Turbulent seas soon ended any worries about money for food after Johnson, 21, and a brother boarded their ship in Gothenburg, Sweden, for the winter crossing of the Atlantic.
"It was difficult to think of food while passengers all around were vomiting," Gustaf wrote years later in his family history.
Gustaf's great-grandson Steven Johnson and his wife, Amy, hope modern medicine will stave off any seasickness when they return to Gothenburg this week as part of SeaTrek 2001, a modern re-enactment of the LDS emigration from Europe.
Timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the first Mormon emigrant ship to leave Scandinavia, the eight square-rigged tall ships depart from Esbjerb, Denmark, on Tuesday and continue to Copenhagen and other cities in Sweden, Norway, Germany and England, then sail to Portsmouth, England. Four of the largest ships will cross the Atlantic, via the Canary Islands and Bahamas, and dock in New York Harbor on Oct. 4.
"This will pay homage to the sacrifices of our European and Scandinavian ancestors," says Bill Sadleir, SeaTrek 2001 chairman.
Sadleir came up with the idea for an ocean voyage after he and his family participated in the 1997 re-enactment of the Mormons' wagon train journey across the United States. The three-month event drew hundreds of participants and widespread media attention.
At the time, it occurred to Sadleir that "nobody thought about the fact that thousands of Mormon emigrants had to first cross the ocean in sailboats," he said. "That was the more grueling part of the journey."
As many as 1,500 people are expected to participate in the voyage, which costs as little as $160 for a single day's sail to $7,945 for the entire trip. The modern-day seafarers will not wear period clothing or suffer some of the problems their ancestors faced. There will be modern kitchens, medical facilities and sleeping quarters. No cattle or chickens will roam freely below deck. And there will not be any burials at sea, organizers promise.
Still, it will be a chance for those with ancestors in the "old country" to relive family history.
The Latter-day Saint migration from Europe began when Mormon missionaries were first sent to the British Isles in the late 1830s and to Scandinavia in 1850. Thousands were converted to the church and embraced the "doctrine of the gathering," or the need to build Zion on the American continent. They left their homes and all they possessed for the dream of a godly society.
Between 1840 and 1890, more than 90,000 Mormon converts crossed the ocean to gather with other Latter-day Saints in the Utah Territory, nearly half under the age of 21.
"A surprising number of young pioneers sailed without their parents," says Susan Arrington Madsen, co-author of "I Sailed to Zion: True Stories of Young Pioneers Who Crossed the Oceans." "Many newly converted families were unable to afford to travel together. Some sent children on ahead with trusted neighbors or with Mormon missionaries."
Some of these travelers later recalled feelings of abandonment and loss as they left loved ones in the only homes they had ever known.
Dexter Wilberg's great-great-grandfather, Jens Jensen Skow, was among those who had to send his family to Utah in waves -- first went children Niels and Maren in 1852 and then, two years later, Skow, a widower, and his youngest daughter Mette.
Wilberg's Norwegian ancestors were themselves seagoing folk who owned ships. The Pleasant Grove resident and his wife Geniel will join SeaTrek for the Oslo to Hamburg leg.
Though no vessel carrying Mormon emigrants across the Atlantic Ocean was lost at sea, these pioneers had to cope with wrenching sickness and diseases, and even death.
Annie Batt (who later acquired the married names of Bird and Caffall) was 4 years old in 1868 when she and her sister were lashed to the mast during a particularly violent storm to keep their bodies from being washed overboard, Arrington says.
It was no easy task planning the large movement of converts, writes Conway Sonne in "Saints on the Seas: A Maritime History of Mormon Migration 1830-1890."