Jamestown Settlement Ships
Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery
Ships’ Pier Open daily 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Along the shores of the James River, visitors can see re-creations of the three ships that brought America’s first permanent English colonists to Virginia in 1607. Currently, the Susan Constant – the largest of the ships – is open for visitors to board and explore. Climb aboard to learn about each of the ships’ square-rigged masts, tonnage and cargo, as well as shipboard life for the 104 men and boys. Look down into the ‘tween deck to glimpse the tight conditions on the journey to Virginia.
Whether on the pier or on the main deck, historical interpreters share the four-and-a-half-month voyage from England in December 1606 to Jamestown in May 1607, and periodically demonstrate knot-tying, sail-raising, and 17th-century piloting and navigation.
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
The 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.