Johanna Smith

Other Names: 14-Minute Wreck Date of Sinking: July 22,1932
Rig/Type: Lumber Schooner (steam powered) Cause of Sinking: Fire
Length: 257' Breadth: 50' Tons: 1,921 Cargo: Gambling equipment
Built: W.A. Magee at Kruse & Banks, North Bend, Oregon, 1917 Location: Long Beach
Hull Construction: Wood Depth: 80' Visibility: 5-15'

The Johanna Smith off Long Beach. Courtesy of Pat Smith.


Built during first world war, shortages prohibited the installation of an engine in the Johanna Smith. Sold to the Coos Bay Lumber company in 1918, she was used as a barge until 1921, when she became one of only two Pacific Coast steam schooners to be powered by steam turbines.

The Johanna Smith carried lumber up and down the coast until 1928, when she was sold to Albert Howard and converted to "a palatial gambling ship" and moored off Long Beach.  After several entanglements with the law, she burned on July 22, 1932.  The fire consumed her hull down to the waterline, however, instead of sinking, she rolled over and remained afloat, still anchored. The cause of the fire was never determined.

The Coast Guard cutter Shoshone soon placed a 25 pound wrecking charge inside her hull and succeeded in blowing out her engines and heavy machinery, sending them to the bottom. After several days of blasting, pieces of the wreck sank and others eventually floated away and the wreck was finally removed as a hazard to navigation.

Diving the Johnanna Smith

Since the wreck was blown up on the surface, there are only piles of machinery and no discernable hull.  At least three large piles exist, each about  ten feet in height and 20-40' apart.  Given its proximity of the Long Beach Harbor, the conditions are usually poor with visibility averaging a dirty ten feet.  For this reason, the wreck is seldom visited by divers.  And like other wrecks in the area, she is heavily overgrown disguising her debris as a reef.

There are stories about gambling barges found with gaming equipment and coins on board.  However, there is no known discovery of any gaming treasure being found on the Johanna Smith or other gambling vessel wreck, such as the Monfalcone.

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