The Mayflower was primarily a cargo ship, and it’s believed the passengers and crew of 25-30 were jammed into a space only about 110 feet long by 25 feet wide. The Pilgrims were originally supposed to take two ships to their new home, but the second ship, the Speedwell, developed a leak and had to return for repairs. The intended destination was an area near the Hudson River in Virginia, but inclement weather pushed the ship north, unfortunately landing the passengers in New England in November, which is not the most hospitable time to arrive.
The settlers made the best of things, signing the Mayflower Compact—the colony’s first governing document—on November 11 and exploring around a bit after setting anchor. According to some historians, “exploring” included looting native stores of corn and other crops, which did not make them popular with the native Americans from the area, the Nausets.
The passengers passed the winter aboard ship, suffering an outbreak of three different diseases that wiped out nearly half of them, along with half the crew. When spring came, the survivors went to shore and started building. They left the Mayflower on March 21, and the Mayflower returned to England on April 5. The Pilgrims in Plymouth managed to carve out a settlement for themselves that survived until 1691, when it was merged with the Massachusetts Bay Colony and other territories to form the Province of Massachusetts Bay.