The 1985 voyage across the Atlantic

Frequently Asked Questions

It was a fairly close representation of a 17th century sailing vessel of
that size.  I don't believe there is any record of the original lines of GODSPEED.  The current GODSPEED was designed by Duncan Stewart and built by Carl Pederson and his crew.  The keel was laid May 14,
1982 and the ship christened May 12, 1984.

All of the sails or courses  aboard GODSPEED, except one are square.
There were 5 total.  There are three masts: starting aft, the mizzen mast, the main mast and the fore mast.  All the way forward, sticking
straight out was the bowsprit.  The largest sail, being the main course,
was located on the mainmast.  Its driving power was best when close
hauled or with the wind on the beam.  Above the main course was the
topsail.  Because it was higher up, they held the wind when the ship
was in a trough.  The foremast, carried the fore course.  The fore course was set on all points of sail and was vital for maneuvering the ship.  The mizzen mast was located behind the main.  It carried a triangle shaped sail, called the mizzen course.  It was a balancing or
steering sail.  All the way forward, on the bowsprit was the spritsail.  This was good for maneuvering the ship.  Its bottom edge sometimes was in the water.  Modern sailboats can sail almost into the wind.  The sails act almost like an airplane wing, with the wind flowing over the sail creating lift.  On square rigged ships like GODSPEED, you did not get the lift effect.  The best you could do to windward was when the wind was just a little forward of the beam.  But all other points of sail she
behaved beautifully.  For this reason, they sailed mostly following the trade winds.  Instead of just heading anywhere you wanted, or taking the more direct route, you used the prevailing winds to push you.  In our case, we had to sail south before we could sail north.  This is why it would take many months to cross the Atlantic.  To set the courses, you had to have many men, some on deck handling the lines while others were up on the yards unlacing the courses.  If you had to reduce canvas because of a storm, you would have to climb up the mast and lace the sail up.

She and her kind, were the original rock and rollers.  With the wind on the beam, she would really move.  If there was any type of sea, she would rise up and over the swells.  This could be a bit wet.  Also heeled over in a steady breeze everything on board was at an angle.  If it wasn't lashed down, it moved.  When you slept, depending on which side you had the wind, you either slept pressed up against the side of the ship or if the wind was on the other side, you rolled out.   We had a rectangular piece of canvas called a lee cloth that was held up with rope to the overhead.  This kept you in your bunk.  With the wind on the stern, like in the trade winds if they weren't too strong, GODSPEED would push along.  If the wind was up and there were large seas, she would roll from side to the other side. Sometimes we actually would start to surf.  You are constantly leaning or moving up or down or holding on to something, rolling back and forth, but never motionless.

We had a crew of 14 aboard and they had more than 3 times that amount.  Down below it was crowded for us.  I don't know what the layout would have been like for the original GODSPEED, but we had 8 sleeping in the main cabin aft, 2 up forward where the cooking was done, and 4 guys in the middle section.  They could not stand up by their bunks like the rest of us could.  We each had an area by our bunk to store our cloths, books etc.  We carried enough canned and dry goods to last about 60 days.  So it was pretty crowded.  I imagine that it was pretty tight for the original colonists, and I am sure it smelled very bad.

One of the main difficulties we had was learning to sail a 17th C. ship.   Most of us had 20th century sailing experience but this was going to be very different.   Just on the main course alone you had about 16 lines used to control the sail, 8 per side.  You had to know what each did and you had to know where it was.  Since we were also sailing at night, you had to be able to grab the right line during a change of course or reduction of sail during a storm.  If you used a flashlight, it would ruin your night vision.  The original sailors would know the ship and how to sail it right from the start.  We learned as we went.  This is one of the reasons it took 2 weeks to get out of the English Channel.  They also were accustomed to many things that was foreign to us.  If they drank the water, it was teeming with life, I think they drank ale instead.  The food aboard at that time was poor compared to what we had.  Scurvy was common and loss of life due to it happened on long voyages.  Sanitation was unknown, bathing was out of the question and changing your clothes was unheard of.  I don't think safety was a big issue.  That is why they sometimes had a large crew.  You were bound to lose a few along the way.  Missing your family and friends I think would be common to both.  We didn't have refrigeration or hot showers, but you got used to it.  We made up for the lack of fresh food by having a variety of canned and dried food.  We bathed with salt water and used liquid dish soap to get the salt water to lather. For me, it was like a long camping trip.  Another major hardship was the fact that we were a 20th C. crew, we had to deal with 20th C. problems, like a schedule.  The original voyagers didn't know about the hurricane season here, and they didn't really know where they were going, there wasn't anyone waiting for them at their destination.

Hoping we didn't get run over in the English Channel.  At night it could be very dangerous.  We had to be in a certain port for a function that was arranged months beforehand.  We did not have an engine and most modern people forget that when you are truly a sailboat, you arrive when you arrive. This to me was one of the main problems.  We ended up canceling many ports that would have been visited by the original GODSPEED.  Also most of the crew only had enough time from jobs for about months.  Because of the delay in Puerto Rico due to hurricane season, it would only be myself and two others of the original crew of 14 that would step off of GODSPEED when we finally arrived at Jamestown.  We had a couple guys seasick for weeks at a time, one from the first crew and one from the second crew.  They had to leave when we got to the next port. We had one fellow so worried about his family, that he started to go into depression.  He had to leave.  Instead of arriving back in Virginia by mid July, we just barely squeaked in to St. Thomas.  This wasn't a low for me, I was having fun!


Having my parents in London for the departure.  Meeting Prince Philip.  Finally getting out of the English Channel.  Watching dolphins chasing flying fish and our bow wake.  Enjoying beautiful sunrises and sunsets.  Seeing the Green Flash.  Swimming.  Climbing up in the rigging and listening to music on your walkman, or chatting with one of crew mates.  To celebrate the halfway mark of the voyage, we ate a fruit cake made by my mom.  Making a landfall.  Getting a message from back home.  Because I was the radio operator, I had the guys post the message they wanted me to send by the radio shack.  When I made my sked with the Amateur Radio Operators back in Williamsburg, I would send them.  At the same time, if they had anything for us, Iwould copy it down and deliver it to the crew.  This was a real boost to the morale.  About 75% of the messages sent and received was with morse code.  The rest was with a phone patch, where you could actually talk to the person.  This was all before cell phones, and email.  And I am glad of that.  A few years ago, the British sailed the route of Cabot using a replica they had built.  It had engines, cell phones,laptops, and if they needed something, it was air dropped by the RAF.  We were basically on our own.  I'll have to check it but I think we are one of the few replicas to actually sail out of the English Channel.

Standing watch can be exciting and it can be very tiring and boring.  We had three watches made up of 4 per watch, the cook and captain didn't stand a watch.  I think each watch lasted 4 hours.  What you do is spend an hour at the helm steering, then you spend an hour up forward as a lookout and the rest of the time you are doing maintenance if it was during the daytime or just hanging out if it was night.  You spend a lot of time looking at the stars.  After your turn at the helm, you would go down below and make an entry in the ships log.  You would note the weather conditions, your course, average speed.  During the night watches in the English Channel you needed the four guys on watch just to have the extra set of eyes.  But later on it wasn't so important.  If it was raining, you put your foul weather gear on and hoped your watch would end soon.  It night, it was common to send someone down into the hold to find where the oreos and chocolate bars were stored.  We would be like kids, drinking boxed milk that we had and eating cookies.  Later on in the tropics, we would cook up popcorn and stargaze.  When the sun came up, whoever was on watch would see all the stuff we spilled!  When you were off watch, you would sleep for a few hours and then get up for meals, hang out, write in your journal, read, do chores, play games etc.  If conditions got poor, and all hands were needed, you got up and helped out.  You always wanted the bad weather and changing tacks to occur during the other guys watch.

Originally that was the plan.  We were going to visit each place that the original GODSPEED stopped at, but at a different time of year.  But we ended up only visiting Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands, the USVI and San Juan, Puerto Rico.  The other stops in the Bahamas were not visited by the original GODSPEED.

If you don't count the delay in Puerto Rico, I think it took about the same amount of time.  We sailed over 6000 miles in a little over 3 months.



Because of hurricane season, it was decided for safety reasons, the voyage to Virginia should be postponed.  I remained in Puerto Rico with GODSPEED and the rest of the crew had to go home and back to work.  We did not know when we would continue.  Because of that, a new captain was selected.  With 3 of the original voyage crew, and 8 that the new captain selected, we totaled 12.
QUESTION?  When did GODSPEED depart Puerto Rico?

We had a total of 12 aboard when we departed Puerto Rico and only 9 when we arrived at Jamestown.
QUESTION?  What happened to the other three?

If you would like the answers, send an email to: (mycallsign)@netscape.net (my call is wa4chq)

This site is still on the ways.

Don't forget to sign the Visitors Guestbook

Web maintained by RNT/wa4chq-2008--- Design by Nicolas Fafchamps