Jamestown Colonist Ships



The first settler ships to come to the US were the three ships to settle Jamestown Virginia in 1607. These were the Discovery, Godspeed and Susan Constant. In a way, these were some of the first cruise ships to the US :)

It's hard to know exactly how big these ships - but after extensive research, a replica Godspeed is being built at 88 feet long and 17 feet wide. Compare that with a modern cruise ship of 680 feet long and 91 feet wide! To give you another sense of scale, pool table catalogues advise you to have your room about 17' wide if you want to make proper pool shots. So the ship that crossed the Atlantic ocean was barely wide enough to hold a pool table in it.

The three ships carried about 144 passengers total between them, without bathrooms or privacy. They shared a common hold area and stayed below most of the time. They left England in Dec 1606 and did not reach Jamestown Island until May 1607.

It took this long because ships had only the crudest ways of knowing where they were. They had to go from known spot to known spot. They would go south along the coast to Africa, at the Canary Islands. Then they would go island-to-island across the Caribbean, and finally back up the eastern coastline. They had to be sure to avoid pirates and enemy ships while they made this trek.

Cruisers in the 1600s primarily wanted to get off the ship quickly. The food was often rotten, the water was dirty, and there was no privacy at all. The passengers huddled beneath decks, counting the days until they were off the ship, often being incredibly sick because of the swaying of the tiny vessel.

What a change, for modern humans to voluntarily go on a ship for fun!

BTW, the first ships only carried men with a few boys. I can't find the price for passage, although those who could not pay became slaves for 3-7 years until they worked off the passage price. Subsequent ships that brought in women only did so if the men paid the passage price - listed as 120 pounds of tobacco per woman. A pound of tobacco at the time was worth 3 shillings, so 360 shillings total. At the time, a fine pair of shoes would cost 2 shillings. If we make a rough guess of that being about $50 now, then we're talking about $900 total for the crossing.

Generally, rich, happy people were not taking this trip. It was the younger (but adult) sons of families who had no other prospect for life, who wanted a fresh start in a new land. They would either save up the $900 over many years, get it as a one-time present from their family, or go into servitude and promise to work it off over several years.

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