The Mayflower was an English ship that transported the first English Puritans, known today as the Pilgrims, from Plymouth, England, to the New World in 1620. There were 102 passengers, and the crew is estimated to have been about 30, but the exact number is unknown. The ship has become a cultural icon in the history of the United States. The Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact prior to leaving the ship and establishing Plymouth Colony, a document which established a rudimentary form of democracy with each member contributing to the welfare of the community. There was a second ship named Mayflower, which made the London to Plymouth, Massachusetts, voyage several times.
The Mayflower was a square rig with a beakhead bow and high, castle-like structures fore and aft that served to protect the ship’s crew and the main deck from the elements designs that were typical with English merchant ships of the early 17th century. Her stern carried a 30-foot high, square aft-castle which made the ship extremely difficult to sail against the wind and unable to sail well against the North Atlantic’s prevailing westerlies, especially in the fall and winter of 1620 the voyage from England to America took more than two months as a result. The Mayflower’s return trip to London in April-May 1621 took less than half that time, with the same strong winds now blowing in the direction of the voyage.