400 Years Since the Mayflower Set Sail

August 2020 marks 400 years since the Mayflower set sail on one of the world’s most famous voyages.

The Mayflower was an English ship that transported the first English Puritans, known today as the Pilgrims, from England to the New World in 1620. Leaving around the 5 August, the captain and crew endured a grueling 10 weeks at sea, before dropping anchor near the tip of Cape Cod on 11 November, 1620.

Out of Exhile

Aboard the Mayflower were 102 passengers, all determined to reach the New World and begin a new life. They were all separatist Puritans who had split from the Church of England and had been living in exile in religiously tolerant Holland.

However, persecution still persisted and these self-exiled Puritans settled on finding a new place to live across the Across the Atlantic, where they would be out of reach from King James and his bishops.

The voyage was seen as high risk as previous attempts to settle in North America had failed. Jamestown, founded in 1607, saw most of its settlers die within the first year. 440 of the 500 new arrivals died of starvation during the first six months of winter. The Puritan separatists also learned of the constant threat of attacks by indigenous peoples.

But despite all the arguments against traveling to this new land, their conviction that God wanted them to go held sway: “We verily believe and trust the Lord is with us,” they wrote, “And that He will graciously prosper our endeavors according to the simplicity of our hearts therein.”

The Voyage

Initially, there were two ships intended to make the voyage, the Mayflower and the Speedwell. However, the Speedwell, which would later be the first vessel to take Quakers to the New World, sprang a leak and was deemed unfit to make the hazardous journey.

Therefore, the passengers from the Speedwell joined those on the Mayflower, thus making the ship overcrowded. After seven days waiting for the wind to change, the Mayflower finally set sail on on 6 September 1620.

The first half of the journey was literally plain sailing with calm seas and clear skies. However, during the second half of the journey the Mayflower encountered several storms. One storm was so severe that it broke the ship’s main mast. Luckily, the crew were able to bodge a repair and the ship sighted Cape Cod on 9 November, 1620.

The Mayflower had successfully arrived in the New World.

Mayflower 400

Mayflower 400 (opens in a new window) is a series of events to commemorate the 400 years since one of With over 30 million people being able to trace their ancestry to the people on the ship, the events involves four nations, Netherlands, UK, USA and the Wampanoag nation (who helped the Pilgrims to settle and surive the first winter).

The coronavirus pandemic heavily disrupted the original year-long planned celebrations and they were relaunched on 5 August, with an event in Southampton, to run through to July 2021.

The celebrations will also include the relaunching of the Mayflower II, a replica of the original 17th-century ship built in the 1950s and fully restored in 2019. The exact fate of the original Mayflower is unknown but, once unseaworthy, it would most likely have been broken up and its timbers reused – there is a claim that some of the timbers were used in the 1624 construction of a farmhouse at Jordans village in Buckinghamshire, England.


Mayflower II

The Mayflower in Britian by Graham Taylor has been published to coincide with the 400th anniversary offering a more Anglo-centric perspective than previous titles for the iconic voyage.

“This book will be an eye-opener for many readers. It shows how the Pilgrims were radical for liberty; how they were, on principle, opposed to slavery and opposed to mistreatment of the Indians; and how they championed the Jews and declined to persecute the Quakers.”

Quaker Socialist Society



Images from www.telegraph.co.uk and www.boston.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *