What Was Life Like on the Mayflower?

Life on the Mayflower was unpleasant and difficult, as the 66-day journey was full of strong Atlantic storms and conflicts between passengers. Many of the Protestant pilgrims annoyed the crew and other passengers by trying to force their religion on others, which led to strife aboard the ship. Seasickness, scurvy and other maladies of the sea were common.

Rough Atlantic seas on the second half of the Mayflower’s voyage took a particular toll on the crew and passengers. Since those who ventured out on deck risked being thrown overboard in the inclement weather, most of the passengers remained below decks for most of the voyage. Families set up privacy dividers in the cramped quarters, but the low ceilings and dark, damp conditions made the living situation very uncomfortable.

The Protestant pilgrims were a minority on the Mayflower, numbering only 41 of the 102 passengers. Early in the voyage, the pilgrims attempted to impose their religious beliefs upon their shipmates, who they viewed with suspicion due to their resistance. Eventually, the two groups realized that cooperation was the only way they could survive the voyage and prosper in the new world, and they signed the Mayflower Compact to form a civil organization. The agreement became one of the precursors to modern democratic rule and served as a template for later government in the Americas.