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The Journey of the Mayflower

Who hasn’t heard of the Mayflower? You know, the ship that brought the Pilgrims to the New World? As I recall it school children learn about Mayflower’s journey across the Atlantic every year in about 4th grade. They learn how the Pilgrims left England for a better life in the new colonies. They learn about the hope, the courage, and the freedom the Pilgrims were searching for. These are the principles the Mayflower represents and so much more.

For the past three years, the ship has been undergoing a renovation at Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut. I think most people, my age or anyone in junior high or high school during the 1980s, remember the movie Mystic Pizza. The quintessential coming-of-age movie of three sisters working in a pizza shop in Mystic, Connecticut. Well, Mayflower began her restoration here, her, not so much a coming of age, but a rebirth if you will. This restoration will enable Mayflower to continue to teach and inspire everyone who visits her.

Crows nest on Mayflower

Table of Contents

A journey across the Atlantic

The original Mayflower was a merchant ship used to transport cargo to countries around Europe. It was not designed as a passenger ship, thus quarters were cramped. The Pilgrims who hired Master Jones to take them to the New World were looking for their own freedom.

Setting off in August they should have had few issues however, the Speedwell, the second ship traveling with them was leaking and they had to go back to England. The Pilgrims finally set off on September 15, 1620. Arriving in the new world in November the Pilgrims realized they came to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. However, they had intended to arrive in Virginia.

Native American’s and Mayflower

The Pilgrims had permission from King Charles I to settle and establish a new colony in Virginia. Since the Mayflower sailed later than it had intended they encountered bad weather and veered off course. Not having the King’s permission to set up a colony in current day Cape Cod, the Pilgrims needed to establish law and order. They wrote up the Mayflower Compact -not actually called this until 1793 – as a way to establish a new government. This is the beginning of self-government and the new world becoming its own country.

This is why the Mayflower is known as:

The Voyage That Made A Nation.

Didn’t the Mayflower land in Plymouth?

Not initially. The Pilgrim’s first stop was at Provincetown Harbor on the tip of Cape Cod. However, the Pilgrims had some discord with the local tribes. Hence the move up the coast to what is now Plymouth, then named Patuxet. This is where the Pilgrims spent that long hard first winter. This is also where the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving with the natives.

Plymouth Rock, where the Mayflower landed

The Original Mayflower

The Original Mayflower returned to England the following spring with its Master (Captain) dying the year after. Two years later the ship was appraised and deemed ‘in ruinis’. Unfortunately, it is said to have been broken up and sold for scrap.

The Making of Mayflower II

The Mayflower II was originally built between 1955-56 in Devon, England. Mayflower II is the work of a partnership between Englishman Warwick Charlton and Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum. This ship is a full-scale replica of the original Mayflower the Pilgrims were on.

The ship is a gift from England to the United States:

To honor the bonds of friendship formed during World War II.

Life Magazine’s article on the Mayflower II sailing, photo compliments of Life Magazine.

The ship set sail with thirty-three crew members on April 20, 1957, from Brixham, England. The ship arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts on June 13 to 25,000 spectators. I hope visitors who celebrated in 1957 come to the celebration this year to see the ship again. I’m sure the festivities are going to be marvelous.

The Restoration of the Mayflower

The restoration of the Mayflower is fascinating. Plimoth Plantation with the help of Mystic Seaport Museum has restored the Mayflower to its original state. The restoration took three years and now Mayflower is ready for the celebrations to begin.

The hull of the Mayflower

I can’t wait to see the ship because they used traditional techniques from the 1600s to do the renovation. The craftsman and women replaced almost 75% of the ship to get it ready for the celebration. Lumber from Europe as well as here in America has been used to rebuild this iconic ship. At times it has been hard to see the progress but it was happening. It took an entire year just to add the planking on the ship.

On September 7, 2019, the Mayflower’s first celebration happened, its inaugural launch. The ship felt the ocean again for the first time in three years. However, it was with water for all 50 states, England and Holland, not champagne with the honors.

Mayflower in tow before being complete

The mast, the riggings, and sails graced the ship once in the water. The ship is now finished and ready to begin the festivities. This has been a labor of love for all involved in the project.

Plimoth Plantation is grateful for the gift of the Mayflower. They use this iconic ship as one of their teaching classrooms to let history come alive for visitors. Pilmoth Plantation is excited to get the ship back this summer. At which time she will be on the National Register of Historic Places and Landmarks. This is certainly an honor for this iconic ship. She truly is a symbol of American Freedom.

Sailing from Mystic to Boston

The ship is due to sail (in tow) from Mystic, Connecticut into Boston Harbor for the celebrations set to begin on May 14, 2020. The actual launch date will depend on the weather, so stay tuned. It should take a one overnight trip to get Mayflower up and into Boston Harbor and ready for the celebrations. She will dock at Charlestown Navy Yard next to the USS Constitution. The USS Consitution and the USS Cassin Young are both at the Navy Yard and worth visiting.

Mayflower in Mystic, CT

If you are on Cape Cod around May 12th or 13th keep your eyes peeled for the Mayflower passing by. What a sight that will be. From May 14-19, 2020 you too can come to Boston and walk aboard the Mayflower. You can see how cramped the living quarters were for the Pilgrims as well as see how small the ship actually is. Just walking aboard the Mayflower will be an event of a lifetime.

For more info on the festivities and the restoration, check out the official website

For more fun things in the area check out my post on Kids tours of Boston

The Future of Mayflower

After the celebration in Boston, the Mayflower will sail (in tow) to its home at Plimoth Plantation. Tickets to board the Mayflower at Plimoth Plantation start on May 23rd, 2020.

Whether you see Mayflower in Boston or Plymouth this is one celebration you must attend. So start making your reservations now. This is the year to celebrate the “Making of a Nation” our nation, America.

Commemorative Stamp & Coins

The US Post Office has made a commemorative stamp for this special occasion. In addition, the US Mint has minted several coins which you can look up here. The girls and I will get some coins for Clint for his birthday.

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Final Thoughts

Can you trace your family’s arrival in the United States? Or another country? I can. My dad’s grandparents arrived in New York City, through Ellis Island in the early 1900s. My mom came to this country when she was 19 years old. Clint can trace his family’s arrival back to the Mayflower. In fact, his relative, William Brewster, signed the Mayflower Compact. William Brewster was also a leader among the Pilgrims. We can’t wait to bring our girls to see this famous ship and show them how their ancestors started this great nation of ours.

This Post Has 40 Comments

  1. Cindy

    We saw the Mayflower before the restoration. I can’t wait to see how it looks now.

    1. Leeanne

      I can’t wait either, Cindy. It will be the first time for both my kids so we are super excited.

  2. Holls

    I had no idea that the Mayflower II was still around, let alone being restored! This is great to know. Thank you.

    1. Leeanne

      Yes, Plimoth Plantation really wanted this year’s celebration to be big so they’ve had the ship restored to preserve the history.

  3. Missy

    We have looked up our families to see when they arrived to the US. History is great.

    1. Leeanne

      Agreed, Missy. My dad’s parents and grandparents came through Ellis Island and their last name was changed. How crazy is that?

  4. kmf

    How cool that your husband can trace his roots back to the Mayflower. My great-great grandparents cane from Ireland and England. My great-grandparents still carried on the afternoon tea. This is going to be such a cool event!

    1. Leeanne

      That is really cool, Karen. My mom moved to the US from England when she was only 19 years old. She became a US citizen in the late 1970s.

  5. Kat Arriaga

    This is great that the ship was still around!

    1. Leeanne

      It is great that they restored it so it can be around for another 100 years.

  6. heather J jandrue

    I am looking forward to the festivities. We just need this damn virus to go away.

    1. Leeanne

      Totally agree. Fingers crossed. The celebration is in May, thankfully.

  7. Lisa Manderino

    I love American history! What a great place to visit.

    1. Leeanne

      I love American history too. It’s very interesting to see how this country has evolved at what has been going on in the world at the same time and how it has shaped our nation.

  8. Stacey

    What a great celebration it will be! 400 years, wow. I’m sure you will post all about it😉

  9. Jennifer

    That is amazing that the Mayflower II has been restored.

  10. Anthony

    Even in Europe we learn about the Mayflower at school. It’s one of those important marks in Western history. It will be an interesting visit for sure, bringing you back in time.

    1. Leeanne

      Yes, I can’t wait till my kids see it.

  11. melissa

    I’m so happy this was restored! We certainly will be taking our kiddos down to Plymouth to learn and see the ship.

    1. Leeanne

      Yes, I’m thrilled too. I’m sure their will be tons of activities this year in Plymouth and at Plimoth Plantation.

  12. Brianna Creef

    This is so cool. A HUGE piece of our history still around AND being renovated. I had no idea! I can’t imagine what it was to be part of that renovation, so special, I’m sure!

    1. Leeanne

      Yes, to commemorate the original voyage will be special.

  13. Courtney

    This looks so neat! What a great walk through history!

    1. Leeanne

      Yes, I really hope my girls can connect with the history of it all.

  14. Amanda

    We are going to miss this event by about a month. Bummer. I will look into it and see if they have anything going on for July 4th. I know my girls would love this. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Leeanne

      The ship will be at Plimoth Plantation by July 4th. I’m sure they will have plenty of activities and celebrations going on for you to be part of. Here is their website –

  15. Hera

    Whoa, cool stuff! Had no idea the Mayflower II was even still around. Amazing. So great you’ll get to see it. Look forward to reading about it

    1. Leeanne

      Yes, we’re excited to be able to go and see if in person.

  16. Taci- Life Beyond Zebra

    Tons of history! Very interesting, would love to check it out”

  17. This looks like a great experience. I can’t wait to see your next post of how your trip was. We are planning a trip up that way for next year, so I will save it for later as well.

    1. Leeanne

      Absolute, Jennifer. I will definitely share everything we do and see on this adventure and celebration.

  18. John Quinn

    She looks like a beautiful ship. And a great piece of American heritage. Very well put together guide on the vessel.

    1. Leeanne

      Thanks, John. There is so much history around this ship and the pilgrims crossing.

  19. Michele

    What a hands on history lesson! Our daughter would love to visit the Mayflower!

    1. Leeanne

      It’s great to experience history and not just read about it. It really helps to make it real. I know my kids are really excited.

  20. Shirley

    As a history buff with an undergrad degree in history, I want to visit very soon! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Leeanne

      I can’t wait either, Bibi. I’m sure it will be awesome.

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