Today, the Pilgrim Tercentenary Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers the vessel and its arrival at Plymouth Bay 395 years ago.
In his book, John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, published in 1920, Walter Herbert Burgess included a description of the Mayflower and her arrival at Plymouth.
The Mayflower was a staunch little square-rigged vessel (Bradford casually mentions her ” topsail halliards “), double-decked, broad in the beam and tubby, with upper works rising rather high at the stern.
It was an obligation on the passengers to construct their own cabins between decks.
Her tonnage is variously given as “about sixtylast ” = 120 tons, “140 tuns,” and “about nine score in burden ” = 180 tons.
She was partly owned by her Master, Christopher Jones, and seems to have been registered at Harwich, where the Jones family were settled as merchants.
Christopher Jones was a good seaman. He was not a raw hand at the job.
As early as 1606 we find him making a voyage in command of the Jason to Bordeaux. Later on he was engaged in the Greenland whale-fishery.
He had confidence in his vessel. When the “Pilgrims” were a bit daunted by the Atlantic storms he told them “he knew the ship to be firm and strong under water.”
Jones was a good shot and a kindly man. Going ashore from the Mayflower, on Friday, February 9, 1621, he “killed five geese, which he friendly distributed among the sick people.”
When the “Pilgrims’ ” own stock of beer ran out, on Christmas Day, of all days, and they began “to drink water aboard,” Bradford says, “at night the Master caused us to have some beer. And so on board we had divers times, now and then, some beer: but on shore none at all.”
Jones helped the Planters in their work of exploration, and allowed them to use the Mayflower as their rendezvous till their humble dwellings were made ready on shore.
They held their Sunday services on board till Sunday, January 21, 1621, when, they say, “we kept our Meeting on land.”
The colonists named the first considerable stream they found after the Captain, and it bears his name, “Jones River,” to this day.
Of the crew carried by the Mayflower we hear of Robert Coppin, “our pilot,” and John Clarke a second pilot. These two ranked as “master’s mates.” I think the third mate was “Master Williamson,” who accompanied Miles Standish, March 22, 1621, to meet the Indian “King” “at the brook,” on the first approach of the Indians to the infant colony.
We may construct a rough log of the Mayflower for her memorable voyage as follows —
June or July. Mayflower chartered.
July 19. Arrived at Southampton.
July 26. Joined there by the Speedwell.
Aug. 5. Sailed from Southampton.
Aug. 13. Put into Dartmouth.
Aug. 23. Left Dartmouth.
Sept. 6. Sailed from Plymouth. Wind E.N.E.
Nov. 9. Made Cape Cod at daybreak. Shape course S.S.W. for the Hudson, but owing to shoals and contrary winds put about at night.
Nov. 11. Dropped anchor in Cape Cod Bay.
Nov. 15-27, Dec. 5. Exploring parties sent out.
Dec. 8. Friday, at nightfall an exploring party landed on an island in Plymouth bay. It was named after John Clarke, and is still known as Clark’s Island.
Dec. 11. Landing of the exploring party on the mainland at Plymouth.
Dec. 14. Exploring party returns to the Mayflower.
Dec. 15. Weighed anchor at Cape Cod and made an abortive attempt to get into Plymouth Bay. Wind N.W. Course West.
Dec. 16. Mayflower dropped anchor in Plymouth Bay, New England, and there wintered.
The Pilgrim Tercentenary Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows beside an artist’s image of the Mayflower approaching land.