How Long Did It Take to Get Across the Atlantic in the 1700s?

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Since ships in the 1700s relied on sails to propel them, the length of the voyage greatly depended on the wind. An immigrant who made the journey in 1750 reported that it could take between eight and 12 weeks, while another who arrived in 1724 reported that the journey took six weeks and three days. The average journey was about seven weeks.

These journeys do not include periods during which ships remained anchored in a harbor in either England or the American colonies while they were filled with cargo. According to the firsthand accounts of immigrants, ships sometimes remained anchored at a port for as many as three weeks at a time.

Immigrants were also forced to spend longer amounts of time on ships once they got to the American colonies if they could not afford to pay the required passage fee. Those who could not pay were required to remain on board the ship until they were sold into indentured servitude and forced to work to pay for their voyage.

The journey across the Atlantic Ocean was very difficult. Firsthand accounts speak of illness, cramped quarters, food and water rations, and death. Because the journey was so long, when passengers died, their bodies were thrown overboard because there was no way to store them on the ship.