On september 6, 1620 the Mayflower set sail carrying the hopes and dreams of 102 passengers. Page updated 25 February 2012


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This true narrative recounts the lives and adventures of the people who made the voyage: The Voyage That Changed the World: The "Mayflower" and the United States of America.
Or there is the definitive book by Rev. Dr Harold Kirk-Smith William Brewster - the Father of New England: The Story of the Pilgrim Fathers


The Journey from Mayflower steps to Cape Cod
 

Departure:

The Mayflower left Plymouth, England on September 6, 1620

Arrival:

The Mayflower crew sighted land off Cape Cod on November 9, 1620 and first landfall was made November 11, 1620

Distance and time:

The voyage from Plymouth, England to Plymouth Harbour is about 2,750 miles, and took the Mayflower 66 days.

Number of passengers:

The Mayflower left England with 102 passengers, including three pregnant women, and a crew of unknown number. While the Mayflower was at sea, Elizabeth Hopkins gave birth to a son which she named Oceanus. After the Mayflower had arrived and was anchored in Provincetown Harbour off the tip of Cape Cod, Susanna White gave birth to a son, which she named Peregrine (which means "one who has made a journey"). The Mayflower then sailed across the bay and anchored in Plymouth Harbour. There, Mary Allerton gave birth to a stillborn son. One passenger died while the Mayflower was at sea--a youth named William Butten, a servant-apprentice to Dr. Samuel Fuller. The death occurred just three days before land was sighted. One Mayflower crew member also died at sea, but his name is not known.

A picture of the boats on the Barbican, Plymouth        A war memorial standing proud in Plymouth

The replica of the Mayflower which stands in Plymouth, U.S.A

Contemporary accounts of the voyage:

There is only one primary source account in existence that describes events that occurred while the Mayflower was at sea.  It was written by William Bradford, in his History of Plymouth Plantation. His account of the voyage, in its entirety, follows:

September 6. These troubles being blown over, and now all being compact together in one ship, they put to sea again with a prosperous wind, which continued divers days together, which was some encouragement unto them; yet according to the usual manner many were afflicted with sea sickness. And I may not omit here a special work of God's providence.

There was a proud and very profane young man, one of the sea-men, of a lusty, able body, which made him the more haughty; he would always be condemning the poor people in their sickness, and cursing them daily with grievous execrations, and did not let to tell them, that he hoped to help to cast half of them overboard before they came to their journey's end, and to make merry with what they had; and if he were by any gently reproved, he would curse and swear most bitterly. But it pleased God before they came half seas over, to smite this young man with a grievous disease, of which he died in a desperate manner, and so was himself the first that was thrown overboard. Thus his curses light on his own head; and it was an astonishment to all his fellows, for they noted it to be the just hand of God upon him.

After they had enjoyed fair winds and weather for a season, they were encountered many times with cross winds, and met with many fierce storms, with which the ship was shroudly shaken, and her upper works made very leaky; and one of the main beams in the mid ships was bowed and cracked, which put them in some fear that the ship could not be able to perform the voyage. So some of the chief of the company, perceiving the mariners to fear the sufficiency of the ship, as appeared by their mutterings, they entered into serious consultation with the master and other officers of the ship, to consider in time of the danger; and rather to return then to cast themselves into a desperate and inevitable peril.

And truly there was great distraction and difference of opinion among the mariners themselves; fain would they do what could be done for their wages sake, (being now half the seas over,) and on the other hand they were loath to hazard their lives too desperately. But in examining of all opinions, the master and others affirmed they knew the ship to be strong and firm under water; and for the buckling of the main beam, there was a great iron screw the passengers brought out of Holland, which would raise the beam into his place; the which being done, the carpenter and master affirmed that with a post put under it, set firm in the lower deck, and other-ways bound, he would make it sufficient.

And as for the decks and upper works they would caulk them as well as they could, and though with the working of the ship they would not long keep staunch, yet there would otherwise be no great danger, if they did not overpress her with sails. So they committed themselves to the will of God, and resolved to proceed. In sundry of these storms the winds were so fierce, and the seas so high, as they could not bear a knot of sail, but were forced to hull, for divers days together. And in one of them, as they thus lay at hull, in a mighty storm, a lusty young man (called John Howland) coming upon some occasion above the gratings, was, with a seele of the ship thrown into the sea; but it pleased God that he caught hold of the topsail halyards, which hung overboard, and ran out at length; yet he held his hold (though he was sundry fathoms under water) till he was hauled up by the same rope to the brim of the water, and then with a boat hook and other means got into the ship again, and his life saved; and though he was something ill with it, yet he lived many years after, and became a profitable member both in church and commonwealth.

In all this voyage their died but one of the passengers, which was William Butten, a youth, servant to Samuel Fuller, when they drew near the coast. But to omit other things, (that I may be brief,) after long beating at sea they fell with that land which is called Cape Cod; the which being made and certainly known to be it, they were not a little joyful. After some deliberation had amongst themselves and with the master of the ship, they tacked about and resolved to stand for the southward (the wind and weather being fair) to find some place about Hudson's River for their habitation. But after they had sailed that course about half a day, they fell amongst dangerous shoals and roaring breakers, and they were so far entangled therewith as they conceived themselves in great danger; and the wind shrinking upon them withal, they resolved to bear up again for the Cape, and thought themselves happy to get out of those dangers before night overtook them, as by God's providence they did.

And the next day they got into the Cape-harbor where they rid in safety. A word or two by the way of this cape; it was thus first named by Captain Gosnold and his company, Anno. 1602, and after by Captain Smith was called Cape James; but it retains the former name amongst seamen. Also that point which first showed these dangerous shoals unto them, they called Point Care, and Tucker's Terror; but the French and Dutch to this day call it Malabar, by reason of those perilous shoals, and the losses they have suffered there.

Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element. And no marvel if they were thus joyful, seeing wise Seneca was so affected with sailing a few miles on the coast of his own Italy; as he affirmed, that he had rather remain twenty years on his way by land, then pass by sea to any place in a short time; so tedious and dreadful was the same unto him.

Only one other contemporary account of the Mayflower's voyage exists, and though it was not written by a Mayflower passenger, it was written in 1624 by Captain John Smith (the same one rescued by Pocahontas), based on second hand information he had heard, or read in letters sent back to England.  What Smith wrote follows (the spelling has not been modernized in this passage):

Upon these inducements some few well disposed Gentlemen and Merchants of London and other places provided two ships, the one of 160 Tunnes [the Mayflower], the other of 70 [the Speedwell]; they left the coast of England the 23 of August, with about 120 persons: but the next day the lesser ship sprung a leake, that forced their return to Plimmoth [England]: where discharging her and 20 passengers, with the great ship and a hundred persons besides sailers, they set saile againe the sixt of September, and the ninth of November fell with Cape James [Cape Cod]; but being pestered nine weeks in this leaking unwholesome ship, lying wet in their cabbins, most of them grew very weak, and weary of the sea.


 

 
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