Part 2: Hope and freedom are pretty much all the 125 or so souls aboard the Mayflower had when she landed at Plymouth Rock.
Story and Photography by Kim Kavin
Hope and freedom. Terror and justice. The American spirit. They have been embodied in Massachusetts for centuries, and aboard this yacht, they come alive on a fascinating charter of discovery.
Hope and freedom are pretty much all the 125 or so souls aboard the Mayflower had when she landed at Plymouth Rock. That’s right, a hundred people more than Sovereign carries, all crammed into a wooden hull just 24 feet longer. The crush of humanity is staggering—and easily imagined with a historic replica docked across the harbor from the modern beauty.
The full-scale Mayflower II is a living history exhibit where workers present themselves as characters. You can ask them about the way the ship is run, life in the England they fled, their two-month Atlantic crossing. “I was casting out my belly at all times,” a woman in a thick wool skirt explained under the hot July sun. She told me they had all expected to die. I asked her why she got aboard in the first place. “Mistress,” she replied, “God did truly call us to come across the sea.”
Talk about a great way to start a charter through history—and a terrific lead-in to an afternoon at nearby Plimoth Plantation, also a living history experience. There, I watched an “English settler” tell a teenager in Nikes what the village does to those who challenge its rules. “’Twas in the spring of last year that they were banished,” he said with great fanfare. The boy was rapt beyond his history teacher’s dreams. Nearby, in a replica of a Wampanoag village, a Native American man quietly explained how women work in the fields instead of men. “Women are considered life-givers here,” he said. “They plant the corn. They sing to it. It’s a living, breathing thing.”
The contrast in cultures is vivid, and it’s easy to see why a clash was imminent. It’s also easy to see how what happened later that century, just up the coast in Salem, exploded from within the Puritan culture.
Terror and justice are the themes at the Salem Witch Museum, which recounts the hysteria that overtook the village in 1692 and resulted in 20 deaths. All but one person was hanged; 80-year-old Giles Cory refused to plead guilty or innocent, so he was pressed to death beneath boulders meant to purge a confession of witchcraft.
Salem nowadays is full of “witch kitch”—haunted houses, wax museums, and spooky shops—but the memory of what happened is startling in the context of our worldwide hunt for terrorists today. There were good people in Salem and there were evil-doers. The former took on faith that the latter were getting what they deserved, even when there wasn’t any evidence beyond the circumstantial.
This article originally appeared in the September 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.