The Centennial began as a large downeaster, a named after America's forthcoming centennial celebration in 1876. She was exhibited as "the finest example of ship building" during the Centennial Exhibition held in Philadelphia in 1875. She was a full rigged ship and traded...
By 1901, she found herself on the West Coast when she was badly burned during a fire. She was rebuilt as a four-masted bark and joined the Alaska Packers Association's fleet, ferrying men and supplies between San Francisco and canneries in Alaska.
She was laid up in 192X and later took on movie work as the Redoubtable in the movie, The Divine Lady.
In early 1929, she assumed the role as a "fishing barge," when in fact she served as an "adjunct" to the fleet of gambling barges. Beginning August 14, a new state law was enacted by frustrated officials attempted to prevent water taxis from ferrying customers to the gambling barges. The operators of the gambling barges off Long Beach, found and easy way to circumvent the law by taking passengers to the "fishing barge," where they could board another boat on a short trip to the gambling barge.
By July of 1929, the Centennial was renamed Pirate Galleon and was anchored on the "fifteen fathom bank off Long Beach as a recreational barge" out off the legal reach of creditors. Her only crew was 20 year old Sam Turnhill, who impatiently waited on board for his pay. Later that month, she was being used to host private parties and had just been used for a function of the America Legion.
On July 29, fourteen men and two boys were board, when Sam Turnhill went below decks searching for a carburetor for the donkey engine. The rest of the crew were in the galley, eating breakfast. Turnhill's kerosene lantern and ignited gas fumes in the bilge, resulting in an explosion that blew up the hatchcovers and jolted those in the galley. Turnhill was badly burned, but with the help of others was quickly brought topside and placed into a nearby water taxi and taken to a hospital. As the water taxi pulled away, a tank containing 1100 gallons of gas exploded, sending fireballs way up into the rigging and igniting the entire ship, reducing it to a smoldering hulk in three hours. What remained of the hull drifted and grounded just north of Belmont Pier.
The CG vessel Tahoe attempted to remove what was left of the ship, but after using some explosives, only succeeded in removing what was above water--a twisted mass of cables, masts and yards. The Tahoe was attempting to tow the rigging to San Clemente Island where it could be beached and burned, but it sank while underway. Several wrecking charges were used to demolish the debris that remained afloat.
Diving the Centennial
Fishermen first discovered the site and named it "Dipley's" and at least one diver identified it as a large pile of cable. Upon closer examination, the cables have been served (wrapped with rope and tarred) and many have large loops at the ends that once held deadeyes. The area measures approximately 100' long and 50' wide, with a maximum 5' height off the bottom. There is no wood or other sign of a wreckage since this site consists only of the rigging that was torn from the wreck.