Typically, the last or top plank that finishes off the ceiling (interior planking on the inside of the hull) is designed to prevent ballast or debris from getting between the outer and inner hull planks. In the case of the Belle, these filler planks were notched and carefully carved to fit exactly into place. More remarkably, the next plank down was also carved and notched as was yet another ceiling plank at the turn of the bilge, the spot where the bottom of the ship starts to curve upward. Because of the compound curves in the filler planks and the length of the ceiling planks, only a very skilled ship carpenter could accomplish this task. It is also extremely time-consuming, indicating a near obsession with keeping the ship as dry as possible to prevent rot.
Photo: courtesy of the Texas Historical Commission.