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Port vs Starboard

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  • Member since
    October 2019
  • From: New Braunfels, Texas
Port vs Starboard
Posted by Tanker-Builder on Saturday, April 1, 2023 7:01 AM


       This is just a simple item.What is port and Starboard where a ship is concerned? Well, It varies somewhat. But in reality it's simple.When you stand on a Ship or Boat deck and look to the pointed end(The Bow) Then you have on your Right side The Starboard side, the other is the Port or Left side. Why?

       The only reason I can see is somewhere in the far past.When ships were moved by wind or muscle the Starboard side was where the Stierrbord side was the right side where the Steering Board or Oar or Rudder was. The other side went up against the dock or Port Side!

       I don't know when rRudders moved In a line with the keel but it was sometime in the 1300 or 1400 time frame. Probably, Way earlier. Anyway, Port is left and Starboard is right. Port is red light, Starboard is Green!

  • Member since
    March 2003
  • From: Towson MD
Posted by gregbale on Saturday, April 1, 2023 7:45 AM

Red right return.... Big SmilePirateCaptain


George Lewis:

"Every time you correct me on my grammar I love you a little fewer."
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • From: USA
Posted by keavdog on Saturday, April 1, 2023 9:45 AM

The longer words go together

Starboard, Right, Green

And the short words go together

Port, Left, Red



  • Member since
    August 2019
  • From: Central Oregon
Posted by HooYah Deep Sea on Saturday, April 1, 2023 10:14 AM

At one point it was starboard and larboard.

"Why do I do this? Because the money's good, the scenery changes and they let me use explosives, okay?"

  • Member since
    April 2009
  • From: Longmont, Colorado
Posted by Cadet Chuck on Saturday, April 1, 2023 10:23 AM

When I was a pilot, I always looked for a red light out my side window, so I knew my seat was facing in the right direction.

Gimme a pigfoot, and a bottle of beer...

  • Member since
    November 2005
  • From: Formerly Bryan, now Arlington, Texas
Posted by CapnMac82 on Saturday, April 1, 2023 12:25 PM

HooYah Deep Sea
starboard and larboard.

Both from Norse, stjaarbort for "steering board [side]" and Ljaarbort "Lading/loading board [side]."

The Germanic Anglo-saxon versions were similar, and survived the addition of Norman French into English.

Shouting "larboard" and "starboard" from a mast top in the wind being pretty complicated, and the Royal Navy having a habit of "collecting" sailors based on physical fitness rather than English as a first language, wound up wanting a different word for one or the other..

So the loading, larboard* side being the side presented to a dock or pier or jettty, near logical to call it the "port" side. 

Despite modern claims to the contrary, it had nothing to do with the twon of Oporto in Portugal, or its most famous fortified spirit, Port wine.  The adoption of Portuguese wine due to wars with France occurs mach later in history.

Quay-a stone structure connecting deeper water to the shore for loading ship comes from Middle inglish Kaye via middle French keye originally from Celtic/Gaulish caio. 

Harbour is a mix of Frenc and Saxony and and Frisian, began as "encampment" with a sense of "encircling."

Pier is straight out of Latin pere.

Port, meaning a place for lading ships is ultimately from Latin Portus.

Words can be fascinating, and frustrating, to study.

*Despite being phonetically similar Larboard and Larder do not share a root.  Despite larder representing a storingplace or place of collection.  Larder comes to us via Middle French larde, a pantry.  Lard as in [pork] fat is from Latin lardum/laridum, which may be from Greek for fat.

  • Member since
    August 2005
  • From: Seattle, WA
Posted by Surface_Line on Saturday, April 1, 2023 9:05 PM

"port" has four letters, just like "left".

And port wine is red.

That whole "red right returning" thing is about harbor bouys, not shipboard navigation lights.  But it is just confusing enough to mess up a young shipdriver.

(I was never THAT confused)

  • Member since
    October 2003
  • From: Canada
Posted by sharkbait on Sunday, April 2, 2023 12:50 PM

Of course on big rivers like the St. Lawrence or Mississippi going upstream is returning and downstream is departing. "Hence Red Buoys on the Right  Returning" Home or as we joked "Going upstream to spawn".

I could never understand why people say "He's caught upstream without a paddle" I assume being caught "downstream without a paddle" would be much worse. Upstream you could always drift downsteam into the nearest rapids or waterfall where you would have much bigger problems to worry about. 

On bush survival courses we were always told to go downstream to reach civilization. Small stream will lead you to a river to a lake ect. eventually to a coastline if you are really stubborn and persistant.

Of course we were always told to STOP wandering around and light a smoky fire, make a nice, calming cup of tea, set up camp and await rescue forces as the first and best plan.

Blundering around falling off of cliffs and into swamps and then trying to set up camp after sunset is silly. Cut 4 times as much firewood as you think you need. Fer gawd's sake learn how to safely carry and use an axe. Hatchets are useless and dangerous IMO. ( nothing like having it glance off the tree into your lower leg to ruin your day) 

Carry a deck of cards and start a game of solitaire...someone will show up to tell you to put the black jack on the red queen within minutes. FYI 3 small smoky fires in a triangle is a sign of distress. 

You have never been lost until you've been lost at Mach 3!

  • Member since
    October 2005
Posted by CG Bob on Sunday, April 2, 2023 7:59 PM


That whole "red right returning" thing is about harbor bouys, 


But that only applies North, Central, and South America, North & South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines.   These nataions are in IALA Zone B.

In Europe, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and most of Asia the rule is "red, right, outbound/downbound (to sea).  These are in IALA Zone A.


  • Member since
    December 2021
Posted by RainDancer on Thursday, May 4, 2023 4:43 PM



Let's no forget Port Out, Starboard Home


Ex M60A3 Tanker, Retired Firefighter and Fun at Parties. 


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