The Mayflower

The Mayflower was an English ship that has become a common part of modern day Americana folklore. The ship was transporting English Puritans, who are known in the modern day as the Pilgrims, from Plymouth, England, to the ‘New World’, with the ship departing in 1620. In total there were 102 pilgrims on board the ship, with an estimated 30 members of crew, although the exact number was either never recorded or the records have been lost. When the Pilgrims left England they signed the Mayflower Compact with the intention of establishing Plymouth Colony. The colony was designed as a rudimentary form of democracy and was an early precursor to socialism, with each member of the colony supposed to contribute towards the welfare of everyone in the community. There were other ships also named Mayflower that made the journey between London and Plymouth, Massachusetts several times.

The Mayflower was a square rig with a beakhead bow as well as castle-like structures situated on the fore and aft of the vessel in order to protect the ship’s crew and main deck from bad weather at sea. This design was common amongst English merchant vessels during the early 17th century. The design of the ship made it particularly bad at sailing against the wind and unable to sell well against the westerly winds that are prevalent in the North Atlantic. The entire voyage took a little over two months as a result of this. The return voyage was shortened to over half that time, with the strong winds acting in the ship’s favour.

The exact measurements of the ship are unknown as accurate records from that time have not managed to survive through to the modern day, but historians believe that the ship was approximately 30 metres in length and roughly 7.6 meters at the widest point. With the full load of passengers and cargo it is thought that the bottom of the keel would be just under 4 metres below the waterline. The Mayflower was also a heavily armed ship, as piracy was not uncommon at that time. The largest gun on The Mayflower was a minion cannon, weighing in at approximately 550 kg, which could shoot a 1.5 kg cannonball over a kilometer.

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