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The Voyage of the Mayflower


Artwork on this page is reproduced with permission of Mike Haywood. Prints of some of his artwork are available for sale on his web site, http://www.mikehaywoodart.co.uk.

On July 22, 1620, the Pilgrims boarded the ship Speedwell in Delfthaven, Holland, and said their tearful good-byes to their friends and church-members whom they were leaving behind. In fact, they were leaving the majority of their church congregation behind--even their pastor, John Robinson, was not coming with them. But the intent was to send these first few men and women to establish the colony: then the rest of the church would be able to come over later. Pastor Robinson preached a sermon on Ezra 8:21. As the time to depart arrived, Pastor Robinson fell to his knees and "with watery cheeks commended them with most fervent prayers." The Pilgrims sailed on the Speedwell from Delfthaven, Holland to

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Southampton, England, where they met up with the Mayflower that had just come down from London. The Mayflower had a number of other passengers from England that the Pilgrims did not really know yet--they were friends or investors that had become interested in the voyage while the Pilgrims were trying to raise enough money to undertake the trip. In Southampton, the ships were loaded with food and supplies for the voyage: but the Pilgrims were so short of money they had to sell off most of their oil and butter before they could leave. The Mayflower and Speedwell departed for America on August 5 from Southampton, but after just a short time sailing through the English Channel they were forced

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short time sailing through the English Channel they were forced into Dartmouth because the Speedwell was leaking. They were delayed several weeks, but finally headed off to America from Dartmouth on August 24. They Mayflower and Speedwell cleared the English channel, and were nearly 300 miles into the Atlantic when word came that the Speedwell was again leaking, and would have to turn back. The two ships returned to Plymouth, England, where it was decided that the Speedwell was not capable of making the voyage. About 20 passengers, most quite frustrated with the voyage and very happy for an excuse to quit, were sent home to England and Holland. The remaining passengers and cargo were transferred from the Speedwell over to the Mayflower. Finally, after a month of delays and problems, the Mayflower put to sea again, leaving Plymouth, England on September 6, 1620, with 102 passengers (three of which were pregnant women), and a crew of about 30. For the first half of the voyage, the Mayflower had good winds and weather. The of the passengers were troubled by sea-sickness, but they would get used to it. A young boy, Oceanus, was born to Stephen and Elizabeth Hopkins. One of the sailors on the voyage was remembered as having been very vulgar and rude. He used to laugh at the passengers sea-sickness, and told everyone he hoped to throw half of them overboard after they had died, and then take all their possessions for himself. He cursed and swore terribly. In the end, though, he ended up being the first to get sick, and soon died of a very painful disease, and was in fact the first person thrown overboard. The Pilgrims saw the hand of God in his death, as Bradford wrote "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." Unfortunately for the passengers, the smooth sailing came to an end about half-way across the ocean. The Mayflower was hit with many strong storms and crosswinds, and the ship was so badly shaken that she became very leaky, with water

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dripping and falling down upon the passengers that were living between the decks. The storms were often bad enough that the Mayflower's crew had to take down the sails, and just let the storm blow the ship wherever it wanted. During one of these bad storms, one of the main beams of the ship bowed and cracked, causing some of the crewmembers and passengers to fear the ship would not be able to continue the voyage. After consulting with the master, Christopher Jones, it was decided the ship was sturdy, and had a good history of surviving such storms, so a great iron screw was used to raise the main beam back into place. During another storm, passenger John Howland happened to come above deck, and was swept off the ship into the ocean. He just managed to grab ahold of the topsail halyards, and held on long enough for the Mayflower's crew to rescue him with a boathook. William Bradford noted, "though he was something ill with it, yet he lived many years after and became a profitable member both of church and commonwealth". Howland is an ancestor to many people, including Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and George Bush, actor Humphrey Bogart, and founder of the Mormons Joseph Smith. Finally, the passengers and crew began to sense they were getting close to land. Three days out, a young boy, William Button, who came on the Mayflower in the custody of doctor Samuel Fuller, died. He was the first passenger to die, and the only passenger to die while the ship was at sea. On the morning of November 9, after more than two months at sea (not to mention a month of delays on board the ships back in England), they spotted land, which they later found to be Cape Cod. After 2750 miles, traveling at an average speed of just under 2 mph, the voyage was nearly over. The Pilgrims were planning to build their settlement around the mouth of the Hudson's River near present-day Long Island, New York; but when the Mayflower turned south, she nearly
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shipwrecked in some difficult shoals off the coast of Cape Cod. The Pilgrims decided not to risk another attempt, but instead to explore the region around Cape Cod. They anchored in what is now Provincetown Harbor on November 11, 1620. Since they were no longer going to settle where they had thought, and did not technically have the permission of the King of England, the Pilgrims drew up the so-called "Mayflower Compact," to give themselves the authority to establish a government there--it was a temporary solution, until an official patent could be obtained. With the voyage having come to an end, the Pilgrim men set out to explore Cape Cod and gather firewood, while the Pilgrim women were brought ashore to do the laundry.

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