What’s the origin of Port and Starboard and how to remember which is which

We run skippered Yacht Charters for families and corporates in the Solent and I am forever being asked; ‘Why do they call it Port and Starboard?’

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Our senior skipper goes by the name Trog (his real name is Horatio) and he has done a bit of research so I thought you might like to share in his new found knowledge -:) BTW you can meet Trog here see http://www.yachtsforfun.com/your-skipper

Origins of Port and Starboard

Since Port and Starboard never change, they are unambiguous references for the sides of a ship.  It does not change and so is independent of the mariner’s orientation.

If a mariner is standing on the ship and faces forward, the Port is on the left and Starboard on the right.

Before design and ability to hang a rudder, ships were steered by a steering oars.  Since most sailors are right handed it seemed natural to place this oar on the right side.  This became the steering side; in whatever dialect at the time.  It soon became starboard.  A combination of two Old English words stéor; meaning steer and bord; meaning the side of a boat.

The other side became known as the loading side; opposite to the oar.  Soon it was referred to as the larboard.  This was far too easily mis-heard and/or confused with starboard.  Fortunately the Portuguese navigators used reference articles called Portolans.  Best described as pilot books although not really a book since paper was rare and tended to get soggy when wet.   These reference articles tended to be stored and referenced on the opposite side from the person steering.  On the Potolans side.  So Port side.   This was a perfect description as it was also the side often nearest to the Port’s mooring area and supplies were ported aboard by porters.

 How To Remember The Difference Between Port & Starboard

I think over years of having families and corporates onboard the two prompts that help most people are; The Ship Left Port ( that gives you the side of the boat)

Port Wine is Red (that gives you the colour of the navigational lights

Hope that helps -:)

Remember to enquire or book for a family or corporate day go to www.yachtsforfun.com/enquiries or email gill@yachtsforfun.com

David & Gill OliverScreen Shot 2017-04-10 at 17.41.10  Screen Shot 2017-04-10 at 17.39.51

Published by: David Oliver