Crew of Mayflower

There were between twenty to thirty crew on the ship, which was led by Captain Christopher Jones. It is believed that Jones would have had private quarters on the stern of the ship.

The crew lived on the upper decks in the bow of a ship. The room they lived in was known as the forecastle. This is an area where the waves constantly hit and would have been cold and wet.

Captain Christopher Jones

The officers were responsible for sailing and navigating the ship. They may have had better living conditions between the sailors and the Master.

The Sailors worked constantly to keep ship seaworthy and stayed busy repairing sails, sealing up decks with caulking and keeping everything secure.

Wikipedia says, “The crew of the Mayflower had some devices to assist them en route, such as a compass for navigation, as well as a log and line system to measure speed in nautical miles per hour (knots). Time was measured with the ancient method of an hour glass.”

One sailor was swept overboard. Bradford later wrote, “It was “the just hand of God upon him, for the young sailor had been “a proud and very profane yonge man.””

Only a short number of crew have been able to be identified by name on the Mayflower.

Christopher Jones, Ship’s Master—he was about 50 years old at the time of the voyage. For more information see Mayflower article.

John Clarke, Ship’s Pilot and Master’s Mate—he was on the 1611 voyage to Jamestown, Virginia with Sir Thomas Dale. He was taken a prisoner and eventually taken to Spain, as a prisoner. He was released in 1616 after five years of imprisonment. In 1618, he took a load of cattle to Jamestown.

Robbin Coppin, Master’s Mate—he claimed to have been to New England previously and on a whaling expedition. He was from the Harwich area. A man of that name invested a share in the Virginia Company of London in 1609.

Giles Heale, Ship’s Surgeon—He had just completed an apprenticeship in 1619 and filed his marriage intention just prior to the Mayflower’s voyage. “ In February, during the height of the first winter at Plymouth, Mayflower passenger Isaac Allerton gifted him a book, Annotations Upon the Psalms by Henry Ainsworth.  Giles Heale regifted the book to his wife Mary on 28 February 1621/2.  The book still survives and is at the Library of Virginia in Richmond.” He was witness to the will of William Mullins. Given his youth and this was his first job, he was probably unprepared for the voyage and all of the sickness once they arrived.

He returned to London and married his intended. He and Mary, his wife, had two children, both of whom died in infancy. He died on April 8, 1653.

John Alden

John Alden, Cooper/Barrel Maker—was the best-known crew member of the Mayflower, because he stayed with the colony and has numerous descendants. He was twenty-one at the time of the voyage. He was hired in Southampton, England and researchers believe he may have originated from Harwich. This is because Captain Christopher Jones had Alden relations in Harwich.  Alden’s job was to build, repair and maintain the ship’s barrels.  This was a very important job since everyone’s food and drink were stored within those barrels.  The Pilgrims’ joint-stock company had agreed to allow him to decide whether he would stay in their Colony, or return to England. 

He decided to stay and eventually married Priscilla Mullins. The couple would have 10 children together.

He was the last living signer of the Mayflower Compact.

Other positions on the ship would include:

Master Gunner—”The master gunner was responsible for the maintenance and readiness of the ship’s guns, powder, and canon.  Though his name was not recorded, it is known that the Master Gunner went out on the expedition of 6 December 1620 exploring Cape Cod, where it was reported he was “sick unto death.  He died the first winter.”

Ship’s Carpenter–The ship’s carpenter was responsible for stopping leaks, caulking, splicing masts, and fixing anything ship-related that broke or needed mending.  He would have also been responsible for fixing the main beam when it cracked. He is known to help the Pilgrims with constructing the dismantled shallop.

Ship’s Cook–The cook was responsible for preparing the meals for the crew and maintaining the food supplies.  The Mayflower‘s cook also died the first winter at Plymouth.

The Boatswain—”The boatswain was responsible for the ship’s rigging, rope, tackle, and sails, as well as the ship’s anchors and the ship’s longboat.  William Bradford remembered that the Mayflower‘s boatswain was “a proud young man, who would often curse and scoff at the passengers, but when he grew weak they had compassion on him and helped him.”  Despite that help, the boatswain died the first winter.”

Four Quartermasters–The quartermasters were in charge of maintaining the cargo hold and setting and maintaining the shift and watch hours.  The quartermasters were also responsible for fishing and maintaining the lines, hooks, and harpoons.  Though the names of the Mayflower‘s quartermasters are unknown, it is known that three of the four of them died the first winter at Plymouth.