Theory and practice

In the same way that the dimensions of the hull were the result of the strict application of rules of proportion between the tread of the keel, the maximum beam and the depth at the midship frame, the dimensions of the apparel and gear were the result of intelligent calculation of proportions. Thus, in the various treatises, the length of a block, the circumference of a mast or the thickness of a piece of rope are often expressed in relation to the ship's primary dimensions. As a result, archaeologists need to be aware of the existence of these rules of proportion, but they must not forget to directly observe the historical reality of the wreck. Theory and practice do not always converge, and there are differences between shipyards. Construction choices are determined by both economic and environmental factors, such as the technical environment, the lack (or abundance) of certain articles, and so on.
Thus, the Natière 1 shipwreck – now identified as the royal frigate Dauphine, built in Le Havre in 1703 – displays original ways of doing things and rather unorthodox technical experimentation. Archaeological data have revealed technical solutions that were likely improvised at the shipyard by Louis XIV's primary shipwrights. The frigate Aimable Grenot, which was built 45 years later with private funds, presents a much more classic construction, both in its shape and its proportions.


D. R.
Regulations and proportions to be observed for the construction of Light Vessels and Frigates, based on the eighth portion of their outside length from stem to stern-post. Author unknown, Construction des vaisseaux du Roy, Le Havre, 1691.
Teddy Seguin (Adramar) © MCC / DRASSM
Knee from the second deck of the L'Aimable Grenot (1749). The presence of a chock allows the thickness of this curved piece of wood to be reduced. (Ref. : NAT06_SM0687)
© MCC / DRASSM (Encyclopédie méthodique marine)
Finding pieces of curved wood, which is necessary for a ship's ribbing and knees. Encyclopédie méthodique marine, plate 103.
Frédéric Osada (Images Explorations) © MCC / DRASSM
Lines and a circle inscribed on the furring inserted in the framework in the fore section of the Dauphine. These are probably carpenter's markings, whose exact meaning is still unknown. (Ref. : NAT00_SM0016_FO)
Teddy Seguin (Adramar) © MCC / DRASSM
View of the lateral starboard side of the Dauphine's longitudinal structure, fore of the midship frame. One can make out the keelson (St 82), the keel and the floor-timbers, between which large wedges were placed. The keelson was made from two pieces of wood joined together with a long scarf joint. (Ref. : NAT04_SM1058)
Jacques Blondel © Archives Nationales
Drawing showing the four Pumps. Cross-section of the Royal frigate Estoille. The cross-section of this light frigate displays characteristics similar to the Dauphine (1704) – the same slender keel in comparison to the keelson, and a rather slim profile at the level of the midship frame. It could well be the Etoile, which was built at Le Havre by Cauchois in 1703. Watercolour by Gueroult. (Série 6JJ89 page 74)
Teddy Seguin (Adramar) © MCC / DRASSM
Similar to the other deck-beam knees on the Dauphine (1704), this knee has a simple, regular shape. It supports the deck beam and its end is notched just beneath a ceiling-strake. (Ref. : NAT05_SM0785)
Teddy Seguin (Adramar) © MCC / DRASSM
The knees of the main deck of the Aimable Grenot (1749) are rounded and chamfered. They are set lateral to the deck-beam. (Ref. : NAT07_SM0607)