William Bradford was governor of Plymouth Colony; he wrote Of Plymouth Plantation (which he started in 1630) to document the Puritan settlement in New England. In this writing, he discusses the travels and the trials that the Pilgrims faced in making a new home in a foreign (and unsettled) land. It is still a critical historical text for modern scholars to understand the vast struggles that early Americans had to face to have freedom to act and think according to their beliefs (including their religious beliefs).
Chapter 9 discusses the sea voyage that the Puritans take en route to America. Soon after they depart, many individuals face seasickness. One of the seamen is particularly cruel to the Puritan passengers who have motion sickness:
There was a proud and very profane young man, one of the seamen, of a lusty, able body, which made him the more haughty; he would alway be contemning the poor people in their sickness and cursing them daily with grievous execrations.
Bradford explains that this man died soon after; he is (ironically) the first man to die and be thrown overboard, though he often loudly wished that the others would die.
Bradford then discusses the storms that the people face on the journey. Some of those storms damage the ship and leave the people worried that the ship may not be strong enough to complete the journey across the ocean. Those on board the ship meet to discuss whether or not they should turn back (since the ship was not holding up well in the weather).
And truly there was great distraction and difference of opinion amongst the mariners themselves; fain would they do what could be done for their wages' sake (being now near half the seas over) and on the other hand they were loath to hazard their lives too desperately.
Though the sailors want to earn their money (since they had already traveled so far), they also want to make a wise decision to preserve everyone's lives. They decide to make some repairs to the ship and to continue on. Bradford and the other Puritans "committed themselves to the will of God and resolved to proceed."
Bradford continually reminds the readers of God's part in helping the Puritans on their journey.
Next, Bradford speaks of a particularly high wind that causes John Howland to fall overboard. Again, he emphasizes God's merciful will in allowing this man survive. He explains how he "caught hold of the topsail halyards which hung overboard and ran out at length . . . till he was hauled up by the same rope to the brim of the water, and then with a boat hook and other means got into the ship again."
Despite the many struggles that the people face, only one of the Puritans dies on the journey (a servant). Bradford constantly focuses on the grace and mercy that God showed the Puritan people.
Finally, the ship arrives in Cape Cod. The Puritans decide to head south but soon run into some "roaring breakers" and end up returning to the Cape. When the Puritans arrive on land, they "f[all] upon their knees and bless the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean."
Instead of focusing on their difficulties, they continually strive to be thankful for their blessings. Still, Bradford reminds readers that the Puritans' struggles are not yet over:
Being thus passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before in their preparation (as may be remembered by that which went before), they had now no friends to welcome them nor inns to entertain or refresh their weatherbeaten bodies; no houses or much less town to repair to, to seek for succour.
He explains how the Native Americans attacked the men with arrows when they first arrived; he also shows how hard the winter weather was. The people must quickly build shelter and establish a means of gaining food for themselves.
Again, instead of losing hope, Bradford reminds readers of God's grace:
What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God and His grace?
He maintains a consistently hopeful attitude while he describes the struggles that the travelers faced.