The Mayflower’s Voyage and Arrival in Massachusetts


On September 16, 1620, 102 English passengers set sail on the Mayflower as it made its way from Plymouth and arrived in Cape Cod in November of the same year. Protestant Separatists who wanted to establish a church in the New World made up a large portion of the passengers. All of them though, just wanted to create a new life in a new place. Today, the Mayflower is one of the most iconic stories of the founding of America, and the passengers on the ship are now what we call Pilgrims.

During mid-July of 1620, sixty-five passengers aboard the Mayflower left from where it was docked in Rotherhithe. The Mayflower made its way from the Thames River and into the English Channel. From there, it reached Southampton Water and anchored there for a week. After seven days, the Mayflower joined a group of Leiden church members aboard the Speedwell that had come from Holland. Two weeks later, the Mayflower and the Speedwell set sail on about August 5, 1620. The Speedwell quickly had to go into repairs in Dartmouth after it sprang a leak. When repairs were done, the ships set sail again, but the Speedwell sprang yet another leak not long after, It was early September by this point, and the Speedwell was abandoned. Eleven of its passengers boarded the Mayflower, while the rest stayed in London.



By the time the Mayflower set sail once more on September 6, 1620 from Plymouth, there were 102 passengers and about 25-30 crew members with the exact numbers unknown, making for about 130 people in all. It is said that Plymouth was the Mayflower’s final stop before reaching Massachusetts, but it may have stopped at Newlyn, Cornwall for fresh water because the water was leading to disease. It is unknown if this happened or not, but there is a good chance it did.

It was a miserable voyage. Large waves constantly rocking the boat, food shortages, a fractures main support beam, and many other things led to the misery of the passengers. By the time the Mayflower had finally been able to leave England, storm season out on the Atlantic had already began. Many even became seasick because of it. A young sailor had even been swept overboard by the huge waves. Over the course of the sixty-six day journey, only two passengers died. A woman named Elizabeth Hopkins also gave birth to a baby boy named Oceanus during the journey.

Land, Cape Cod to be exact, was first spotted on November 9, 1620. The plan was to sail to Virginia because they had received permission to begin colonizing the area, but the stormy seas forced them to have to anchor the ship in Cape Cod. The Mayflower Compact was drafted and signed by the new colonists so they could settle and anchor the ship there.

Captain Christopher Jones sent out an exploring expedition to find a place for them to settle on November 27th. Jones, ten sailors, and twenty-four passengers all went on the expedition. No one was expecting the harsh winter weather they got when they set foot on land. It was much harsher than the winters they experienced back in England. In fact, about half of the people aboard the Mayflower would die that first winter mainly due to the cold. All they found though, was snow covered land and an abandoned Native American village. The men looted what they could find that once belonged to the Natives before settling in a place they called Plymouth.



The Mayflower’s passengers stayed aboard the ship until the following spring. That winter, Peregrine White, son of Susanna and William White, was born on the ship, becoming the first European child to be born in New England. Only fifty-three of the original 102 passengers lived through the first winter due to disease such as scurvy, pneumonia, and tuberculosis and the cold. Men began building huts on shore when spring came. The passengers left the ship to move into their new home in Plymouth on March 21, 1621. The small village was protected by six iron cannons in fear of Native Americans attacking them.

On April 5, 1621, Christopher Jones and his remaining crew members left Plymouth and set sail for England, and just over a month later, arrived at its destination.

In Plymouth, John Carver became the small colony’s first governor, and William Bradford took on the role not long after in 1621. There were only forty-seven remaining settlers, and only a few had the strength to look over the rest. Eventually, most of them were able to recover. Houses had thatched roofs (which were later replaced by plank because it caught on fire too easily), dirt floors, and a chimney. They were built mainly of wood, and each family had their own field plot for growing food.

Today we celebrate Thanksgiving in America on the last Thursday of every November. This started when the Pilgrims in Plymouth held a feast in the fall of 1621 with the Pokanoket tribe.


Plimoth Plantation. Source:

After the reaming Pilgrims had settled and made a home in Plymouth, other Europeans decided to leave their countries and settle in America as well. Plymouth is still standing and lived in today with tourist attractions from when Plymouth was only a settlement. There is one reaming home called the Jabez Howland house where Mayflower passengers lived. Also, there is a recreation of the first settlement in Plymouth called the Plimoth Plantation, the famous Plymouth rock, a replica of the Mayflower, and other historical tourist attractions.