In La Belle… the ribbands, and by direct association the surmarks, do not control the shape of the hull because they are not located at the touch of arcs. Rather, they serve as construction aids. (Carrell 2003:360)

In La Belle, when combined with the information from the study of its fastening patterns and the physical dimensions of the frames, it clearly indicated the reuse of complete frame sets. Further, if La Belle was a completely new ship, rather than a ship incorporating used timbers, then nearly all of the samples should have dated to the few years just prior to its construction. (Carrell 2003:408)

In fact, some of the same evidence used by Carrell strongly supports the opposite conclusion—that La Belle's design and construction features are consistent with an innovative design system applied to the construction of a new vessel in 1684, regardless of the felling dates of its component timbers. The design and construction features supporting this conclusion are so distinct that even without any of the historical documents specifically relating to La Belle's construction, it would have been possible to conclude that La Belle was a French vessel built no earlier than about 1680.

The presence and preservation of the surmarks on La Belle's timbers is a unique gift for ship reconstruction work. The diagonals defined by these surmarks in a body plan (Figure 5a, b) are not indicative of supplementary marks simply used as aids in the assembly of the hull. Fairing and construction ribbands that are not associated with design exhibit double curvature on the hull—meaning they are not straight when viewed in cross section (Figure 46). Therefore, surmarks do not line up on oblique straight lines by chance; they represent primary control points that were used in the design of the hull. Such multiple diagonals associate La Belle's construction with a design system that only appears for the first time in the historical record in the 1680s. Shipwrights rebuilding an old vessel with an already defined shape would have no need to insert such surmarks. Furthermore, the floor surmarks play a critical role in terms of the fundamental layout of La Belle's shape and structure (Figure 30):

• The last frame positions XIIA forward and the fashion pieces at XVIIID aft are located at the ends of the floor diagonal defined by these surmarks.

• The midship section is located at 2/5—3/5 along the length of the floor diagonal.

• The mainmast is located in the middle of the floor diagonal's overall length.

• The deadwood both forward and aft begins at exactly half the distance from the ends of the floor diagonal to the midship frame, and this is an integral part of the layout of La Belle's centerline timbers. NEXT