Writings from the Arbella

Note from the Chase Chronicles – July – October,  1930

“John Winthrop begins his journal of the voyage of the Arbella on
March 29, 1630:

Riding at the Cowes, near the Isle of Wight, in the Arbella, the ship
three hundred and fifty tons whereof Capt. Peter Milbourne was master,
being manned with fifty-two seamen and twenty-eight pieces of ordnance
….. upon conference it was agreed that (in regard it was uncertain
when the rest of the fleet would be ready) these four ships should
consort together; the Arbella to be Admiral, the Talbot Vice-Admiral,
the Ambrose Rear Admiral, and the Jewell a Captain; and accordingly
articles of consortship were drawn between the said captains and
masters.; whereupon Mr. Cradock took leave of us, and our captains
gave him a farewell with four or five shot …… About ten of the
clock we weighed anchor and set sail.

Winthrop tells us that Lady Arbella and the gentlewomen dined in the
great cabin. They slept there also. Besides the Lady Arbella there
were the wives of Phillips, Coddington, Dudley, Bradstreet and Nowell,
and two daughters of Sir Tichard Saltonstall. We know these two
daughters were attended by a maid, because it was reported the maid
“fell down at the grating by the cook room, but the carpenter’s man,
who occasioned her fall unwittingly, caught hold of her with
incredible nimbleness, and saved her; otherwise she had fallen into
the hold.” At least this was the excuse they gave to account for the
close proximity.

The men of quality occupied the round house. They were Governor
Winthrop, Sir Richard Saltonstall Deputy Governor Thomas Dudley,
Coddington, Bradstreet, Nowell, the Reverend George Phillips, and
Charles Fiennes, brother of Lady Arbella.

For seventy-five days the ship sailed westward through gales, cold,
fog and fair weather. Winthrop gives a novel cure for sea-sickness. He
says the wind was north, a stiff gale with fair weather.

In the afternoon less wind, and our people began to grow well again.
Our children and others, that were sick and lay groaning in the
cabins, we fetched out, and having stretched a rope from the steerage
to the mainmast, we made them stand, some on one side and some on the
other, and sway it up and down till they were warm , and by this means
they soon grew well and merry.

A passage across the Atlantic in 1630 was an affair of great
discomfort and suffering. Passengers were confined to narrow quarters,
lived on short rations, and were without the common conveniences of

Recording the events of April 17, Winthrop writes:
This day our captain told me, that our land men were very nasty and
slovenly, and that the gun deck, where they lodged, was so beastly and
noisome with their victuals and beastliness, as would endanger the
health of the ship. Hereupon after prayer, we took order, and
appointed four men to see to it, and to keep that room clean for three
days, and then four others should succeed them, and so forth on.

All the passengers on the Arbella were not saints. On April 3,
Winthrop wrote: After supper, we discovered some notorious lewd
persons of our Company, who in time of our fast had committed theft,
and done other villainies, for which we have caused them to be very
severely punished.

No one on the Arbella could have taken a bath or washed linen during
the trip. The only water for such luxuries was what the ocean
supplied, and the means for heating that was lacking. The ladies who
occupied the great cabin were packed at night like sardines in a box.
In some of the other vessels an epidemic of smallpox broke out, but
the Arbella came through fairly free from illness.

On June 12, 1630, the ship anchored off Salem. Governor Endicott came
on board and took the ladies and gentlemen to the shore. Winthrop
wrote: “We supped with a good venison pasty and good beer and at night
we returned to our ship but some of the women stayed behind. In the
meantime most of our people went on shore, which lay very near us, and
gathered stores of fine strawberries.” How welcome strawberries must
have been to the passengers surfeited with salt meat.”


“If he gives you recognition
When your clothes are patched and torn,
If he comes to see and cheer you
When you’re lying sick and worn,
If he takes your hand and lifts you up
When you’re on the downward track,
If he says the same things to your face
That he says behind your back,
If when odds are strong against you
He fights for you to the end;
Bind him tightly to your heart —
For that man is your friend.

(No author named, as usual.)

One thought on “Writings from the Arbella

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s