The Virginia Company’s third “supply” to Jamestown colony (established May 1607) set sail from Plymouth on 2 June 1609. The fleet included a 300 ton galleon, known as Sea Venture. Sir George Somers, an experienced mariner, was the Admiral of the Fleet and Christopher Newport was captain of Sea Venture, the fleet’s flagship. Also, on board was the entire “high command” including the colony’s new Lt. Governor designate, Sir Thomas Gates.
To shorten the sailing time and avoid potential conflict with the Spanish, the fleet decided on a more direct, northerly route. The vessels sailed in sight of each other until 24 July when a monstrous hurricane dispersed the fleet. Sea Venture and its crew and passengers battled the storm for four days until they landed on Bermuda’s eastern reefs. Meanwhile, the other storm-battered ships with their sick and exhausted passengers straggled into Jamestown sometime that August and those in Virginia presumed that Sea Venture, along with the colony’s new leadership and vital food supply, had been lost in the storm.
The ship’s company stayed in Bermuda for nine months before completing the construction of two small rescue ships, Patience and Deliverance, and setting sail for Virginia on 10 May 1610. Patience was estimated as thirty tons and Deliverance about eighty tons in size. Both vessels were constructed with a single deck vessel with a modest forecastle and poop, curved stem, and square stern. The Deliverance was built of both wood salvaged from Sea Venture (ribs, beams, and prow) and Bermuda cedar (planking and decking). Patience was entirely built of Bermuda cedar with only one iron bolt from the Sea Venture.
The St. George’s Foundation owns and operates a full-scale replica of the Deliverance on Ordnance Island (constructed in 1967 by the Junior Service League). Visitors can go on board and imagine what it was like to be a 17th century passenger crammed in the narrow decks with cargo below and the main deck above. There is also a permanent exhibit of the Sea Venture, Patience and Deliverance on display at the World Heritage Centre. New to the Deliverance is an entrance door located in the starboard hull which is designed to allow people who are physically challenged to have access to below decks where they can view displays and hear our automatronic character of William Strachey tell the tale of survival of the castaways in 1609 and the eventual rescue of the starvbing settlers in Jamestown.
While The Deliverance is being restored, the attraction is intermittently open to the public with complimentary admission (donations are gratefully accepted).
A statue of Somers, by Bermudian artist Desmond Fountain, is situated nearby.
*Sources with permission: W.S. Zuill, The Story of Bermuda and her People, Third Edition; Dr. George Cook, “Quo Fata Ferunt,” unpublished article, and Cyril H. Smith’s original naval architectural line’s plan for the reconstruction of the Deliverance, 1967.