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Jamestown Settlement Ships

Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery 

Jamestown Settlement Godspeed visitorsRe-creations of three ships that brought America’s first permanent English colonists to Virginia in 1607 are moored at Jamestown Settlement’s pier for visitors to board and explore.

Visitors can learn about the four-and-a-half-month voyage from England and take part in periodic demonstrations of 17th-century piloting and navigation. Visit the ‘tween deck of the Susan Constant to learn about shipboard life and the tight conditions during the journey to Virginia. Try steering with a whipstaff or tiller, tie sailors’ knots, climb into a sailor’s bunk.

The Jamestown Settlement re-creations have been designated “the official fleet of the Commonwealth” by the Virginia General Assembly.

While one of the ships sails periodically from Jamestown Settlement to participate in commemorative and community events and host maritime outreach educational programs for students, most of the time all three can be seen at the museum. Costumed historical interpreters assist visitors in exploring the ships and learning about the 1607 voyage and 17th-century shipboard activities.

 

A Brief History of the Ships

Jamestown Settlement 1607 shipsThe original Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery set sail from London on December 20, 1606, bound for Virginia. The ships carried 105 passengers and 39 crew members on the four-month transatlantic voyage. A 17th-century source noted that a total of 71 people were aboard the Susan Constant, 52 aboard the Godspeed and 21 aboard the Discovery. The expedition was sponsored by the Virginia Company of London, a business venture that had been organized to form a colony in Virginia. The fleet reached the Virginia coast in late April and, after two weeks of inland waterway exploration, arrived at the selected settlement site on May 13, 1607.

At the time of the voyage, the Susan Constant was about one year old and was leased from Dapper, Wheatley, Colthurst and other partners. The origins of the Godspeed and Discovery are uncertain. The Susan Constant and Godspeed returned to England in June 1607, while the Discovery remained in Virginia and was used for Chesapeake Bay and coastal exploration.