Ship Name

Mayflower (1620)


galleon (3 mast)


English (Leigh)


Europe's Reconnaissance (1351-1640)

Year Launched


Home Waters




Displacement (tons)


Length (feet)


Beam (feet)


Draft (feet)


Primary Propulsion


Propulsion Specifications

mixed rig




6 cannons/each 1/2 ton



Historical Note

Additional ship specifications: 6 sails; 5 of which were square, on forward three masts (2 each on foremast and mainmast; 1 forward); lateen on miszzenmast

Carried a dismantled 35' shallop and a smaller ship's boat

Although the little ship that brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth Rock in 1620 is one of the most celebrated vessels in U.S. history, facts concerning her origins and end are obscure. While the vessel may be the same Mayflower as one mentioned in London port documents of 1606 belonging to Robert Bonner of Leigh, the record becomes clearer in 1609 when there is mention of a Mayflower of London, Christopher Jones master and part owner. This ship plied the seas chiefly between England and the French Biscay ports of La Rochelle and Bordeaux. Outbound she carried such items as cloth and rabbit skins, returning with her hold filled with wine and brandy. She is also recorded as having shipped furs from Norway and silks from Hamburg.

Mayflower's charter was eventually arranged through the Merchant Adventurers, which included representatives of the Virginia Company, the London Company, and the Plymouth Company, all of which could make land grants in the Americas. The dissenters worked most closely with Thomas Weston and John Pierce, who had secured a patent from the Virginia Company to settle within its domains, in "the neighborhood of Hudsons River in the northern part of Virginia."The Separatists sailed from Leyden in Speedwell for a rendezvous with Mayflower at Southampton towards the end of July 1620, and the ships sailed in company on August 5, with ninety Pilgrims aboard Mayflower and thirty more in Speedwell. The latter was in no condition to make a transatlantic passage, and after her leaks forced the two ships into first Dartmouth and then Plymouth, the crews realized they could use only Captain Jones's larger ship. Overcrowding was alleviated somewhat when about eighteen or twenty of the company decided to stay in England, and Mayflower finally sailed from Plymouth on September 6 with 50 men, 20 women, and 34 children, about half of them Separatists and the others members of the Church of England.

The Mayflower passengers consisted of fifty men, nineteen women, three of whom were pregnant, fourteen young adults, and nineteen children, a total of 102. One baby was born on the voyage across the Atlantic (Oceanus Hopkins), one after the ship�s arrival in Cape Cod Harbor (Peregrine White), and on 22 December 1620, Mary (Norris) Allerton had a still born son while the Mayflower was anchored in Plymouth Harbor. The sixty-nine adult passengers were mainly in their thirties, the fourteen young adults ranged between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, and the nineteen children were twelve and under. The average age of the men who sailed on the Mayflower, whose baptismal or birth dates are known or can be estimated was thirty-four.

The first half of the passage was rough, but thereafter the weather was good, and on November 9 they saw land at Truro, Cape Cod, 200 miles north of the Virginia Company's domains, which extended about as far north as New York. Jones attempted to sail south, but contrary winds and the approach of winter forced the ship back around the tip of Cape Cod, and on November 11, 1620, they anchored at Provincetown Harbor. In sixty-seven days at sea one of the group had died, and one child was born, named Oceanus Hopkins.

Before going ashore, forty-one of the company signed the "Mayflower Compact," the document by which all members of the ship's company would be ruled.On November 15, Miles Standish led a small group of Pilgrims on their first foray along the neck of Cape Cod. At the end of the month, they made a second expedition, by shallop (which had to be assembled after Mayflower's arrival), to the Pamet River near Truro, and a third expedition took them across Massachusetts Bay. Here was a good place for wintering, and on December 16 Mayflower arrived at "the harbour ... which is apparently, by Captain John Smith's chart of 1614, no other than the place he calls `Plimouth' thereon."

Although the first winter was hard, in the spring they met an English-speaking Indian. Squanto had been to England and sold into the slave market in Spain in 1614. Somehow he made his way back to England and enlisted as an interpreter on a ship bound for Newfoundland. Now living with Massasoit, Great Chief of the Wampanoags, Squanto provided inestimable help to the fledgling Pilgrim settlement. By April the weather had moderated, but half of the Mayflower's crew had died. She took her departure on April 5, 1621, and arrived in the Thames estuary after a run of only thirty-one days. Mayflower'shistory after that point becomes something of a mystery. She is last mentioned in connection with Jones's name on December 18, 1621, unloading at London the last of a cargo from La Rochelle that included 1,930 pounds of cotton yarn, "yards of Turkey grograine," and twelve hundredweight of currants. In 1624, a vessel of the same name, in which Josian Jones, the captain's widow, was a part owner, was surveyed at Rotherhithe and valued at �128 8s 4d. What happened thereafter is unknown.

In 1956, naval architect William A. Baker designed a replica of Mayflower based on scholarly interpretation of the few facts known about the Pilgrims' Mayflower and the design of other contemporary ships. With a lateen mizzen, she sets courses and single topsails on the main and foremasts, and in place of fore-and-aft headsails (a later development), she set a single square spritsail from the bowsprit. In 1957, a crew of thirty-three under square-rigger veteran Alan Villiers sailed the replica from Plymouth, England, to Plymouth, Massachusetts, in fifty-three days. She has been on exhibit at Plimoth Plantation ever since.

Sources: William A. Baker, Mayflower" and Other Colonial Vessels Alan Villiers How We Sailed Mayflower II to America ; Lincoln Paine, Ships of the World

Related Images

Date: 2000

Image ID: 804

Related People

Bradford, William
Jones, Christopher

Related Source

Mayflower: A Study of Courage, Community and War (2005)

Related Documents

Mayflower Passage

Record ID: 29