Where do the names Port and Starboard come from?

Once you get on a boat, you have to forget some parts of the vocabulary you use on land. Among all the words that become part of our new vocabulary, two of the best known are port and starboard.

These names have a compelling reason to exist and persist in use: On land the points of reference do not change, while at sea they do so constantly.

When looking forward towards the bow (front) of a ship while standing on deck, the side to the right will be starboard and the left side will be port.

A little history of port and starboard

In the early days of sailing, before ships had rudders on their centerlines, ships were controlled with a steering paddle.

Most of the sailors were right-handed, so the steering oar was placed on the right side of the stern. That’s why sailors started calling the right side the steering side, which soon became “starboard” by combining two Old English words: steor (which means “to steer”) and bord (which means “the side of a boat”).

As the size of the boats grew, so did the steering paddle, making it much easier to tie up a boat to a dock on the opposite side of the paddle. This side was known as the larboard, or “the cargo side.” With the passage of time, the larboard – which was very easy to confuse with starboard (starboard) – was replaced by port.

The British Navy resolved in 1844 to prohibit the use of the term larboard and replace it with port (port). This new denomination was introduced in the USA two years later.

Use of the nomenclature

Of course, in emergency situations it can be potentially dangerous for someone to turn around and use her left as reference instead of the boat’s left or the like.

This is why we have terms like port and starboard, which refer to one side of the boat or the other.

Several other terms refer to different parts of the vessel.

Interesting facts about port and starboard:

  • On many ships until the 1930s when someone said something like “all to starboard” or similar, the helmsmen would understand that it meant turning the ship to the left (towards port). Because during that time it was normal to veer in the direction of the rudder. So if they wanted the ship to turn into port, they would move the rudder to starboard (or turn the wheel in such a way that the bottom of the steering goes to starboard).
  • When it gets dark, it is customary to have a red light on the port side of a ship or an airplane and a green light on the starboard side. An easy way to remember which side of the ship is port or starboard (in addition to remembering that “starboard” came from the steering paddle attached to the right side of a ship) is to remember the popular song “Star light, star bright, starboard. is on the right (Starlight, bright star, starboard is on the right) ”.
  • The port side can be called port side (usually abbreviated in port) or also larboard, referring to the loading side for cargo. A ship must dock on the the side that faces the dock, that is, the port side, as this is where the packages will be loaded and unloaded later.
  • The forward part of the ship that cuts the waters of the sea is called prow. This end of the boat is tuned to reduce its resistance to movement as much as possible.
  • There are different shapes of bows such as: Straight bow, Thrown bow (common in fishing boats), Trawler bow (used in deep sea fishing boats), Violin bow (also called yacht bow).
  • The stern is the rear end of the ship’s structure. Like the bow and in order to avoid eddies and loss of energy, this part of the ship is also tuned. According to its shape, it is called flat stern, round stern, chopped stern, thrown stern, wide stern, bucket, monkey ass, dropped and raised. However, the most widespread types are the cruiser stern and the mirror or stamp stern.
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