Mayflower
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    The Mayflower

    The ships that crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Europe were sailing ships that often had three masts or poles that supported many sails. Passage across the Atlantic Ocean took around two months, depending on the weather. The ships were powered by wind filling the sails with air and pushing the ship along. If the wind was coming from the wrong direction, the ship was blown off course. A storm caused such a fate for the famous Mayflower. It was headed for Virginia, but landed in Massachusetts!

    The ships were generally small, often less than 200 feet long, and they were made of wood. The upper deck or floor was exposed to the weather and even the lower cabins got quite wet in stormy weather.

    Aboard the ship were its crew, passengers, and all of the supplies needed - both for the voyage and for starting a new home. Crates of vegetables and fruit, bags of flour, dried beans, butter and oil and salt, barrels of salted-down meat, and casks of fresh water were brought along for everyone to eat. Chests of clothing, dishes, bedding, and some furniture, building supplies and tools, seeds to plant and farm animals had to be brought along. The ships were very crowded. Families were allowed to cook their food in metal boxes called braziers. But if the sea was rough, no fires were allowed, and food had to be eaten cold.

    Ships carrying colonists sometimes had cabins or small rooms below deck for individual families. Cabins were cramped, with barely enough room for people and their belongings. Some ships had cradle-like boxes for people to sleep in so that they would not fall out or bed when the ship rocked back and forth. These cradles were only about five feet long.

    Water that was carried on board in barrels was for drinking only, so all washing was done with salt water.