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Old 21-10-2021, 14:17   #1
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Sailing Tactics on the Mayflower

We discussed this once before, some years ago, and the 400-th anniversary of the passage is gone now a year.



But it gives me no rest trying to imagine how they pulled that off.



Does no one else worry about this? Haven't you been stuck out in the middle of a largish body of water trying to get somewhere upwind, and you tack and tack, and the days go by, and it seems like you're standing in place? And that's in our boats which are extremely weatherly compared to that old tub the Mayflower. We tack through maybe 100 degrees over ground on a good day -- the Mayflower? Could she even make positive VMG against the wind? Why were they not just blown straight back to Land's End? What were their tactics? They didn't even have oars. I just can't imagine being the pilot of the Mayflower and pulling that off.



66 days and they arrived. It's about 3000 miles by Great Circle, which they didn't sail. On an ideal course, that would have been 45 miles per day. So on the real course it must have been 50 - 55. And they were hove to for weeks repairing a broken main beam (!). I just can't imagine.


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And in October, and November!!!
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Old 21-10-2021, 14:23   #2
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Re: Sailing Tactics on the Mayflower

Many voyages at that time were similar , often taking far longer then expected , itís why steam rapidly eclipsed sail for commercial transport
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Old 21-10-2021, 15:25   #3
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Re: Sailing Tactics on the Mayflower

I dunno either. Didn't those ships all have to have the wind behind them to move anywhere? Least that's what all the paintings of the time show.
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Old 21-10-2021, 15:51   #4
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Re: Sailing Tactics on the Mayflower

Three possibilities:
Southern Route - All Seasons
The "central route" (seldom possible)
or
The Northern Route (Autumn months alternative)


My guess would be they took the Northern Route. (departing in September)
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Old 21-10-2021, 15:58   #5
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Re: Sailing Tactics on the Mayflower

Dockhead,

FWIW I have wondered the same thing.

But also, quite a bit earlier, Basque were fishing Newfoundland and Labrador, in numbers. They would come over in the spring and go back end of season.

These guys had balls.
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Old 21-10-2021, 16:39   #6
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Re: Sailing Tactics on the Mayflower

Anyone have a copy of the log? Closest I can find mentions:

Quote:
WEDNESDAY, Sept. 6/Sept. 16
Weighed anchor. Wind E.N.E., a fine gale.
Laid course W.S.W. for northern coasts of
Virginia.

THURSDAY, Sept. 7/Sept. 17
Comes in with wind E.N.E. Light gale
continues. Made all sail on ship.

FRIDAY, Sept. 8/Sept. 18
Comes in with wind E.N.E. Gale continues.
All sails full.

SATURDAY, Sept. 9/Sept. 19
Comes in with wind E.N E. Gale holds.
Ship well off the land.

SUNDAY, Sept. 10/Sept. 20
Comes in with wind E.N.E. Gale holds.
Distance lost, when ship bore up for
Plymouth, more than regained.

MONDAY, Sept. 11/Sept. 21
Same; and so without material change, the
daily record of wind, weather, and the
ship’s general course—the repetition of
which would be both useless and wearisome
—continued through the month and until the
vessel was near half the seas over. Fine
warm weather and the “harvest-moon.” The
usual equinoctial weather deferred.
Oh, and since it seems apropos:
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Old 21-10-2021, 19:33   #7
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Re: Sailing Tactics on the Mayflower

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stu Jackson View Post
I dunno either. Didn't those ships all have to have the wind behind them to move anywhere? Least that's what all the paintings of the time show.
Years ago, I asked a crew member of a tall ship at a tall ships festival if square rigged ships could tack into the wind. He said yes, they could, they just put all their sails tight fore and aft and so tacked into the wind. They were not anywhere near as efficient as our boats with leg-of-mutton sails, but they could do it.
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Old 22-10-2021, 00:06   #8
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Re: Sailing Tactics on the Mayflower

You could always ask Williamstown boy Alan Villiers - except he's dead.
He took 54 days in Mayflower 2 - he wrote 'The New Mayflower (1958 Scribner)' about the ship and voyage.
From Wiki
'She was towed round to Plymouth, Devon, and on April 20 1957 towed from there to begin her transatlantic voyage. Her captain, Commander Alan Villiers, soon decided that with her somewhat slender spars and authentic 17th century rigging, which lacked the later bobstay to hold the bowsprit steady, she might not make a direct route against the Atlantic storms without being dismasted. He altered course southwards and followed the trade winds in a wide southerly loop before sailing up the east coast of America, where on June 8 off Bermuda she met the one real gale of the crossing. She lay to all night and weathered it without loss, and made land at Provincetown, where the original Mayflower had first put in on June 12.Among the crew was Peter Padfield, who went on to become a naval historian.'
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Old 22-10-2021, 00:18   #9
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Re: Sailing Tactics on the Mayflower

Mayflower log in Chapter 9 here
https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub...07-images.html
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Old 22-10-2021, 01:14   #10
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Re: Sailing Tactics on the Mayflower

Quote:
Originally Posted by El Pinguino View Post
You could always ask Williamstown boy Alan Villiers - except he's dead.
He took 54 days in Mayflower 2 - he wrote 'The New Mayflower (1958 Scribner)' about the ship and voyage.
From Wiki
'She was towed round to Plymouth, Devon, and on April 20 1957 towed from there to begin her transatlantic voyage. Her captain, Commander Alan Villiers, soon decided that with her somewhat slender spars and authentic 17th century rigging, which lacked the later bobstay to hold the bowsprit steady, she might not make a direct route against the Atlantic storms without being dismasted. He altered course southwards and followed the trade winds in a wide southerly loop before sailing up the east coast of America, where on June 8 off Bermuda she met the one real gale of the crossing. She lay to all night and weathered it without loss, and made land at Provincetown, where the original Mayflower had first put in on June 12.Among the crew was Peter Padfield, who went on to become a naval historian.'

That's kind of exactly my point. They did NOT take the Southern, trade winds route.
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Old 22-10-2021, 01:20   #11
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Re: Sailing Tactics on the Mayflower

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
That's kind of exactly my point. They did NOT take the Southern, trade winds route.
Thats probably why '1' took longer than '2'

'A sharp change. Equinoctial weather,
followed by stormy westerly gales;
encountered cross winds and continued
fierce storms. Ship shrewdly shaken and
her upper works made very leaky. One of
the main beams in the midships was bowed
and cracked. Some fear that the ship could
not be able to perform the voyage. The
chief of the company perceiving the
mariners to fear the sufficiency of the
ship (as appeared by their mutterings) they
entered into serious consultation with the
Master and other officers of the ship, to
consider, in time, of the danger, and
rather to return than to cast themselves
into a desperate and inevitable peril.

There was great distraction and difference
of opinion amongst the mariners themselves.
Fain would they do what would be done for
their wagesí sake, being now near half the
seas over; on the other hand, they were
loath to hazard their lives too
desperately. In examining of all opinions,
the Master and others affirmed they knew
the ship to be strong and firm under water,
and for the buckling bending or bowing of
the main beam, there was a great iron scrue
the passengers brought out of Holland which
would raise the beam into its place. The
which being done, the carpenter and Master
affirmed that a post put under it, set firm
in the lower deck, and otherwise bound,
would make it sufficient. As for the decks
and upper works, they would caulk them as
well as they could; and though with the
working of the ship they would not long
keep staunch, yet there would otherwise be
no great danger if they did not overpress
her with sails. So they resolved to
proceed.

In sundry of these stormes, the winds were
so fierce and the seas so high, as the ship
could not bear a knot of sail, but was
forced to hull drift under bare poles for
divers days together. A succession of
strong westerly gales.
In one of the
heaviest storms, while lying at hull, [hove
to D.W.] a lusty young man, one of the
passengers, John Howland by name, coming
upon some occasion above the gratings
latticed covers to the hatches, was with
the seel [roll] of the ship thrown into the
sea, but caught hold of the topsail
halliards, which hung overboard and ran out
at length; yet he held his hold, though he
was sundry fathoms under water, till he was
hauled up by the same rope to the brim of
the water, and then with a boathook and
other means got into the ship again and his
life saved. He was something ill with it.

The equinoctial disturbances over and the
strong October gales, the milder, warmer
weather of late October followed.

Mistress Elizabeth Hopkins, wife of Master
Stephen Hopkins, of Billericay, in Essex,
was delivered of a son, who, on account of
the circumstances of his birth, was named
Oceanus, the first birth aboard the ship
during the voyage.

A succession of fine days, with favoring
winds.
MONDAY Nov. 6/16
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Old 22-10-2021, 01:34   #12
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Re: Sailing Tactics on the Mayflower

OK, so they had enough favourable wind.

I guess that's the answer. I guess if you wait long enough, heave to in unfavourable weather, you will get enough favourable wind to eventually get there.

Just that I know these latitudes -- it blows like hell from W or SW for weeks at a time in the autumn. I guess they were quite lucky.


The pilot of the Mayflower, John Clarke, was my 9th great grandfather. By the time of this voyage, he had been across twice before already, bringing settlers to Jamestown Colony. A couple of years after bringing Mayflower back to London, he returned to Jamestown, where he died.
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Old 22-10-2021, 01:38   #13
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Re: Sailing Tactics on the Mayflower

An earlier CF discussion might be apropos:
“Maneuverability of Square-Rigged Vessels”
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...els-67469.html


See also:

“The Capability of Sailing Warships* Part 1: Windward Performance” ~ by Sam Willis
https://www.cnrs-scrn.org/northern_m...13_4_29-39.pdf

“The Capability of Sailing Warships: Manoeuvrability” ~ by Sam Willis
https://www.cnrs-scrn.org/northern_m...14_3_57-68.pdf


* The "Mayflower" was a smaller cargo ship, not a larger warship; but some of the basic sailing characteristics, and tactics, would have been similar.
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Old 22-10-2021, 01:43   #14
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Re: Sailing Tactics on the Mayflower

Villiers would probably be able to tell you about the windward ability of Mayflower. I would guess she would tack through 160 degrees until the going got too hard.
Early portugee ships and later tea clippers probably much better.

Pretty much how it goes these days if you are constrained by your route - Rio de la Plata to Estrecho de la Maire comes to mind. Going gets too hard - stop the boat - go to bed.
Even in the 'roaring forties' it doesn't always roar from the west.
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Old 22-10-2021, 01:50   #15
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Re: Sailing Tactics on the Mayflower

Quote:
Originally Posted by El Pinguino View Post
Villiers would probably be able to tell you about the windward ability of Mayflower. I would guess she would tack through 160 degrees until the going got too hard.
Early portugee ships and later tea clippers probably much better.

Pretty much how it goes these days if you are constrained by your route - Rio de la Plata to Estrecho de la Maire comes to mind. Going gets too hard - stop the boat - go to bed.
Even in the 'roaring forties' it doesn't always roar from the west.

That's an answer to my question. Thanks!
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