Mayflower Conspiracy Theories
It is certain that the Speedwell sprung a leak in the Atlantic, causing it to return to Plymouth along with the Mayflower. What caused the leak? The most frequently mentioned possibility is that it was “over-rigged” and had on too much sail which caused a strain on the masts, and which then caused holes and leaks to develop. Prior to the voyage, the Speedwell had been refitted in Delfshaven in Holland and had two masts. Nathaniel Philbrick suggests that the crew used a mast that was too big for the ship, and that the added stress caused holes to form in the hull. William Bradford wrote that “the leakiness of this ship was partly by her being overmasted and too much pressed with sails,” but attributes the main cause of her leaking to actions on the part of the crew. Robert Cushman wrote from Dartmouth in August 1620 (as soon as the Speedwell returned) that the leaking was caused by a loose board or plank approximately two feet long. There is a persistent rumour of sabotage, either by the captain or the crew, but there is no proof. We shall revisit the question about sabotage in a few months when we look at the decision to drop everyone off in Massachusetts.