Pilgrims Getting Ready for their Voyage to America
By: R. Renee Bembry
Preparing for a voyage to the New World began at a time when pilgrims were at ease with their lives at Leyden. Despite their comfort, however, pilgrims were concerned with Dutch influence on their beliefs. In furtherance, they believed it was their duty to give up Leyden’s hospitality, sail across the sea, and begin a colony even though this meant living among Native Americans – whom Europeans viewed as savages.
After the Leyden Congregation agreed to support a new settlement, they considered the benefits of migrating to two different places. Their choices included sailing to the warmth of Guiana and sailing to the wilderness of North America. After choosing to settle in America, they set about making plans with haste because they wanted to reach the mainland before the seas filled with Dunkirk pirates.
Rather than ask for military assistance to protect the travelers from sea pirates and potentially hostile Native Americans, the Pastor Robinson called the separatists together and preached a sermon that paralleled Ezra 8:21, wherein a band of pilgrims traveled unprotected in similar fashion. The fact that God stood beside the pilgrims was all the guidance and protection they believed they needed. The pilgrims recalled and soothed their spirits with the Pastor’s sermon many times throughout their Atlantic venture.
After Pastor Robinson’s sermon, the group partook in a great feast with loved ones who would not be sailing to the New World on the first voyage. A few days later, the migrants began their journey by sailing through a canal toward the Maas River. From the canal, they embarked on Delfshaven, then England. The settlers traveled from one place to another in different vessels until at last they wound up on the Mayflower that took them the greatest distance across the Atlantic.
The pilgrims needed help in preparing for their voyage to the new world because they tended to live simple lives and did not have lots of money. For this reason, in order to finance their journey, they collaborated with a financial organization called the London Company to get supplies they needed for their travels. This collaboration allowed them to charter ships, and hire captains, sailors, and mates called “pilots”.
Since sailing from London to the mouth of the Hudson River in northern Virginia is a very long journey, the pilgrims also needed ample crew members to man their ships. As it turned out, many of the crewmen hired to aid the pilgrims colonization quest only pretended to sympathize with the Christian cause, however, the crew did safely sail the group across the Atlantic. And although some of the crewmen were more interested in adventure than the pilgrims cause and others ventured to make money from the new lands, their travels to the New World still, in effect, made them pilgrims because they still setup supplies and otherwise prepared the ships for sail, partook in the pilgrim journey, and helped establish the separatist colony.
Pilgrims had to leave most of their possessions behind because there was no room to transport everyone’s worldly possessions on a ship. Strict regulations required the travelers to take certain items and after meeting the required items list, voyagers took bare necessities, and a handful of personal items, which they packed in chests.
Items pilgrims took along the voyage included: dishes made from pewter and earthenware, cradles, straight-backed chairs, and small amounts of first aid medicinal products. Dolls and other toys kept the children busy, as did instruments boys played like trumpets and drums. Boys also took along toy weaponry. Pilgrims also took foods and drinks such as dried grains, hardtack biscuits, salted meats, water, and beer to eat and drink while they traveled.