands on that Sunday afternoon; however, heavy rain showers kept them from landing.
The Mandalay met its demise on May 28, 1938, when it was heading to Atlantic Highlands with 325 passengers aboard in heavy fog. The group was heading to a party in a park in Red Bank, and the liner SS Acadia was beginning a cruise to Bermuda. The Acadia struck the Mandalay in lower New York Harbor,, sinking the vessel. However, all the passengers were rescued. And made the most of it. The story goes that the orchestra was playing in the Mandalay’s ballroom as the passengers were crossing from the sinking boat to the Acadia. The orchestra was playing “Dancing on the Mandalay,” the ship‘s own song. The safe landing on shore of all passengers was thanks to the Coasties aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Icarus, two of their patrol boats and some motor lifeboats from Sandy Hook and Rockaway Point stations.
The Yankee, the successor to the Mandalay, also didn’t fare well weeks after taking over for the Mandalay. Sailing from Atlantic Highlands with 850 passengers aboard, the boat was disabled midstream in the Bay Ridge Channel in upper New York Bay, when one of her paddle wheels was broken. A safe but delayed and more exciting trip for the passengers.
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