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First Day of Godspeed Voyage

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dockside, Fort Pocahontas, Charles City County, Virginia

One thing you learn quickly when sailing traditional ships is that time moves at a very different pace aboard ship. For the colonists coming to Jamestown in 1607, that would have been even more true.

The three original ships – Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery – took 144 days to make the voyage from London to Jamestown. While that time included island stops and a few weeks exploring in Virginia, delays due to weather made up a remarkable portion of the trip. Upon leaving England, they spent more than five weeks in sight of England. Most of that time was spent anchored in the Downs while they weathered storms and awaited a fair breeze.

Sailing a square rigger today places many of the same limitations due to weather and tide that those colonists in 1607 would have faced.

Even with a fair breeze, navigating a river under sail can be challenging. With very light airs and a strong current, it can make the voyage time consuming and the work fatiguing. With no wind, sailing ships are required to use the tidal current to drift up or down a river, anchoring when the current becomes unfavorable. Having accurate charts makes this process easier. The original colonists, without the aid of modern charts, took nearly three weeks to work the three ships 65 miles through the southern Chesapeake Bay and up the James River, exploring as they went.

After reviewing safety procedures with the crew, our recreated Godspeed left Jamestown this morning at 0930 with about 50 miles to travel to reach Henricus by Friday evening. Obviously, we can travel much faster today with the aid of diesel engines and modern navigational equipment. Our schedule sometimes demand using our engines when wind and weather prevent sailing. Today we faced very light airs that shifted with each turn in the river. After motoring a few hours, we were able to spend a few hours sailing before docking in Charles City County for the night. Tomorrow morning, we expect more light airs, but will again get some sailing in before our arrival at Henricus around 1730.

Thanks for joining us on this voyage and we will give another update tomorrow.

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