Stubborn Capt. Christopher Jones (Spencer Tracy) pilots the historically famous Mayflower on its maiden voyage across the storm-swept Atlantic. Thankfully, a resourceful carpenter (Van Johnson) keeps the weather damage in check. Also among the passengers is Dorothy (Gene Tierney), the wife of the religiously zealous leader of the pilgrims. Jones finds himself drawn to Dorothy, despite her unattainable status. Soon a rivalry between his unsavory crew and the prim and proper pilgrims emerges.