Since in terms of design, the port and starboard sides of a hull are mirror images of each other, the extensive preservation of La Belle's starboard side allows for the study of the overall design system. Having both lower bilge surmarks on several of the frames did show how accurately the shipwrights laid out the surmarks; on these frames, the surmarks are perfectly symmetrical relative to the hull's centerline. On La Belle there is only one centerline mark preserved, on floor timber XIID (Figure 3). So either La Belle's other floor timbers had centerline marks made in a less permanent fashion or the shipwrights relied on measurements to the surmarks to center the frames on the keel.
Surmarked Frames Raised First
Every third of La Belle's frames is distinguished from the rest of the frames by the presence of design marks, and there is also strong evidence supporting the conclusion that these surmarked frames were raised first in the construction sequence.
Other than between the lower ends of the first futtocks, La Belle's frames consist of two continuous layers of adjoining timbers, i.e., double framing (Figures 8, 9). The inline floor timbers and second futtocks, which butt up end-to-end, are held in alignment by being bolted to the first futtocks that adjoin and overlap them. The third futtocks would have similarly been bolted to the second futtocks and presumably to the top timbers that have not been preserved. The midship frame has three layers of timbers with first and third futtocks attached both before and abaft the floor timbers and second futtocks. This partial double, or in the case of the midship frame triple, framing arrangement first appears in French shipbuilding around the time of La Belle's construction (L'Hour and Veyrat 1999).
The fore-and-aft framing bolts provide definitive proof that La Belle's frames with surmarks were erected prior to the intervening frames. All of La Belle's frames have similar scarfs between their components, and they are all fastened together with square-shafted iron bolts driven into round holes. The edges of the bolts barely cut into the perimeter of the round holes; thus they would have been relatively easily driven into the holes and yet provided a tight and strong alignment. Despite this overall similarity, distinct differences in the number and angles of these fastenings distinguish the surmarked frames from the others.
In general, within the limits of preservation, almost all the surmarked frames have three fastenings per scarf for joining the first futtocks to both the floor timbers and second futtocks. Frame VIA has only two bolts for each of its floor timber and first futtock scarfs, but it has three bolts in the preserved first and second futtock scarf. NEXT
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