Main mast step
The design of the Belle's main mast step offers a lesson in creativity. Typically the mast is "stepped" into the keelson, that is, a mortise-and-tenon joint is used to fit the two pieces together. Unavoidably this weakens the keelson, which together with the keel forms the "backbone" of the ship. The Belle's carpenters avoided the problem by creating interlocking pieces. Like a Chinese box puzzle, each piece fit together to form a strong base for the mast, thereby reinforcing the hull.



Main mast step The area around the main mast step prior to disassembly, with part of the aft bulkhead still in place. Notice the large timbers to either side, which reinforced the hull and provided stability to the mast.

Photo: courtesy of the Texas Historical Commission.