5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About The Mayflower

On December 18, 1620, the British ship Mayflower docked at Plymouth Harbor, carrying 102 passengers who intended to settle in the new world. Here are five surprising facts you probably didn't know about the Mayflower's journey...


Plymouth, Massachusetts Wasn’t Named For Plymouth, England. The Pilgrims departed from Plymouth, England, but aren’t responsible for naming Plymouth, Massachusetts. It had been named that years earlier by explorers in the regions and was marked as Plymouth – or Plimoth (spellings varied) – on maps. It’s just an odd coincidence that the Mayflower sailed from and landed in a town called Plymouth.

Two Ships Originally Set Sail for America The Mayflower, along with the Speedwell, set out in 1620, but the second ship started leaking and the ocean voyage was delayed. Setting sail again around August 12, the Speedwell started leaking again, which caused the Mayflower to go on alone. Some of the passengers of the Speedwell transferred to the Mayflower, while others, feeling discouraged, gave up on the idea of traveling to America.


The Diet of the Passengers Was Limited and Difficult to Prepare Because of the wind and rough seas, the voyagers on board the Mayflower were seldom allowed to cook due to the fire risk. Instead, they had to exist on provisions on board the ship. Those provisions consisted of fish, salted beef, moldy cheese, dried peas and beans, cabbage, porridge, and butter. The 66 days it took to make the trip must have seemed very long indeed.

Some of The Mayflower’s Passengers Had Been to America Before Several of the Mayflower’s crew had made the passage before, on either fishing or exploration trips. One of them, Stephen Hopkins, tried to settle at Jamestown 10 years earlier. On his way to join the settlement, his ship wrecked off the coast of Bermuda. Hopkins eventually returned to England and joined the Mayflower as a member of the sympathetic group of supporters from London.

Fewer Than Half of the Voyagers Were Puritans The Mayflower actually carried three distinct groups of passengers within the walls of its curving hull. About half were in fact Separatists, the people we now know as the Pilgrims. Another handful of those on board were sympathetic to the Separatist cause but weren’t actually part of that core group of dissidents. The remaining passengers were really just hired hands—laborers, soldiers and craftsmen of various stripes whose skills were required for both the transatlantic crossing and those vital first few months ashore.