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The Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact prior to leaving the ship and establishing Plymouth Colony , a document which established a rudimentary form of democracy with each member contributing to the welfare of the community. The Mayflower was a square rig with a beakhead bow and high, castle-like structures fore and aft that served to protect the ship’s crew and the main deck from the elements—designs that were typical with English merchant ships of the early 17th century.
Her stern carried a foot high, square aft-castle which made the ship extremely difficult to sail against the wind and unable to sail well against the North Atlantic’s prevailing westerlies , especially in the fall and winter of ; the voyage from England to America took more than two months as a result. The Mayflower ‘ s return trip to London in April—May took less than half that time, with the same strong winds now blowing in the direction of the voyage.
The exact dimensions are not known for the Mayflower , but she probably measured about feet 30 m in length from the beak of her prow to the tip of her stern superstructure, about 25 feet 7. William Bradford estimated that she had a cargo capacity of tons, and surviving records indicate that she could carry casks holding hundreds of gallons each. Forward of that was the steerage room, which probably housed berths for the ship’s officers and contained the ship’s compass and whipstaff tiller extension for sailing control.
Forward of the steerage room was the capstan, a vertical axle used to pull in ropes or cables. Far forward on the main deck, just aft of the bow, was the forecastle space, where the ship’s cook prepared meals for the crew; it may also have been where the ship’s sailors slept. The poop deck was located on the ship’s highest level above the stern on the aft castle and above Master Jones’ cabin.
On this deck stood the poop house, which was ordinarily a chart room or a cabin for the master’s mates on most merchant ships; but on the Mayflower , it might have been used by the passengers, either for sleeping or cargo. The gun deck was where the passengers resided during the voyage, in a space measuring about 50 by 25 feet But it was a dangerous place if there was conflict, as it had gun ports from which cannon could be run out to fire on the enemy.
The gun room was in the stern area of the deck, to which passengers had no access because it was the storage space for powder and ammunition. The gun room might also house a pair of stern chasers , small cannon used to fire from the ship’s stern. Forward on the gun deck in the bow area was a windlass, similar in function to the steerage capstan, which was used to raise and lower the ship’s main anchor.
There were no stairs for the passengers on the gun deck to go up through the gratings to the main deck, which they could reach only by climbing a wooden or rope ladder. Below the gun deck was the cargo hold where the passengers kept most of their food stores and other supplies, including most of their clothing and bedding. It stored the passengers’ personal weapons and military equipment, such as armor, muskets, gunpowder and shot, swords, and bandoliers.
It also stored all the tools that the Pilgrims would need, as well as all the equipment and utensils needed to prepare meals in the New World. Some Pilgrims loaded trade goods on board, including Isaac Allerton , William Mullins , and possibly others; these also most likely were stored in the cargo hold. Gun deck passengers most likely used a bucket as a chamber pot, fixed to the deck or bulkhead to keep it from being jostled at sea.
She carried at least ten pieces of ordnance on the port and starboard sides of her gun deck: Ship’s Master Jones unloaded four of the pieces to help fortify Plymouth Colony against invaders. There were 26 vessels bearing the name Mayflower in the Port Books of England during the reign of James I — ; it is not known why the name was so popular.
She was designated in the Port Books of —11 as “of Harwich ” in the county of Essex , coincidentally the birthplace of Mayflower master Christopher Jones about Records dating from August note Christopher Jones as master and part owner of the Mayflower when his ship was chartered for a voyage from London to Trondheim in Norway and back to London. The ship lost an anchor on her return due to bad weather, and she made short delivery of her cargo of herrings.
Litigation resulted, and this was still proceeding in According to records, the ship was twice on the Thames at London in , once in July and again in October and November, and in she was on the Thames carrying a cargo of wine, which suggests that the ship had recently been on a voyage to France, Spain, Portugal, the Canaries, or some other wine-producing land.
He also transported hats, hemp, Spanish salt, hops, and vinegar to Norway, and he may have taken the Mayflower whaling in the North Atlantic in the Greenland area or sailed to Mediterranean ports. After , there is no further record which specifically relates to Jones’s Mayflower until This is unusual for a ship trading to London, as it would not usually disappear from the records for such a long time. No Admiralty court document can be found relating to the pilgrim fathers’ voyage of , although this might be due to the unusual way in which the transfer of the pilgrims was arranged from Leyden to New England , or some of the records of the period might have been lost.
It was from Child and Jones that Thomas Weston chartered her in the summer of to undertake the Pilgrim voyage. Weston had a significant role in the Mayflower voyage due to his membership in the Company of Merchant Adventurers of London , and he eventually traveled to the Plymouth Colony himself. Approximately 65 passengers embarked the Mayflower in the middle of July at either Blackwall or Wapping on the River Thames . The ship then proceeded down the Thames into the English Channel and then on to the south coast of England to anchor at Southampton Water.
She waited there for a rendezvous on July 22 with the Speedwell , which was coming from Holland with English separatist Puritans , members of the Leiden congregation who had been living in Holland to escape religious persecution in England. Both ships set sail for America around August 5, but the Speedwell sprang a leak shortly after, and the two ships were brought into Dartmouth for repairs.
It was now early September, and they had no choice but to abandon the Speedwell and make a determination on her passengers. This was a dire event, as the ship had wasted vital funds and was considered very important to the future success of their settlement in America. Both ships returned to Plymouth, where some of the Speedwell passengers joined the Mayflower and others returned to Holland.
The Mayflower then continued on her voyage to America, and the Speedwell was sold soon afterwards. Mayflower carried passengers plus a crew of 25 to 30 officers and men, bringing the total to approximately In early September, western gales began to make the North Atlantic a dangerous place for sailing. The Mayflower’s provisions were already quite low when departing Southampton, and they became lower still by delays of more than a month.
The passengers had been on board the ship for this entire time, and they were worn out and in no condition for a very taxing, lengthy Atlantic journey cooped up in the cramped spaces of a small ship. But the Mayflower sailed from Plymouth on September 6, with what Bradford called “a prosperous wind”. Aboard the Mayflower were many stores that supplied the pilgrims with the essentials needed for their journey and future lives. It is assumed that they carried tools and weapons, including cannon, shot, and gunpowder, as well as some live animals, including dogs, sheep, goats, and poultry.
Horses and cattle came later. The ship also carried two boats: She also carried 12 artillery pieces, as the Pilgrims feared that they might need to defend themselves against enemy European forces, as well as the Indians. The passage was a miserable one, with huge waves constantly crashing against the ship’s topside deck, fracturing a key structural support timber. The passengers had already suffered agonizing delays, shortages of food, and other shortages, and they were now called upon to provide assistance to the ship’s carpenter in repairing the fractured main support beam.
This was repaired with the use of a metal mechanical device called a jackscrew , which had been loaded on board to help in the construction of settler homes. It was now used to secure the beam to keep it from cracking farther, thus maintaining the seaworthiness of the vessel. The crew of the Mayflower had some devices to assist them en route, such as a compass for navigation, as well as a log and line system to measure speed in nautical miles per hour knots.
Time was measured with the ancient method of an hourglass. On November 9, , they sighted present-day Cape Cod. They spent several days trying to sail south to their planned destination of the Colony of Virginia , where they had obtained permission to settle from the Company of Merchant Adventurers. However, strong winter seas forced them to return to the harbor at Cape Cod hook, well north of the intended area, where they anchored on November The settlers wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact after the ship dropped anchor at Cape Cod, in what is now Provincetown Harbor , in order to establish legal order and to quell increasing strife within the ranks.
On Monday, November 27, an exploring expedition was launched under the direction of Capt. Christopher Jones to search for a suitable settlement site. As master of the Mayflower , Jones was not required to assist in the search, but he apparently thought it in his best interest to assist the search expedition. There were 34 persons in the open shallop: They were obviously not prepared for the bitter winter weather which they encountered on their reconnoiter, the Mayflower passengers not being accustomed to winter weather much colder than back home.
They were forced to spend the night ashore due to the bad weather which they encountered, ill-clad in below-freezing temperatures with wet shoes and stockings that became frozen. Bradford wrote, “Some of our people that are dead took the original of their death here” on that expedition. The settlers explored the snow-covered area and discovered an empty native village, now known as Corn Hill in Truro.
The curious settlers dug up some artificially made mounds, some of which stored corn, while others were burial sites. The modern writer Nathaniel Philbrick claims that the settlers stole the corn and looted and desecrated the graves,  sparking friction with the locals. However, the only contemporary account of events, William Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation , records only that the pilgrims took “some” of the corn, to show to others back at the boat, leaving the rest.
They later took what they needed from another store of grain, but paid the natives back in six months, and there was no resulting conflict. Also there was found more of their corn and of their beans of various colors; the corn and beans they brought away, purposing to give them full satisfaction when they should meet with any of them as, about some six months afterward they did, to their good content.
During the winter, the passengers remained on board the Mayflower , suffering an outbreak of a contagious disease described [ by whom? When it ended, only 53 passengers remained—just over half; half of the crew died, as well. In the spring, they built huts ashore, and the passengers disembarked from the Mayflower on March 21, The settlers decided to mount “our great ordnances” on the hill overlooking the settlement in late February , due to the fear of attack by the natives.
Christopher Jones supervised the transportation of the “great guns”—about six iron cannons that ranged between four and eight feet 1. The cannons were able to hurl iron balls 3. This action made what was no more than a ramshackle village almost into a well-defended fortress. Jones had originally planned to return to England as soon as the Pilgrims found a settlement site.
But his crew members began to be ravaged by the same diseases that were felling the Pilgrims, and he realized that he had to remain in Plymouth Harbor “till he saw his men began to recover. As with the Pilgrims, her sailors had been decimated by disease. Jones had lost his boatswain, his gunner, three quartermasters, the cook, and more than a dozen sailors. The Mayflower made excellent time on her voyage back to England.
The westerly winds that had buffeted her coming out pushed her along going home, and she arrived at the home port of Rotherhithe in London on May 6, ,  less than half the time that it had taken her to sail to America. Jones died after coming back from a voyage to France on March 5, , at about age For the next two years, the Mayflower lay at her berth in Rotherhithe, not far from Jones’ grave at St.
Mary’s church. By , she was no longer useful as a ship; her subsequent fate is unknown, but she was probably broken up about that time. Some families traveled together, while some men came alone, leaving families in England and Leiden. Two wives on board were pregnant; Elizabeth Hopkins gave birth to son Oceanus while at sea, and Susanna White gave birth to son Peregrine in late November while the ship was anchored in Cape Cod Harbor.
He is historically recognized as the first European child born in the New England area. One child died during the voyage, and there was one stillbirth during the construction of the colony. According to the Mayflower passenger list , just over a third of the passengers were Puritan Separatists who sought to break away from the established Church of England and create a society along the lines of their religious ideals.
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