Pilgrims to America: A Pictorial History - BACK TO ENGLAND

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Because the Speedwell kept leaking, the Leiden Separatists (later called "The Pilgrims") had to return to England for repairs.  Ships of the day were cramped and uncomfortable.  A transatlantic crossing, in such a vessel, could take up to two months.


The Leiden Separatists did not have financial resources to support their trip to America. In order to make the journey, they would have to work for investors (Merchant Adventurers) wishing to make profits in the New World. As such, the Pilgrims agreed to become indentured servants for seven years.

Captain John Smith (who had returned to England from the "New World" and, in 1624, would write The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles) was willing to sail with the Pilgrims as an advisor. Unfortunately, they did not have enough money to hire him. They bought a copy of his map instead.

Leaving the Dutch port of Delfshaven on the Speedwell, the group reached the British port of Southampton (in July of 1620) where they planned to join up with a larger ship called the Mayflower. Both vessels would sail for America (where the smaller craft would later be used for fishing purposes). That, at least, was the plan ... until the Speedwell, while still in the English Channel, started to leak.

Needing Speedwell repairs, the Pilgrims sailed to the English port of Dartmouth. (See the ship's log, August 10/20.) An overhaul of the leaking ship took approximately ten days. (See log, August 22/September 1.)

Believing both vessels were now seaworthy, the Pilgrims left England on a west-southwest course. About three hundred miles into their journey, the Speedwell was leaking - dangerously - again. The Mayflower's log:

SATURDAY, Aug. 26/Sept. 5
Observations showed ship above 100 leagues W.S.W. of Land's End.
SPEEDWELL signalled and hove to. Reported leaking dangerously. On consultation between Masters [captains of non-military ships were called "masters" in the 17th century] and carpenters of both ships, it was concluded to put back into Plymouth--Bore up for Plymouth. Consort [the Speedwell] in company.

The English town, which would give its name to the Pilgrim's colony, was an unintended stop.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: May 01, 2006

Updated Last Revision: Jun 06, 2018

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