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How to Remember Port and Starboard

Have you ever been on a cruise ship where you can spot some dolphins or whales? You are likely familiar with the port and starboard sides if you have.

When the captain announces that whales or dolphins can be seen on the port side, you don’t want to miss out on such a magnificent sight by confusing it with the starboard side. If you are not too well-acquainted with vessels and ships, getting baffled by port and starboard directions is a real possibility.

It is important for sailors and even boat owners to comprehend cruise terminology such as starboard or port. These days, vessels are so immense that it is simple to become lost until you find your bearings.

That is why being familiar with some of the more common nautical terms and cruise lingo could go a long way in assisting you to navigate a massive ship easier.

This post is great for people who want to learn about how to remember port and starboard. Here, we will list all the information you need to remember port and starboard directions so that you can remember these fixed locations more easily.

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The Original Terms for Port and Starboard Sides

Steering oars were used to steer boats before propellers, engines, and rudders were available. Because the majority of sailors were right-handed, the steering oar was traditionally placed on the right side of the boat.

The term “Starboard” was created by merging two Old English words, ‘stéor,’ which means ‘steer,’ and ‘bord,’ which means ‘ship side.’ The steering side of the ship, in fact, provides the origin for the word Starboard.

Because of the positioning of the steering oar, people tied up their boats on the left-hand side of the ship. This side of the ship became known as the larboard or loading side.

As the name sounds so similar to starboard, people were easily confused with the two terms and, over time, started commonly referring to the left-hand side as the port side because it always faced the port.

During the 16- and 1700s, many commercial English ships fared to various nations, contributing to the common usage of these terms.

During the colonial era, these nautical terms were widely used by seafarers traveling from India to America. The words port and starboard were then officially adopted as widespread codes for nautical terminology with the creation of regulatory agencies.

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The Difference Between Port Side and Starboard Side

It’s easy to distinguish between these two navigational terms, even though they refer to the same boat, by noticing certain differences.

1. The Location of The Boat

We all know that a ship’s starboard and port side refers to its two sides. If you are looking in the direction of the ship or vessel, the port side will be on the left side, and the starboard side is on the right.

The directions on the port or starboard are permanent and function like cardinal positions, with the observer’s position being irrelevant.

2. Light Colors

Most sailors use the red and green lights on the port and starboard sides, respectively, to define classes. To avoid confusion, people usually position the red light on the left and the green light on the right-hand side.

The lights displayed in both the port and starboard directions will help you accurately determine what position you’re in. These lights are used to warn other vessels of potential hazards. They function like a boat’s controller.

When there is a green starboard light, it indicates that you have to proceed forward because the opposite vessel will yield for you. If there is a red light on the port side, it signifies that you have to stop because a hazard will cross your path if you fail to do so.

In short, a red light indicates that you have to make some room for the oncoming ship. A red light glows on the port side during the night.

3. Cardinal Direction

A compass will help you establish the position of the right or left-hand side, which is associated with east and west. Based on these coordinates, the west side indicates the port side of the ship, while the east signifies the starboard side.

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7 Tips on How to Remember Port and Starboard Directions

Your Orientation

In order to quickly identify which side is which, orient yourself so that you are facing the ship’s front. The starboard side will be on your right, and the port side on your left if you are facing the front of the ship.

Get Yourself Some Port and Starboard Socks

A sneaky way to navigate the port and starboard sides of a cruise ship is to wear port and starboard socks. All you need to do is take a quick look at your feet, and you’ll know exactly which is which. Just be sure to put the right sock on the right foot and face the front of the vessel.

Light Colors

Each vessel contains lights on the sides of the ship so onlookers can determine whether they are facing the starboard side or the port side. As mentioned before, these light colors inform other boats on the direction of the ship to avoid collisions.

When oncoming cruise ships display a green light on the starboard side, they know they have to yield for your ship. In contrast, if there is a red navigation light on the port side of the ship, your ship has to give way to any oncoming ship.

The Number of Letters In the Word

If you are standing on the bow of the ship and you can’t remember which side is the starboard or port side, a good way to remember which is which is to think of the number of letters in each word. If you can figure out which side is the port side, you can be sure the opposite side is the starboard side.

The word “Port ” and the word “Left” both contain four letters. When you stand at the front of the vessel, the left side will be the port side, and the right side is the starboard side.

Use The Alphabet

You can also think of the proximity of the letters of the alphabet in that L for Left is nearest to P for Port. Similarly, R for Right is nearest to S for Starboard.

Think Of Port Wine

The navigating lights on the port side are red, while the lights on the starboard side are green.

You can think of a glass of red port wine and use the houses to remind you that the red of the red wine indicates the position called port.

Another way of using red port wine to help you remember the names of the left and right sides is by recalling an old sailor’s saying: “Port is left at sea, and not at the dinner table.” This implies that there is rarely any red port left after a dinner party.

Once you know that the port is on the left side, you know the other side is the starboard.

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Recall an Old Sailing Joke

There is a popular joke that can help you remember the port and starboard sides on a cruise ship:

Captain: Do you find men in uniforms attractive?

Woman: I do like police officers and firefighters, but I don’t like Sailors very much.

Captain: Why is that?

Woman: Sailors use too much nautical terminology when they speak, and it’s annoying.

Captain: You know, my wife said the exact same thing when she ported me, so you may be starboarding about that.

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Bow VS Stern: How To Remember The Difference

Stern and bow on a cruise ship are terms used to refer to aft and forward, respectively. Starboard, Port, Stern, and Bow are used as references to the four locations of a ship.

The bow is located at the front of the vessel and therefore refers to “forward.” In contrast, the stern is found at the back of the ship and therefore means “aft.”

How to Remember the Bow

When you release an arrow from a bow, the arrow moves forward. Similarly, the bow of a ship is at the front of the vessel. Another clever memory trick is to think of someone bowing to you. They also move forward to make the bowing movement.

How to Remember the Stern

The word “Aft” sounds like the word “After,” so you can easily remember the aft is at the back of the ship. This easy rhyme can help you associate the word “stern” with the back of the vessel: “Stern Dan stands at the back.”

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In Conclusion

Once you are comfortable with all the tips and tricks listed above, it should be easy to distinguish between port and starboard.

The best way to become confident in using these navigational terms of starboard/port is to practice. Identify the tip or trick that best resonates with you and practice using it the next time you find yourself on a cruise ship.

The good news is that a cruise ship is still one of the best places to spend your time, regardless of whether you know the nautical terminology or not.

These days, cruise ships are so massive that the most difficult part of navigating the ship’s direction and position is trying to figure out whether you are facing the front or the back of the vessel.

Therefore, it is not essential to know every single term used on a cruise ship, but it sure comes in handy when some incredible animal makes its appearance on one side of the boat, and you want to witness it as soon as the captain announces its presence.