The mainmast step (carlinga) is an area in the center of the hull which supported the heel of the largest mast, which was stepped into the keelson (contraquilla). To create a sturdy base, the carpenters carefully shaped the longitudinal timber so that it was larger and thicker than the rest of the keelson. This critical architectural feature displays fine workmanship, especially at the flaring transition point from keelson to mast step, and in the carving of the sunken rectangular mortise into which the mast was stepped. Although the entire mast step feature was not completely uncovered during excavation, the observed length of the expanded portion of the keelson is approximately 2.1 m. Sided thickness of the keelson abaft the step is 35 cm which expands to 47 cm at the step. The raised and expanded section of the keelson, from abaft the pump shaft to just forward of the mortise, measures 1.42 m in length, and 39 cm in thickness. Notched to fit over the floors, the keelson was fastened to the keel with iron bolts, but only one, which was placed through the after rise in the mast step, is visible. An adze or broad ax gouge mark was noted on the port side of the step, possibly indicating the midpoint of the vessel.
Fig. 8. Timber arrangement of the midship hull structure.
The mainmast mortise is large, measuring 94 cm in length, 22 cm in width, and 20 cm deep. At the bottom of the mortise a hole, 35 mm in diameter, is situated 41.5 cm forward of the after end. The hole, which extended 42 cm into a floor frame below the keelson, appears to have been a fastener position that was drilled but not used. At the forward end of the mortise, a distinctive cross, 6 cm by 10 cm, was gouged into the wood. While the meaning of this mark is unclear, it may have had religious significance, much like the secular practice of depositing a coin in the step for good luck. It also is located at the ship’s point of maximum breadth, since the floor of the master couple frame lies directly below the carving. At either end of the mortise are lodged two wood pieces once used to firmly wedge the mast heel in place. The forward piece is a shim that measures 8 cm long, 22 cm wide, and 23.5 cm high. The after piece is a mast chock measuring 33 cm long, 20 cm wide, and 19 cm high. The space between these two wooden elements would have allowed a mast heel tenon of a maximum length of 53 cm to be fitted. According to contemporary Spanish shipwright practice, as evidenced on the Basque whaling galleon, San Juan, that sank in Red Bay, Labrador, in 1565, the width of the mast step mortise was equal to the sided thickness of the keel, and also corresponded to one‑half the diameter of the mainmast (Grenier 1994, pers. comm.). This relationship also is reflected in the equal dimensions of the Emanuel Point mortise width (22 cm) and the thickness of the keel amidships (22 cm); however, a space of 53 cm for the mainmast tenon would seem too large for a mast of 44 cm in diameter. Perhaps there was an additional chock or wedge in the mortise that became dislodged from the step, along with the mast, after the wrecking event. Or, perhaps the builders of the Emanuel Point Ship may not have followed a standard convention in shaping the mainmast heel.
Fig. 9. Underwater view of the forward section of the mainmast step.
Fig. 10. This small cross was carved in the bottom of the mast step mortise by the builders of the ship.
Two smaller mortises in the mast step may have housed tenons for vertical timbers supporting the lower deck or pump well assembly. Just forward of the mast step mortise shim is the remnant of a tenoned stub, 8 cm long and 17 cm wide, still in its mortise. The stub may represent the remains of a pillar, or stanchion, used to support a lower deck beam. Aft of the mainmast step, there is a smaller mortise let into the keelson, perhaps intended for a framing timber for the pump well housing. The mortise measures 12 cm long, 8 cm wide, and 4.5 cm deep.