Using the Old Style calendar, it was on this day in 1620 that the Mayflower sailed from Plymouth, England, bound for the New World.
sent to the CCO by Ron Riecken, Evansville
The passengers called themselves Separatists or Saints, but today we call them Pilgrims. They had come to believe that the only way to practice their religion freely would be to separate themselves from the Church of England. They moved at first to a village near Amsterdam, where the government was more religiously tolerant, but eventually decided to travel to the New World to start a society from scratch.
They originally commissioned two boats for the journey: the Speedwell and the Mayflower. But when they set out, the Speedwell began to leak. They returned to England and tried to repair the Speedwell, but it was not fit for travel. So on this day in 1620, they set sail in the Mayflower, leaving the Speedwell behind.
Having wasted time trying to repair the Speedwell, they had to start their journey later in the summer, when the winds were less favorable. Because of strong crosscurrents, the Mayflower averaged only two miles an hour.
There are no records left as to the size and shape of the Mayflower, but historians believe it was about 90 feet long. In addition to the 102 passengers, it carried food for the journey as well as stores for the winter, livestock, and tools needed to start the new colony. The passengers of the Mayflower had to make themselves comfortable in the large open cargo area called the orlop. One nice thing about the Mayflower was that it smelled sweet, because it had previously been used to transport wine.
Some of the richer families brought partitions for their areas on the boat, but most passengers on the Mayflower had no privacy. There were no sanitary facilities, and there was little fresh water for washing. Many of the passengers became seasick. They ate cold food — cheese and fish or salted beef.
The Mayflower’s destination was supposed to be near the mouth of the Hudson River, but it had sailed off course and landed near Cape Cod. The Pilgrims spent the next month searching for a place to settle. On December 21, just over three months after they left England, the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, their new home.
Only half the colonists and crew survived that first winter. But today, an estimated 35 million people are direct descendants of those Mayflower Pilgrims.