Palatine Ships

Palatine Immigration Ships 1727 to 1742.

During this period the vast majority of ships arriving in Philadelphia with Palatine passengers sailed from Rotterdam (80 of 96). Ships from the continent bound for England’s North American colonies at this time were required to visit an English port to register their cargo before crossing the Atlantic. Passage between England and Philadelphia ranged from a minimum of 58 days to a maximum of 89 days. The average voyage was 72 days. Records indicate that the total journey from the Palatine area to Philadelphia, probably took about 90 to 120 days. Until the 1860s the great majority of emigrants crossed the Atlantic in wooden sailing ships.

Most carriers employed in this trade during the 1800s were threemasted, square-rigged vessels, either barks or full-rigged ships. A few of the smaller ones were two-masted brigs. The duration of a crossing of the North Atlantic under sail was largely dependent on the weather. In the latitudes of the major United States Atlantic ports the prevailing winds come from the west, making a westward voyage more difficult for square-rigged vessels that can only sail at a broad angle to the wind direction. Captains had the option of heading south to the latitude of the West Indies to pick up the favorable northeast trade winds, but most chose to take the shortest route, “beating to windward“ with broad tacks across the prevailing winds. The fastest westbound crossing was apparently one made by the packet ship Yorkshire in 1846; Liverpool to New York in sixteen days. Her average, over a career of eighteen years, was twenty-nine days. One of the longest westbound crossings was made by the Halifax Packet, sailing from Londonderry, Ireland in October 1820. After one hundred forty-five days of battling almost continuous northwest gales she succeeded in getting only as far as Bermuda.

The most discouraging experience for emigrants must have been battling gales for weeks and then ending up back where they had started. If a ship was partially dismasted, or lost too many sails, there was nothing the captain could do but turn around and let the westerlies drive them back to the British Isles, hoping that with their reduced maneuverability they would not get caught on a rockbound lee shore.

Shipboard conditions for most emigrants were at best spartan, and too often cramped, overcrowded, and unhealthy. The ships were designed for specific trades or uses, merchant sailing ships continued to be built simply as general-purpose cargo vessels. Many were fitted with tiny staterooms off the main cabin to accommodate a small number of first-class passengers, called in sailing ships “cabin class." This site shows the nine principalRiggings of American Sailing Vessels used during the period.