16 September 1620

16 September 1620: Weighed anchor. Wind E.N.E., a fine gale. Laid course W.S.W. for northern coasts of Virginia.

400 years ago, on this day, after seeing multiple delays and making unplanned stops at various ports to repair Speedwell, the Mayflower sailed out of Plymouth alone into the Atlantic, and into the pages of history books.

She carried 102 people – a motley group Separatists and Strangers – people seeking opportunity in the New World, 74 men and 28 women, and 31 children.

Bernard Finnegan Gribble (1872-1962), Loading Up the Mayflower
The Mayflower carried with the following food supply - 
Breadstuff's, including,--
     Biscuits or ship-bread (in barrels).
     Oatmeal (in barrels or hogsheads).
     Rye meal (in hogsheads).
Butter (in firkins).
Cheese, "Hollands" and English (in boxes).
Eggs, pickled (in tubs).
Fish, "haberdyne" [or salt dried cod] (in boxes)
Smoked herring (in boxes).
Meats, including,--
     Beef, salt, or "corned" (in barrels).
           Dry-salted (in barrels).
           Smoked (in sacks).
           Dried neats'-tongues (inboxes).
     Pork, bacon, smoked (in sacks or boxes).
           Salt [" corned "] (in barrels).
           Hams and shoulders, smoked (in canvas sacks or hogsheads).
Salt (in bags and barrels).
Vegetables, including,--
     Beans (in bags and barrels).
     Cabbages (in sacks and barrels).
     Onions (in sacks).
     Turnips (in sacks).
     Parsnips (in sacks).
     Pease (in barrels), and
Vinegar (in hogsheads), while,--
Beer (in casks), brandy, "aqua vitae" (in pipes), and gin ["Hollands
"strong waters," or "schnapps"] (in pipes) were no small
 or unimportant part, from any point of view, of the provision supply.

(Source: Azel Ames, The May-Flower and Her Log).

6 September 1620

The Mayflower was destined to make the voyage across the Atlantic alone. After repairing Speedwell in Dartmouth, both ships had set sail on 2 September 1620. However, within a day of sailing Speedwell developed leaks again and both ships turned around and returned to England – this time to Plymouth Harbor where they anchored on 6 September 1620.

Plymouth Harbor where both Speedwell and Mayflower sailed to on 6 Sept 1620

Speedwell’s logs would have read as follows:

2 September      Weighed anchor, ‘as did also MAY-FLOWER, and set sail. Laid general course W. S. W. Wind fair.

3 September      Fair wind, but ship leaking.

4 September      Wind fair. Ship leaking dangerously. MAY-FLOWER in company.

5 September      About 100 leagues from land’s end. Ship leaking badly. Hove to. Signalled MAY-FLOWER, in company. Consultation between masters, carpenters, and principal passengers. Decided to put back into Plymouth and determine whether pinnace is seaworthy. Put about and laid course for Plymouth.

6 September      Wind on starboard quarter. Made Plymouth harbor and came to anchor. MAY-FLOWER in company.

It was in Plymouth that the ship which had caused so many delays was finally deemed finally to not be seaworthy. It was decided that the Mayflower would sail alone. Some of the passengers who had sailed from Leiden, Netherlands abandoned their plans of going to the New World, while other crammed into the Mayflower to continue their journey.

On 14 September 1620 after transferring its cargo to Mayflower, Speedwell “Weighed anchor and took departure for London, leaving Mayflower at anchor in roadstead.”

On 16 Septeber 1620 Mayflower continued on this journey alone and sailed into history books.

22 August 1620

On August 22, 1620 two ships dropped anchor off Bayards Cove in Dartmouth, England. After facing delays in Southampton to make the necessary repairs to Speedwell, the two ships, The Mayflower and Speedwell, had embarked on their transatlantic voyage on August 15, 1620. They sailed for a few days when Speedwell began leaking again, and they retreated to Dartmouth. This coastal town was used to large merchant ships coming along its shores – however it is unlikely that the town had ever hosted ships that were on as meaningful a journey as the Separatists and Strangers that sailed in on Auguat 22, 1620.

Bayards Cove, Dartmouth

Robert Cushman was one of the Separatist leaders and organizers of the voyage who was making the journey on the Speedwell. It is from his letter dated August 17, 1620 (Julian Calendar which is about 10 days behind the current calendar) to his friend that we have accounts of the troubles Speedwell was facing:

Our pinnace will not cease leaking, else I think we had been half-way to Virginia. Our voyage hither hath been as full of crosses as ourselves have been of crookedness. We put in here to trim her; and I think, as others also, if we had stayed at sea but three or four hours more, she would have sunk right down. And though she was twice trimmed at Hampton, yet now she is as open and leaky as a sieve; and there was a board a man might have pulled off with his fingers, two foot long, where the water came in as at a mole hole. We lay at Hampton seven days in fair weather, waiting for her, and now we lie here waiting for her in as fair a wind as can blow, and so have done these four days, and are like to lie four more, and by that time the wind will happily turn as it did at Hampton. Our victuals will be half eaten up, I think, before we go from the coast of England, and if our voyage last long, we shall not have a month’s victuals when we come in the country.

In 1619, Robert Cushman also wrote a pamphlet/book The Cry of a Stone which provides details as to why the Lieden Separatist separated from the Church of England. The book was published in 1642 under the name Coachman, and it was not until the mid-20th Century that the book was identified to have been written by a Separatist. Robert Cushman was one of the people who did not continue with the journey at Plymouth in 1620, though he did go there in 1621 where his son Thomas Cushman became a prominent member of the Pilgrim community.

After Speedwell’s repairs were completed, the two ships set sail once more on September 2, 1620.

Mayflower

Methinks I see it now, that one solitary, adventurous vessel, the ‘Mayflower’ of a forlorn hope, freighted with the prospects of a future State, and bound across the unknown sea. I behold it pursuing, with a thousand misgivings, the uncertain, the tedious voyage. Suns rise and set, and weeks and months pass, and winter surprises them on the deep, but brings them not the sight of the wished-for shore. I see them now scantily supplied with provisions, crowded almost to suffocation in their ill-stored prison, delayed by calms, pursuing a circuitous route; and now driven in fury before the raging tempest, on the high and giddy waves. The awful voice of the storm howls through the rigging. The laboring masts seem straining from their base; the dismal sound of the pumps is heard; the ship leaps, as it were, madly from billow to billow; the ocean breaks, and settles with engulfing floods over the floating deck, and beats with deadening weight against the staggered vessel. I see them, escaped from these perils, pursuing their all but desperate undertaking, and landed at last, after five months’ passage, on the ice-clad rocks of Plymouth,—weak and weary from the voyage, poorly armed, scantily provisioned, depending on the charity of their shipmaster for a draft of beer on board, drinking nothing but water on shore, without shelter, without means, surrounded by hostile tribes.

Edward Everett, Plymouth, December 22, 1824

15 August 1620

Edward Moran (1829 -1901), Embarkation of the Pilgrims from Southhampton 1620

It was 400 years ago today that two ships sailed from Southampton (UK) for America – Mayflower and Speedwell. The ships that left Southampton carried the Separatists and the Strangers.

Leaving Leiden, July 22, 1620

The Separatists had left UK because of religious persecution in 1608, and had settled in Leiden, Netherlands. After 12 years they were disillusioned by their life and their ability to practice religion freely and decided to move to America. They sold all their belongings, bought the Speedwell and sailed from Leiden for Southampton on July 22, 1620.

Pilgrim memorial Southampton, UK

They met up with more Separatists, and people who were moving for non-religious reasons, known as Strangers, in Southampton. The Speedwell had developed a leak in its journey from Leiden and needed repairs. While the repairs happened, the Speparatists lived on what is now known as Pilgrim Hill. They stocked up necessary supplies from merchants in Southampton before leaving on this long and unknown journey.

Arthur Welling Fowles (1815- 1883), Mayflower leaving Southampton 1881

It was on August 15, 1620, after Speedwell was fixed that both ships sailed. The journey, however, was cut short when Speedwell developed another leak after sailing for about 300 miles into the ocean. She was considered unsafe, and both ships turned around and headed towards Plymouth, UK.

Speedwell cannot make the journey

Speedwell had already been repaired, and at this point was considered not safe to make the transatlantic journey. Some Separatists abandoned the idea completely and returned to Leiden, other remained in Plymouth, and the rest got on board the iconic Mayflower which sailed into the ocean and into history a month later.

Speedwell’s Song

Robinson Of Leyden
Oliver Wendell Holmes

HE sleeps not here; in hope and prayer 
His wandering flock had gone before, 
But he, the shepherd, might not share 
Their sorrows on the wintry shore. 

Before the Speedwell's anchor swung, 
Ere yet the Mayflower's sail was spread, 
While round his feet the Pilgrims clung, 
The pastor spake, and thus he said:-- 

'Men, brethren, sisters, children dear! 
God calls you hence from over sea; 
Ye may not build by Haerlem Meer, 
Nor yet along the Zuyder-Zee. 

'Ye go to bear the saving word 
To tribes unnamed and shores untrod; 
Heed well the lessons ye have heard 
From those old teachers taught of God. 

'Yet think not unto them was lent 
All light for all the coming days, 
And Heaven's eternal wisdom spent 
In making straight the ancient ways; 

'The living fountain overflows 
For every flock, for every lamb, 
Nor heeds, though angry creeds oppose 
With Luther's dike or Calvin's dam.' 

He spake; with lingering, long embrace, 
With tears of love and partings fond, 
They floated down the creeping Maas, 
Along the isle of Ysselmond. 

They passed the frowning towers of Briel, 
The 'Hook of Holland's' shelf of sand, 
And grated soon with lifting keel 
The sullen shores of Fatherland. 

No home for these!--too well they knew 
The mitred king behind the throne;-- 
The sails were set, the pennons flew, 
And westward ho! for worlds unknown. 

And these were they who gave us birth, 
The Pilgrims of the sunset wave, 
Who won for us this virgin earth, 
And freedom with the soil they gave. 

The pastor slumbers by the Rhine,-- 
In alien earth the exiles lie,-- 
Their nameless graves our holiest shrine, 
His words our noblest battle-cry! 

Still cry them, and the world shall hear, 
Ye dwellers by the storm-swept sea! 
Ye _have_ not built by Haerlem Meer, 
Nor on the land-locked Zuyder-Zee!

On July 23, 1620, the English Pilgrms who had been living in the Netherlands, sailed on the Speedwell. They were heading towards Sothhampton where they would meet up with the Mayflower, and togther the two ships would sail for the New World.