(In honor of those who preceded us, all the curated posts today will be a record of their sacrifices for this land.)
The Mayflower sailed from Plymouth Harbor on Wednesday, September 6, 1620, and the voyage to America felt like a nightmare. The ship was about the length of a tennis court, and it hadn’t been designed for passengers, only for cargo. As a result, all 102 passengers and the 25 or so crew members were crammed into tight spaces. The passengers spent most of their time in the darkness of the gun deck, which measured twenty-five by fifteen feet at its broadest point and was barely over five feet high. The children could stand up, but everyone else was forced to crawl on hands and knees.
The ship rolled and pitched and made slow progress—the voyage lasted sixty-six days. Seasickness was rampant, and there was little means of sanitation. A large contingent of stowaway cockroaches and rats accompanied the Pilgrims, and the heavy seas hit the walls of the Mayflower like sledgehammers, sending rivulets of cold water into the hold, drenching the Pilgrims and turning everything into a sodden mess.
The Pilgrims, however, never lost sight of God. Midway through the voyage on September 22, they read the scripture for the day and felt it was placed in the Bible just for them. It was Psalm 107, a glorious psalm of thanksgiving, which expresses the gratitude of various groups of people who experienced God’s watchful care over their lives. One portion of the psalm was spoken by those on dangerous voyages who rejoice because their God controls the elements and knows how to guide them to safe harbors and to their desired haven.
When the Mayflower finally sailed into its “desired haven” of Cape Cod, the Pilgrims hammered out a formal and binding agreement, which is known as the Mayflower Compact and was signed aboard ship on November 11, 1620:
In the Name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten . . . having undertaken for the Glory of God, and the Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honor of King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and of one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick.