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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Mayflowersails2020.com
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.
Pin For Later
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.