|The Mayflower at Sea — 1620|
|Written by Joseph Edgar Sherman, Jr., Past Governor, SMDSC|
The Ship Mayflower, with 102 Pilgrims aboard, plowed through the waves of the North Atlantic in the fall of 1620. On all sailing ships, the bow bangs against, and slices through, the large oncoming waves, as the sails driver her forward, The shape of her bow is like a plowshare tilling the earth except, instead of earth churning away, a bow spray develops and sprays up high and over the deck of the ship, even in sunny weather. This particular spray was chilled by the fall temperatures in the open ocean and as it fell on the huddled passengers, it felt like a constant rain. People traveling by sea in those days felt it was the very worst place on earth to be, for they became prisoners on the ship until it made landfall. To keep dry they huddled under oilcloths, which were cloth blankets mostly cut from old sails, coated with an oil or grease and draped over the body. Some slept in these.
After they had enjoyed fair winds and weather for a season, they were encountered many times with cross winds, and met with many fierce storms, which the ship shroudly shaken, and her upper works made very leaky; and one of the main beams in the mid ships was bowed and cracked, which put them in some fear that the ship could not be able to perform the voyage.
When a wind is blowing against an oncoming current, normal sea chop becomes breaking waves with stronger winds blowing the tops off the waves in white blankets while the sea tosses and turns causing a ship to do the same. The Mayflower in such conditions was very uncomfortable and seasickness would be a problem for almost everyone. There were men, women and children Pilgrims aboard. There was no relief from the heaving of the ship and no relief from its wet prison. Eating, sleeping, faith and other human necessities became challenges. About the only thing the Mayflower passengers could do was pray. They probably prayed loudly, both alone and in groups. God heard their prayers and they were thankful. So are we.
All ships, including the rough, old Mayflower, have a right-hand side and a left-hand side. As one faces the bow of the ship (the pointy end which moves forward), the side of the ship which is to your right is called the "starboard" side. The side of the ship to your left is called the "port" side. This designation came about because the ship's rudder was once called a "steer board." The "steer board" was always on the right side of the ship as one faced the bow. When the ship docked in port, they could not dock with the "steer board" next to the pier so they docked with the other side next to the pier. The other side (which lay against the pier) became know as the "port" side. Somehow "steer board" became "Starboard."
Stand in the living area of your home and look at the light switch. Then imagine: if somehow, the light-switch side of the floor, upon which you stand, is suddenly elevated to the position of the light switch (heeling) while the other side of the floor dips lower than it is. Then imagine yourself trying to stand up straight when that (sloping) happens. Consider that circumstance, which lasted for days on the Mayflower, and then consider the waves causing the bow to fall down in troughs and the stern to rise at the same time. Imagine trying to eat! Imagine trying to give birth! Imagine trying to pray!
The distance from the departure point in Southampton, England to Boston, MA, is 3236 statute miles (equal to 2812 nautical miles). The entire sea journey for the Pilgrims took 66 days. There are 1584 hours in 66 days. The ship, therefore traveled at a speed of 2 miles an hour. An average person can walk 4 miles an hour. Distance at sea is designated in nautical miles. One nautical mile is approximately 1 1/2 statute miles. Sea speed is designated in knots. One knot equals 1 nautical mile per hour. Using sea terms, the average speed of the Mayflower, traveling across the cold, wet Atlantic, was 1.77 knots.
Constance Flynn Lagerman, 90, of Bryn Mawr, a former board member of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Ardmore, died Saturday, Sept. 29, at her home.