At last the day is here. After years of planning, we depart for the New World. The children can barely contain their excitement. I tell them they must be patient. And so must I.
The beauty of the ocean is indescribable. But still, its strength and power is frightening to me. We will not see land again for many days.
A member of the crew – a quartermaster – befriended the children today. He explained that gulls will not follow us far out to sea, teasing that we will forget the very likeness of a bird before we see land again. To comfort them, I was able to sketch a gull before the sun set, extinguishing our light.
We are told to remain below, however the children beg to stay on the deck of what they call “our Mayflower.” They are full of good cheer and stare endlessly at first the sky and then the sea, dreaming of what is to come.
For the first time since we left Plymouth, I have taken a few quiet moments to reflect. I am filled with wonderment at the thought that we will cross over such an immense sea. How many days will it be? My worries drift away with the gentle rocking of the ship.
Each evening, we women plan meals for the next day. We cook for the passengers, but not the crew. The children suggest in a sly manner that they desire salt fish for each meal. We smile, knowing what a fine game could be made out of an empty barrel.
The days and nights seem to run together as we continue toward the New World. The crew tells us we have taken a chance with our late departure from Plymouth. Those who know say October seas are rougher than in September.
We have learned the ship’s swabber gains a new assistant each Monday. This crew member is called the liar and is thus proclaimed for having told a public untruth. The liar must clean what the swabber will not, the beakhead and chains.
We miss the friends who were forced to stay behind when Speedwell twice took on water, delaying our departure. We must believe Mayflower will deliver us safely to the New World. We pray those left behind will join us someday.
It is our tenth day at sea. Three of our fellow passengers are with child and feeling poorly. To cheer them up, the children and I drew flowers for each. Mayflowers are so delicate, but our ship remains sturdy as we continue our voyage.
On the deck of the Mayflower, we breathe deeply and enjoy the crispness of the autumn air. The children look to the skies and imagine what secrets exist within the massive clouds. We may never know, but will surely dream of them tonight.
We are blessed to have a prosperous wind pushing us westward. The crew tells us we must drop anchor in the Virginia Colony before the late autumn storms begin. They warn the skies and the sea will not always be so blue.
The children shriek with laughter to see two dogs with us on our voyage. One is a spaniel and the other a mastiff, which shows great patience as his ears and tail are patted by so many small hands and large hands alike.
Two weeks at sea. The wind blows against us with greater determination and the waves have taken on a darker look. How long will it be until we again see land? It is too soon to ask.
We count one hundred plus two passengers on board.
And now we are one hundred and three. A boy child was born early this morning and named Oceanus by parents Stephen and Elizabeth. For one so tiny, he is quite loud. Many of the children cover their ears during his wailing.
We embarked on this voyage in order to find freedom. We remind ourselves daily that it will be worth the struggle and sacrifice. We have faith that this New World will bring joy to our hearts and peace to our souls.
The children talk excitedly about the New World. They lie awake late at night whispering about the wonders that await them. I, too, am sometimes too excited to sleep.
My good husband laughingly calls me a dreamer. But oh how I love to escape up to deck and gaze at the clouds. I see all forms of creatures in those wisps and weave them into stories to tell the children when they gather round each night.
There was much consternation about bringing women and children on this voyage to the New World. It appears to me, however, that those among us who have suffered the most from seasickness are not overwhelmingly female or young.
We tell the children the bow of our ship resembles a plow, cutting through the ocean waves. The spray on deck feels colder now than at the start of our journey.
We encounter increasingly strong crosswinds on our long journey to Virginia. As the ship shifts unexpectedly, there are times we can no longer stay upright. The children laugh and clap their hands. To them, it is a great game.
Our ship’s pilot is John Clarke. On calm days, he tells us about his two earlier voyages to Jamestown. We trust he will deliver us safely to our new home and the long-awaited freedom it brings.
The children know to respect the belongings of the other passengers, however we are all naturally curious about the choices each family made. For months we asked ourselves what to bring and what to leave behind. We still ask.
We are all restless today, even the animals. The skies are worrisome.
We have survived our first storm at sea. I am trembling still.
I fear we are only just beginning to realize the vast power of the ocean.
The air on deck is fresh and brings color to the children’s cheeks. They have been so patient. Surely the New World is not far away.
A growing number of passengers whisper concerns that we made a poor choice in joining this voyage. How do we help them find courage?
It has been so long since we last saw land. I tell the children to count the stars at night. The stars will guide us.
When I look at the deck of the ship, I remind myself that this wood was once part of a towering tree. And I remind myself that we will one day see trees again when we reach the New World.
Watching the sun set over the sea calms my soul.
The children and I climb up on deck to bid goodnight to the moon, which shines with particular brightness tonight. We remember gathering our harvest last year under just such a moon and wonder longingly what the next year will bring.
The wind has taken on a deeper chill and stronger force. At times the sails make a sharp cracking sound that awakens us from our rest.
The ocean waves rock our ship with an authority that at the same time causes the children to cheer and the adults to exchange concerned glances. Surely our voyage will end before many more days pass.
Another storm. We must keep the children below deck, in the dark. They grow restless.
The children’s restlessness grows. We play guessing games and tell stories to calm their troubled minds.
The storm continues. Night becomes day and day becomes night, yet still the waves push our ship with such force that we cannot stand upright.
A calmer day today, but only the older children were permitted a quick moment to stretch their legs on the sodden deck.
Ten times four days on our Mayflower. How many days remain before we at last see the New World on the horizon? What a joyous day that will be for us all!
The sea is agitated again. Our ship heaves and groans in a way it has not before, as if crying out for solace. Nighttime seems eternal.
The children know we must stay below deck during the storm, which continues to rage all around us. When they beg to see the deck, I show them my sketches. It is nice to see them smile, if only for a moment.
The storm continues. The rocking of the ship gives me a dizzy sensation that I cannot escape, even in my dreams. I can write no more this day.
The storm fills our every moment. We can think of nothing else. We are surrounded by darkness yet no one sleeps. How much longer can this last?
The winds roar with such a fierceness that Captain Jones has ordered Mayflower’s sails reefed. We are adrift.
For yet another day the wind surrounds us. The crew is no longer able to set our course. Instead these good men search the ship, tightening ropes, securing boxes and barrels. We are at the mercy of the sea.
The children ask how much longer it will be until we reach land. There are no answers yet.
The skies lightened for just a bit today. The older children scampered up on deck, but we kept the smaller ones below, telling them stories and playing simple games. Our voyage to the New World at times seems endless.
Once again we must stay below deck, with a storm raging all around us. The ship has creaked and moaned many times before, but never with this fury. I hear cries for help and must stop writing.
The cries for help alarmed us all. I do not know how to describe the tremendous sound every last one of us heard that night. The storm alone is thunderous, but this sound came from inside the ship.
The terrible sound from inside the ship, we are told by the crew, was the cracking of a massive beam that runs through our ship. Mayflower’s mainmast is supported by that beam. A solution must soon be found or we may be forever lost at sea.
Captain Jones tells us Mayflower’s sails must not be unreefed. More stress to the cracked beam could break it in two. We do not tell the children how dire the situation has become. But still, we see it in their eyes. They sense we may never reach the New World.
Captain Jones and his crew carefully inspect the Mayflower’s hull by candlelight. Rib by rib, plank by plank, they search. Any leaks are soon patched. The great cracked beam continues to furrow their brows. It causes us all to speak only in hushed tones.
A solution may be at hand. A tool used in house-carpentry is part of our ship’s cargo. The tool is used for management of heavy timber and has been placed under the beam. As we give strength to the damaged beam, we too feel strength. And hope.
A day of respite. The beam holds strong and we finally glimpse the sun through the clouds once again. But where is the horizon we have so longed to see for these many weeks?
The crew talks quietly and then loudly of turning back while we are still able. Oh, how I want to implore that we continue on our voyage to the New World! But a woman is not allowed to join such a debate. And so I pray.
There is no more talk of turning back. The wind’s strain on the sails is once again too great. Captain Jones orders them reefed. We stay below and weave stories of grand adventures in the New World to keep the children’s minds occupied.
Our supplies are running low. Food becomes scarcer by the day. Will we see the New World tomorrow? The next day? How much longer must we wait?
Although the winds are still strong, Captain Jones orders the crew to unreef the sails. We must take this chance, he says. We must steer toward our destiny.
We have not seen the sun for days, only dark clouds. The wind whips the sails. Our Mayflower groans. We steel ourselves for what lies ahead.
Where are the stars that have guided us for so long? Extinguished by this endless storm. I fear we have at last lost our way.
My hands tremble as I write. The crew whispers that we are hundreds of miles off course. Will we ever see the New World?
The endless storm intensified last night. At times we were certain the ship would collapse into the agitated sea. We feel helpless in the churning water.
Fearing the worst was near, the children and I crept onto deck for a last look at the sky. We clung to each other, yet through our fear marveled at the strength and power of the storm, which has carried us so far astray.
Through the churning clouds a giant creature appears. As it draws closer, enormous wings snap against the wind creating a thundering sound. It is a sound we feel with our entire beings. As the creature roars over our Mayflower, we are swept up in its great power.
Is this a dream? We dare not breathe as our ship flies over the sea at speeds unknown. The only sound we hear is the thundering of wings and the beating of our hearts. Somehow, this creature will carry us back to land. To the New World. To our home.
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