11 November 2010

Preparing for a voyage, 1620

sketch of a 17th-century ship
Imagine for a moment that you’re a pilgrim, about to embark on the Mayflower in 1620. What do you pack?

First off, you need provisions for the journey. Second, you need supplies to help you turn a vast wilderness into a home, including all the tools needed to build shelter, grow crops, and hunt for food. (Luckily, in your tight-knit Separatist community, you can share food and supplies.) Third, you need the tools of your trade, whether you’re a cordwainer, blacksmith, carpenter, or housewife. Fourth, you want to pack some creature comforts, such as furniture, bedding, clothes, books, and family heirlooms.

Gather all of these items, figure out that only a small percentage of what you need will fit in your allotted space aboard ship, pray that God will provide for you in the New World, and leave behind most of what you own and hold dear.

To put it in perspective, visit Plymouth Harbor, where the Mayflower II is docked. Built in 1957, this life-size replica of a typical 17th century ship is only 106.5 feet long. The passengers lived on the lower deck, between the gun room and the anchor winches, above the cargo hold and below the steerage room. That’s tight quarters for 100 passengers and all their earthly possessions.

Then, after a perilous journey across the Atlantic Ocean and a devastating winter in which half the passengers and crew died, the Pilgrims settled a new colony where they were able to worship as they believed. And, despite the odds, they thrived.

Think about your ancestors and the hardships they endured. Then ask yourself: Do you have what it takes to step into their shoes, to face the obstacles and choices they made?

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