Initially, the plan was for the voyage to be made in two vessels, the other being the smaller Speedwell, which had transported some of the Pilgrims embarking on the voyage from Delfshaven in the Netherlands to Southampton, England. The first voyage of the ships departed Southampton, on August 5/15, 1620, but the Speedwell developed a leak, and had to be refitted at Dartmouth on August 17/27.
On the second attempt, the ships reached the Atlantic Ocean but again were forced to return to Plymouth because of the Speedwell's leak. It would later be revealed that there was in fact nothing wrong with the Speedwell. The Pilgrims believed that the crew had, through aspects of refitting the ship, and their behavior in operating it, sabotaged the voyage in order to escape the year-long commitment of their contract.
After reorganization, the final sixty-six day voyage was made by the Mayflower alone, leaving from a site near to the Mayflower Steps in Plymouth, England on September 6/16. With 102 passengers plus crew, each family was allotted a very confined amount of space for personal belongings. The Mayflower stopped off at Newlyn in Cornwall to take on water.
The intended destination was an area near the Hudson River, in "North Virginia". However the ship was forced far off-course by inclement weather and drifted well north of the intended Virginia settlement. As a result of the delay, the settlers did not arrive in Cape Cod until after the onset of a harsh New England winter. The settlers ultimately failed to reach Virginia where they had already obtained permission from the London Company to settle, due to difficulties navigating the treacherous waters off the southeast corner of Cape Cod.