After all the troubles with the Speedwell were over, the Mayflower finally set off alone, on September 6, 1620. The weather was good, and the wind remained near perfect for many days. Most all the passengers became very sea-sick. It was not long after that they lost their good wind, and the Atlantic storms hit them in full force. Powerful cross-winds and extremely high seas tossed the 180-ton Mayflower violently. The upper deck started leaking badly, keeping the passengers below deck very cold and wet.
Suddenly the main beam of the ship bowed and cracked, putting the entire voyage in jeopardy. Captain Christopher Jones, his crew, and the leaders of the Pilgrims had serious discussions about what they should do. Should they turn back and just try and make it back to England? Or should they continue on to the New World, and risk their safety and lives?
After long, serious, and heated consultations, it was finally decided they would continue on. Captain Jones knew his ship was strong, and would hold up; besides, they were already more than half the way there. The cracked beam was pushed back into place and supported with a giant screw the Pilgrims had brought from Holland. Many historians believe this giant screw may have come from Edward Winslow's printing press.
The fierce Atlantic storms continued for many more days, however, and for days on end the Mayflower was forced to drift, going wherever the wind would happen to take it. It was during one of these powerful storms that a man named John Howland, about 27 years old, was, with a violent roll of the ship, thrown into the sea. From Gov. Braford's writings: "But it pleased God that he caught hold of the topsail halyards which hung overboard and ran out at length. Yet he held his hold (though he was sundry fathoms under water) till he was hauled up by the same rope to the brim of the water, and then with a boat hook and other means got into the ship again and his life saved." This young man was savied by grabbing hold of a halyyard.
At some point during the voyage, Stephen Hopkins pregnant wife Elizabeth went into labor and gave birth to a son. They named him Oceanus, because he was born at sea.
The Mayflower's voyage was very long and difficult, and the passengers were getting desperate to reach land. Exactly two months into the voyage, on November 6, 1620, a young servant to Dr. Samuel Fuller, named William Butten, died from disease, and had to be thrown overboard. It was a sad day for the passengers, William being the first of the Pilgrims to die.
Just three days later, however, the Pilgrim's sorrow would turn to joy. Sixty-six days after starting their voyage, about 6:30 in the morning on Thursday, November 9, 1620, the two greatest words the passengers could possibly have heard were yelled out loudly and with great enthusiasm.
"Land Ho!" The quiet and calm daybreak was interrupted by the excited passengers joyously trying to get a glimpse of the newly-sighted land in the morning light. At 6:55, the sun began to peer over the east horizon; the day was calm, and the wind was fair. Christopher Jones and his pilots identified the land they were approaching as Cape Cod.
Copyright 2010 Little Pines Multimedia
About the Author: Linda Cullum is from Cape Cod, MA, with a second home in Vermont. She is the author of "The History of the Pilgrims: In their Own Words" Ebook, co- written with Caleb Johnson, Mayflower descendent and historian, and "Learn to Sail! with Multimedia!" an Interactive Sailing training CDROM which teaches all aspects of Sailing including Knots, Rules of the Road, Weather with digital video from Sail Magazine, narration, animation and quizzes. Visit her websites at http://historyofthepilgrims.com/ and http://learntosail.net