Thanksgiving. Yeah, it’s Pilgrims and Indians and football and pumpkin pie, but the main (and often over-looked) character of the traditional story is a ship. A sea adventure embarked upon by a group of non-mariners. Charter vessels that carried a human cargo of religious separatists from their woodsy home in Scrooby; first to Leiden in the Netherlands, and ultimately across the Atlantic ocean to the English colonies in the New World.
Star of the show:
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The Plymouth Company, who sponsored the Pilgrims, wanted to promote fishing colonies in “Northern Virginia” which at that time meant the land between Pennsylvania and Newfoundland.
The Plymouth Company was founded because money was to be made in fishing, especially cod. This is an Atlantic Cod or Gadus Morhua. Cod could easily be preserved by salting and drying and could be taken from North America to England without spoiling or rotting. Cod was very plentiful in “Northern Virginia,” especially that part of Massachusetts now known as Cape Cod. image source
- more about The Plymouth Company -
- see also: The Decision to leave Leiden for New England -
The Cod Wars
BBC: The unlikely origin of fish and chips
Like Wallace and Gromit, fish and chips are a classic double act – and yet they started life as solo performers. And their roots are not as British as you might think.
The story of the humble chip goes back to the 17th Century to either Belgium or France, depending who you believe…
When the rivers froze over and nothing could be caught, resourceful housewives began cutting potatoes into fishy shapes and frying them as an alternative.
Around the same time, fried fish was introduced into Britain by Jewish refugees from Portugal and Spain.
Southampton (image source)
When the Pilgrims were preparing to sail for America, they discovered that another group would be traveling with them. The Separatists (Pilgrims) prepared to depart England for America from Southampton; a walled port city on the southern coast of Great Britain. Print from the 1600s. Image courtesy of the Radio Times Hulton Picture Library
Southampton‘s tradition of luxury cruising began in 1840. Many of the world’s largest cruise ships can regularly be seen in her waters. The city has a particular connection to Cunard Line and their fleet of ships. Southampton is noted for its association with the RMS Titanic, and the Supermarine Spitfire
Following the Norman Conquest in 1066, Southampton became the major port of transit between the then capital of England, Winchester, and Normandy. by the 13th century Southampton had become a leading port, particularly involved in the import of French wine in exchange for English cloth and wool. In 1348, the Black Death reached England via merchant vessels calling at Southampton.
During the Middle Ages, shipbuilding became an important industry for the town. Henry V’s famous warship HMS Grace Dieu was built there. From 1904 to 2004, the Thornycroft shipbuilding yard was a major employer in Southampton, building and repairing ships used in both World Wars.
The town experienced major expansion during the Victorian era with the formation of the Southampton Docks company in 1835. Southampton subsequently became known as “The Gateway to the Empire”. In 1912, the RMS Titanic sailed from Southampton.
The Mayflower; engraving by Nathaniel Wright Stephenson
An American History (Boston, MA: Ginn and Company, 1913)
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MAYFLOWER and SPEEDWELL Depart Plymouth, 1620
by Paul Garnett
Marine artist Paul Garnett is a native of Boston, Massachusetts. For seven years in the late 70′s and early 80′s, he was a shipwright on the 1962 replica of the square-rigged vessel BOUNTY built for MGM’s lavish remake of Mutiny on the Bounty. His experience with the ship gave him first hand and upfront knowledge of what it really was to sail and handle square riggers, something that he strives to incorporate into all of his canvases. His work is in private collections in the U.S. and Britain, and has been featured on A&E Networks show on “Sea Tales” as well as on the History Channel’s “Histories Mysteries: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty.”
Protestant pilgrims are shown on the deck of the ship Speedwell before their departure for the New World from Delft Haven, Holland, on July 22, 1620.
At the left side of the painting is a rainbow, which symbolizes hope and divine protection. The artist, Robert W. Weir (1803–1890) had studied art in Italy and taught art at the military academy at West Point.
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The smaller of the two ships, the Speedwell, was a 60-ton ship built in 1577, under the original name, Swiftsure, and intended as part of English preparations for war against Spain.
She participated in the fight against the Spanish Armada, and during the Earl of Essex’ 1596 Azores expedition she served as the ship of the second in command. It was thought that once the entire company of immigrants had arrived in the colonies, the Speedwell would be converted to a fishing vessel which would sustain the group financially.
The Leiden Separatists bought or leased the ship Speedwell in Holland, and are said to have boarded it on 1 August at Delfshaven. They then sailed to Southampton, England to meet the sister ship, Mayflower, which had been chartered by the merchant investors. In Southampton they joined with other Separatists and the additional colonists hired by the investors. Departure was August 5, 1620.
The Speedwell was found to be taking on water, and the two ships put into Dartmouth for repairs. On the second attempt, Mayflower and Speedwell sailed about 100 leagues beyond Land’s End in Cornwall, but the Speedwell was determined to be un-seaworthy. Both vessels then returned to Plymouth. The remaining Separatists decided to go join the other passengers aboard the Mayflower.
- The Speedwell -
Of the 121 combined passengers, 102 were chosen to travel on Mayflower with the supplies consolidated. The reduced party finally sailed successfully on September 16, 1620.
The Mayflower departed Plymouth, England on September 16, 1620, with 102 passengers and about 30 crew members aboard the small 100-foot ship. During the first month of the voyage, the seas were not severe, but by the second month the ship was being hit by strong North Atlantic winter gales, causing the ship to be badly shaken, with water leaking from structural damage. There were two deaths.
The Mayflower was used mostly as a cargo ship in the trade of goods (often wine) between England, France, Norway, Germany and Spain.
Like many ships of the time (such as the Santa Maria) the Mayflower was most likely a carrack with three masts, square-rigged on the foremast and mainmast but lateen-rigged on the mizzenmast. The ship’s dimensions are unknown but estimates based on its load, weight, and the typical size of 180-ton merchant ships of its day, suggest a length of 90–110 feet and a width of about 25 feet.
The Mayflower would also carry two boats: a long boat and a “shallop”, a sort of twenty-one foot dinghy. She had a crew of twenty-five to thirty, along with other hired personnel. After leaving the passengers at Plymouth, mastered by Christopher Jones, sailed the Mayflower back to England, arriving in May 1621.
Within two years, the ship had fallen into disrepair, and was likely broken up and sold for scrap lumber
Mayflower Under Sail
Initially the trip went smoothly, but under way they were met with strong winds and storms. One of these caused a main beam to crack, and although they were more than half the way to their destination, the possibility of turning back was considered. Using a “great iron screw” (probably a jack to be used for house construction) brought along by the colonists, they repaired the ship sufficiently to continue.
A child was born at sea and named “Oceanus”.
Mayflower Almost Shipwrecked Off Cape Cod
On November 9th ,1620, the Mayflower’s crew sighted Cape Cod and attempted to sail south to the mouth of the Hudson’s River, near modern-day Long Island, New York.
Although the weather was fine, they were caught in a riptide and nearly shipwrecked on the shallow sand banks to the south of the Cape at Monomoy Point. Pilgrim William Bradford described the event as follows:
“After some deliberation had amongst them selves and with the master of the ship, they tacked about and resolved to stand for the southward (the wind and weather being faire) to find some place about Hudson’s River for their habitation. But after they had sailed that course about half the day, they fell amongst dangerous should and roaring breakers, and they were so far entangled the with as they conceived them selves 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.”
The passengers who had endured miserable conditions for about sixty-five days were led by William Brewster in Psalm 100 as a prayer of thanksgiving.
The Mayflower anchored off what is now Provincetown Harbor on November 11, and over the next month put out several expeditions to survey Cape Cod and the vicinity. *
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On November 9, 1620, they sighted land on what was to become Cape Cod. After several days of trying to sail south to their planned destination of the Colony of Virginia, strong winter seas forced them to return to the harbor at Cape Cod hook, where they anchored on November 11th. The Mayflower Compact was signed that day.
The main record for the voyage of the Mayflower and the disposition of the Plymouth Colony comes from the letters and journal of William Bradford, who was a guiding force and later the governor of the colony. *
Thorough exploration of the area was delayed for over two weeks because the shallop or pinnace (a smaller sailing vessel) they brought had been partially dismantled to fit aboard the Mayflower and was further damaged in transit. Small parties, however, waded to the beach to fetch firewood and attend to long-deferred personal hygiene. *
Signing of the Mayflower Compact, 1620,
a painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863-1930)
depicts passengers on the Mayflower signing the document which would govern the way that they would act when they stepped onto land to begin their new lives in America.
Edward Percy Moran (American artist, 1862-1935)
oil on canvas, 23″ x 29″
Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Mass.
- 5 Things You May Not Know About the Pilgrims -
The 1937 Special Edition Plymouth Mayflower
from Chrysler’s movie, Sailing Along
- photos and history -
The Great Migration came about because Puritans requested the king to grant them a charter to form the Massachusetts Bay Company source
This map shows that while we in the United States are familiar with the Puritans migrating to New England, most of the Puritans migrated to the Caribbean. A map, entitled “Streams of Emigration from England, 1620-1642” was produced circa 1921 and is from the book The Founding of New England by James Truslow Adams.
postage stamp: Massachusetts Bay Colony 1930 Issue-2c
Mural of Mayflower Compact signing
Of Plymouth Plantation…
William Bradford (1590-1657)
By 1632 the Shawmut Peninsula, and Boston particularly, had become the capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, a booming center of fishing, trading, and shipping. However, the Puritans cared more about their religion than their commerce – even banning Christmas in Boston in 1659.
Massachusetts Colony on Sons of the South
Massachusetts Bay Colony (image source)
The Winthrop Fleet was a group of eleven sailing ships under the leadership of John Winthrop that carried approximately 700 Puritans plus livestock and provisions from England to New England over the summer of 1630.
The flagship, named the Arbella (right) after one of her passengers, Lady Arbella Johnson, weighed 350 tons and carried 23 cannon.
The initial group (Arbella and her three escorts) departed Yarmouth, Isle of Wight on April 8. The remainder were to follow in two or three weeks.
The voyage itself was rather uneventful, the direction and speed of the wind being the main topic in Winthrop’s Journal, as it affected how much progress was made each day. There were a few days of severe weather, and every day was cold.
The Winthrop Fleet was a well planned and financed expedition that formed the nucleus of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
It was to be a model of Christianity to the rest of the world.