With apologies to John Smith et al.
|Painting by Franklin Lewis Gifford (1854-1936) shows Bartholomew|
Gosnold and the Concord at Woods Hole, Mass., in 1602. Five years later
he skippered the Godspeed. Courtesy of Woods Hole Public Library.
I’m a sailor on board the ship
Godspeed, of 40 tons burthen, captained by Bartholomew Gosnold of Suffolk, England, a gifted mariner. His experience of journeying five years ago to New England and his passion for this voyage lend much to his credit.
Unlike a certain John Smith, Cap’n Gosnold is a man of action, not of words. Nor is hee master of the largest of our three ships, the Susan Consant. That honor falls to Mr. Newport. And yet – as I understand it – our leader was the one who persuaded England, yea the verrie King, to make this journie. And it was even hee who convinced Mr. Smith and the pompous Mr. Edward Wingfield to make this trip.
While imprisoned in that awful anchorage, our sailors could not help but overhear the terrible arguments that ensued from the other ship. Why, it is said that Mr. Wingfield wanted to turn around and go back to his comfortable home in Cambridgeshire and that he had Cap’n Smith clapped in irons for insubordination!
Imagine if wee had done that. It was commonly known that our rivals, the Spanish, were keenly interested in the New World. If we don’t make a success of this voyage, I’ll wager that the future Americans will call themselves Spaniards!
Above all, my master seems a man of great forbearance. As Mr. Smith suggested, wee should take great care not to offend the “naturals.” I have heard Master Gosnold speak of the natives as “being of tall stature, comely proportion, strong, active, and some of good years, and as it should seem very healthful.” Whereas, one of those so-called “gentlemen,” Charles Percy, has been heard to claim that they are “continually in warres, and will eate their enemies when they kill them, or any stranger if they take them.” He has called them “Dogges.”
Godspeed is small, just 88 feet in length; yet crowded with some 52 people, About half are crew and the other half passengers, many of whom I dare say never did a day’s work in their lives. How they expect to survive in the New World I do not ken. Maybe they really believe the lie that the land is paved with gold.
They spend most of their time ‘tween decks, crammed in with supplies, gambling with cards, dice and droughts. Many have been seasick and already show signs of scurvy.
The Godspeed is perhaps a bit odd in appearance, with both lateen and square sails. But she is well-found, built of good English oak. And when the contrarie winds finally ease and wee catch the trade winds, as our captain said wee would, the sailing is superb, even if we do suffer some occasional Stormes.
After reaching land and touching on small West Indies islands, wee sail 10 long days toward Virginia. There are many complaints, Cap’n Radcliffe on our third ship, Discovery, and divers others begin agitating for a return to England! (Our captain will hear none of that.)
Then, a tremendous Storme disabuses us of going back to sea. And finally, about four in the morning, an outline of land has been spotted! It is, we think, the opening of the Chesupioc Bay. Thanks be to God!