5 Questions about Port and Starboard

In a previous article we covered the question of what is port and starboard ? Here we look at a few fun facts about the concept.

Why is port left and starboard right?

Legend has it that in the past, boats were steered using an oar. Since most people are right handed (90%), the steering oar was naturally placed through the right of the stern. this naturally led to sea faring folks referring to the right side as the steering side. In old English, steering side of the boat roughly sounded like starboard. As the steers would get in the way of docking, most vessels were docked with the opposing side facing the port. This came to be known as the portside. Other starboard legends run the story that in the good old days, steering from the stars was done from a specific side of the vessel that had an extended deck, as the mast would block the view from the opposing side without the extended deck. This side (with the extended deck) came to be known as the starboard.

Do ships always dock on the port side?

In the modern world, ships can dock on either side and most vessels are equipped to handle box movement operations with either side facing the port. In the past, only the port side was used to avoid damaging the steering oar.

How do I remember port and starboard?

There are many ways to remember the which side is the port and which side is the starboard. But by far the easiest way is to remember that the word “Port” has 4 letters in it and the word “left” has 4 letters in it.

Why is port red and starboard green?

If you can see both green and red lights flashing at you from a distance while you are out at sea – it means you are either directly behind another vessel, or about to meet it head on. This is because the green and red lights are used to mark the port and starboard of vessels at night. Vessels have to adhere to navigation rules in order to avoid collisions and the lighted markings go a long way towards helping captains orientate themselves to other vessels in their immediate surroundings.

Does the air travel industry also use port and starboard terminology?

While it would not be wrong to use these terms on an airplane, this is usually not done. On aircraft the phrases left and right are used with reference to the direction of the cockpit when looking at it from inside the passenger cabin.

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