During the ten years that followed the settlement of the Massachusetts Bay, a continuous flow of emigration from England crossed the Atlantic in all kinds of available sailing craft. The passage usually cost £5 per person and this included provisions provided by the ship such as "salt Beefe, Porke, salt Fish, Butter, Cheese, Pease, Pottage, Water-grewell, and such kinde of Victualls, with good Biskets, and sixe-shilling Beere; yet it will be necessary to carry some comfortable refreshing of fresh victuall. As first, for such as have ability, some Conserves, and good Clarret Wine to burne at Sea; Or you may have it by some of your Vintners or Wine-Coopers burned here, & put into Vessels, which will keepe much better than other burnt Wine, it is a very comfortable thing for the stomacke; or such as are Sea-sicke: Sallat-oyle likewise, Prunes are good to be stewed: Sugar for many things: White Biskets, and Egs, and Bacon, Rice, Poultry, and some weather-sheepe to Kill aboard the Ship: and fine flowre-baked meates, will keepe about a weeke or nine days at Sea. Iuyce of Lemons well put up, is good either to prevent or curre the Scurvy. Here it must not be forgotten to carry small Skillets or Pipkins, and small frying-panns, to dresse their victualls in at Sea. For bedding, so it be easie, and cleanly, and warme, it is no matter how old or coarse it be for the use of the Sea: and so likewise for Apparrell, the oldest cloathes be the fittest, with a long coarse coate to keepe better things from the pitched ropes and plankes. Whosoever shall put to Sea in a stoute and well-conditioned ship, having an honest Master, and loving Seamen, shall not neede to feare, but he shall finde as good content at Sea, as at Land.
The Mayflower shipped 15,000 brown biscuit and 5,000 white, that is, hard bread, i.e. crackers; also smoked or half-cooked bacon, as it came from the smokehouse, which was much liked with the biscuit and when fried was considered a delicacy. Haberdyne (dried salted codfish) was also a staple article of diet; also smoked herring. Potatoes were practically unknown at that time and the store of cabbages, turnips, onions, parsnips, etc., soon ran short and gave way to boiled mush, oatmeal, pease puddings, etc. Their beer was carried in iron-bound casks.
When passengers came aboard vessels bound for New England in those early days, how did they stow themselves and their possessions? The Mayflower had a length of about 110 feet and measured about 244 tons. It was originally intended that she should carry ninety passengers, men, women and children, but when the Speedwell put back, twelve of her passengers were taken aboard, and two boys were born during the voyage. The ship also carried a crew of twenty to twenty-five men, and officers and petty officers, about sixteen in number, would bring the total of those aboard to one hundred and forty or more. Goats, pigs, and poultry occupied pens on the upper or spar deck and in the boats carried there. Small sleeping cabins were provided for the ship's officers and the more important passengers; most of the company slept in narrow bunks, in hammocks, and on pallet beds of canvas filled with straw, placed on the deck beneath the hammocks. The crew bunked in the forecastle. The chests and personal possessions of the passengers were stowed below on the lower deck where the food, water and ship's stores were kept. On the Arbella, Governor Winthrop's ship, the male passengers lodged on the gundeck and four men were "ordered to keep that room clean."
The ship Whale, in 1632, brought thirty passengers, including Mr. Wilson and Mr. Dummer, all in good health, and seventy cows of which they lost but two. The shipRegard of Barnstaple, 200 tons, arrived in 1634, brought twenty passengers and about fifty cattle. The ship Society of Boston, N. E., 220 tons, with a crew of thirty-three men, arrived in 1663, with seventy-seven passengers. A notable example of fortitude is found in the voyage of the sloop Sparrow Hawk, that sailed from London in 1626 for Virginia and having been blown off her course was wrecked on Cape Cod.
She was only forty feet in length, had a breadth of beam of twelve feet and ten inches, and a depth of nine feet, seven and one-half inches. Bradford in his Historyrecords that she carried "many passengers in her and sundrie goods ... the cheefe amongst these people was one Mr. Fells and Mr. Sibsie, which had many servants belonging unto them, many of them being Irish. Some others ther were yt had a servante or 2 a piece; but ye most were servants, and such as were ingaged to the former persons, who also had ye most goods ... they had been 6 weeks at sea, and had no water, nor beere, nor any woode left, but had burnt up all their emptie caske." And this happened in the month of December!
In those days cooking on shore was done in an open fireplace. On shipboard, the larger vessels were provided with an open "hearth" made of cast iron sometimes weighing five hundred pounds and over. More commonly a hearth of bricks was laid on deck, over which stood an iron tripod from which the kettles hung. Morecrudely still a bed of sand filled a wooden frame and on this the fire was built, commonly of charcoal. On the ship Arbella, in which came Governor John Winthrop and his company, in 1630, the "cookroom" was near a hatchway opening into the hold. The captain, his officers and the principal men among the passengers dined in the "round house," a cabin in the stern over the high quarter-deck. Lady Arbella Johnson and the gentlewomen aboard dined in the great cabin on the quarter-deck. The passengers ate their food wherever convenient on the main deck or in good weather, on the spar deck above. Years later, a new ship lying at anchor in Boston harbor was struck by lightning which "melted the top of the iron spindle of the vane of the mainmast" and passing through the long boat, which lay on the deck, killed two men and injured two others as "they were eating together off the Hen-Coop, near the Main Mast."
The ship supplied each passenger with a simple ration of food distributed by the quartermasters, which each family or self arranged group of passengers cooked at a common hearth as opportunity and the weather permitted. Of necessity much food was served cold and beer was the principal drink. John Josselyn, Gent., who visited New England in 1638, records "the common proportion of Victualls for the Sea to a Mess, being 4 men, is as followeth:
"Two pieces of Beef, of 3 pound and ¼ per piece.
"Four pound of Bread.
"One pint ¼ of Pease.
"Four Gallons of Bear, with Mustard and Vinegar for three flesh dayes in the week.
"For four fish dayes, to each Mess per day, two pieces of Codd or Habberdine, making three pieces of fish.
"One quarter of a pound of Butter.
"Four pound of Bread.
"Three quarters of a pound of Cheese.
"Bear is before.
"Oatmeal per day, for 50 men, Gallon 1. and so proportionable for more or fewer.
"Thus you see the ship's provision, is Beef or Porke, Fish, Butter, Cheese, Pease, Pottage, Water gruel, Bisket, and six-shilling Bear.
"For private fresh provision, you may carry with you (in case you, or any of yours should be sick at Sea) Conserves of Roses, Clove-Gilliflowers, Wormwood, Green-Ginger, Burnt-Wine, English Spirits, Prunes to stew, Raisons of the Sun, Currence, Sugar, Nutmeg, Mace, Cinnamon, Pepper and Ginger, White Bisket, or Spanish Rusk, Eggs, Rice, Juice of Lemmons, well put up to cure, or prevent the Scurvy. Small Skillets, Pipkins, Porrengers, and small Frying pans.
"To prevent or take away Sea sickness, Conserve of Wormwood is very proper."