The Rochefort dockyard built and maintained large ships, and this consumed great quantities of timber. It would seem the dockyard’s timber stockpiles could have been "scavenged" for timbers suitable for building the relatively small La Belle, and this could account for the diversity of its sampled timber dates. However, this is mere speculation, and this aspect of La Belle’s construction is in need of further research. Whether or not some of La Belle’s individual timbers were carefully selected from dismantled ship timbers or were timbers previously used for purposes other than shipbuilding, the evidence for the design and construction of a new vessel at the time of La Belle’s official building date of 1684 is extensive and unequivocal.

La Belle’s Design Method: Invention or Expansion?

Although La Belle’s design system using diagonals was innovative for the 1680s, was it a completely new invention or an expansion on existing ship design concepts? Seven other vessel remains have been discovered with surmarks and/or numbers carved on their frames. All but one of these "marked" vessels predates La Belle.

• The Culip VI vessel from the late thirteenth to early fourteenth century discovered off the coast of Catalonia, Spain (Rieth 1996:149–164; Rieth and Pujol 1998)

• The Sorres X vessel from the second half of the fourteenth century discovered off the coast of Catalonia, Spain (Raurich et al. 1992)

• The Ria de Aveiro A vessel from the mid-fifteenth century discovered off the coast of Portugal (Alves et al. 2001)

• The Cais do Sodré vessel from the late fifteenth/early sixteenth century discovered in Lisbon, Portugal (Rodrigues et al. 2001)

• A Basque whaling ship (probably the San Juan) from the mid-sixteenth century discovered in Red Bay, Labrador, Canada. There are no location labels found on this vessel, and the marks on the frames have a distinctly different "arrow" shape (Grenier 2001:277; Loewen 1998:217) compared with those on the rest of the surmarked wrecks. Researcher Brad Loewen has also proposed that a "distinctively 'Atlantic' method of whole-moulding" was used in its design (Loewen 2001:243). Despite these and other differences, I think that for now this vessel should be mentioned among these "marked" wrecks.

• The Nossa Senhora Dos Mártires from the early seventeenth century discovered near Lisbon, Portugal (Castro 2005:105–179)

• The chayka-type vessel from 1738 discovered on the Dnipro River in Ukraine (Kobaliya and Nef’odov 2005) NEXT