The Real Mayflower
Posted: November 1, 2019
The Mayflower was a square-rigged ship meant for cargo, not passengers. Bunks and dividers were quickly built where barrels and boxes had normally been stored on other voyages. The ship was not quite large enough for 80 people. But the Pilgrims’ second ship, the Speedwell, began leaking. It had to be left behind. So all 102 passengers crowded onto the Mayflower.
The first half of the ocean crossing went smoothly, with good winds and pleasant weather. But the second half held nothing but bitter cold and stormy seas. The hatch to the ’tween decks where the Pilgrims stayed had to be covered and nailed shut. Cold seawater leaked through the upper decks, soaking everything. Bad food (mainly salted meat and hard biscuits) spoiled and became even worse.
The Pilgrims endured these conditions for the remainder of their 66-day journey. The ship dropped anchor near Cape Cod on November 11, 1620. They had arrived late and off course. Hunger and sickness had sapped their energy, and a bitter winter was setting in. Yet through all this, the Pilgrims gave thanks to God and looked to him for strength as they began their new lives.
Learn about the Mayflower. Find each caption number on one of the slides:
1) The spritsail swings out in front.
2) Sails made of flax canvas are hung from long wooden yards.
3) Tightly packed barrels, boxes, and bags are stored down in the hold. Space must be saved in every way possible. Even wooden handles of tools are left behind.
4) The forecastle is used by the cook. Some of the crew sleep here also.
5) The ship carries four anchors. Anchor cables are coiled below.
6) The beakhead, or beak, is built onto the bow (front). One use for the beak is as a toilet area.
7) Pilgrims spend most of their time ‘tween decks.
8) Dividers and bunks are hastily built by the ship’s carpenter, but conditions are cramped and uncomfortable.
9) The masts are made of Douglas-fir wood.
10) The stays help support the tall masts. They are coated with tar to protect against the weather and salty air.
11) A lookout peers from the main top.
12) A man climbs up past the main sail to work on the top sail. The main sail is furled (tied up) to the yard.
13) The half deck is a good place to direct work.
14) The mizzen sail is triangle-shaped.
15) Sailors on the poop deck measure where the ship is and how fast it is going. A crewman throws a weighted rope into the water. The rope has evenly spaced knots. The number of knots that run through his hand in a certain number of seconds will help measure the ship’s speed. Peering down a cross staff, a sailor measures the sun’s distance from the horizon. That will help the ship’s pilot figure out where the ship is on the ocean.
16) The ship’s master (captain) does some paperwork in the great cabin. The captain of the Mayflower is Christopher Jones. He is also one of the owners of the ship.
17) The ship’s pilot looks at his maps in the master’s cabin. Rough weather blew the Mayflower off her course.
18) The helmsman helps steer the ship. The helmsman is in the steerage area pulling on the whipstaff (steering handle), which moves the ship’s rudder left or right.
19) Two cannons are ready at the rear gun ports. There are four more gun ports on each side. Only a few ports have cannons, since pirates are not a great threat on this trip.
20) The rudder helps turn the ship. Steering is done partially with the sails.
21) A heavy paint protects the hull from wood-destroying worms. A mixture of tallow grease, white lead paint, sulfur powder, and ground glass protects against shipworms and barnacles below the waterline.
22) The main framing of the Mayflower is oak. One of the main beams ’tween decks breaks. The captain considers turning back. However, a 23) large press brought by the Pilgrims is used to support the beam, and the voyage continues.
24) Stones are used as ballast. The weight keeps the ship riding low and steady in the water.