Leaving England on August 15, 1620, it reached Cape Cod on November 21, 1620. During its 66 days at sea, over one hundred people were alone crossing an angry sea. All they had to rely on was one another and whatever they brought aboard.
Built in 1610, the Mayflower was a cargo ship which carried the Pilgrims to the New World. Prior to transporting the Pilgrims, the Mayflower was used for general transport of furs, salt, wine and vinegar. Some called the Mayflower, a sweet ship, because the smell of spilt wine lingered in her hull.
The Mayflower had no private cabins or beds. The nearly 100 passengers filled the personal amenities, which were not very many, in the cargo holds and slept amongst them. There were no stoves, no refrigerators, or indoor plumbing. No fancy banquet hall meals or picnics for the Pilgrims. Needless to say, the Mayflowers human cargo had a difficult life at sea.
Details of the Pilgrims journey across the Atlantic can only be gleaned from journals and conjecture. Per the journals of Captain Smith, his advise on sea travel and provisions recommended things, such as rice, currants, sugar, prunes, spices, flour, oil, butter, cheeses, and meat be made. However, what was learned from the passengers of the Mayflower, their provisions were basic.
The members of the Puritan Separatists were not wealthy people, but planned for their voyage as best they could. There food stores contained dried beans and peas, salted and dried meats, such as cod , pork, and beef, and cereal grains. Essentials such as spices, oatmeal, salt, flour, meal, hard cheeses were part of the inventory.
There were also herbs, but these were mainly for medicinal purposes. There was also seed corn, wheat, barley, and pea, these were for establishing gardens and not for consumption. As for drinks, there was water, but most considered it contaminated and opted for beers, even for the children, and on occasion wines. Fresh fruits and vegetables were not plentiful on the voyage, but to ward off some diseases, lemon juice was taken.
The size of the Mayflower, sanitation, and general accommodations made it impossible to bring larger animals. Other than the basics, the Pilgrims brought poultry, goats, and pigs.
Meals were not banquets or stately on the Mayflower. The storms made it difficult to stay dry and even more difficult to prepare hot meals. The passengers survived mainly on cold hard biscuits, salted meat and beer. For the luxury of hot meals, the Mayflower women improvised. Using boxes filled with sand, they would build fires and cook.
During the voyage, many of the Pilgrims became sick. Historians believed that most died from either pneumonia or scurvy. Scurvy was common among sailors, pirates, and others aboard ships, that remained at sea longer than perishable vegetables and fruit could be stored. Scurvy develops when there is a lack of Vitamin C in the diet. Scurvy was known to be cure or treated with fresh fruits, such as limes, tamarinds, oranges and lemons. That is why lemon juice was brought aboard the Mayflower, but with the long journey and other conditions, Scurvy eventually took hold and caused the death of several Pilgrims.
As a matter of necessity and economics, the Mayflower passengers made provisions for their voyage and planned to bring the basic stores to the New World. Following the base knowledge of their day, the Pilgrims packed non-perishable foods common for seafarers of their day.
Even in lieu of these plans, starvation and disease plagued the Pilgrims. Some made the ultimate sacrifice, so that others might survive in the New World.
For more information on this subject, local libraries and bookstores have interesting books and collections on the life of the Pilgrims. The web also has the following helpful resources: