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post #1 of 10 Old Oct 28th, 2009, 12:28 pm Thread Starter
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Port and Starboard - Ending the Confusion

Beyond Port and Starboard – An End to Confusion

A friend suggested I write a column about the origins of the terms “port” and “starboard.” So I did some research – on the internet, of course, to assure absolute accuracy – and found plenty of information from some expert nautical etymologists. Whatever those are.

There’s no need for confusion. See, port is to the … um, left side of the boat, right? No, your other left. Facing forward. That’s right. So if left is port, reason dictates that the right side of the boat must be starboard, because that’s what’s left. Remember, however, that the “right side” of a boat does not necessarily mean the correct side, especially as it applies to pulling into port, when the right side is totally wrong. Thus ends the confusion.

In days of old when one of the salty sailors was high above the deck in the crow’s nest facing forward, left and right might have been referred to simply as left and right.

But the crusty old seacaptain down on the poop deck preparing lunch for the crew – perhaps marinated shish kebob with just a hint of chipotle and a nice Caesar salad – might have been facing aft in order to monitor the grill. So his left could well have been someone else’s “other left.” Imagine the pandemonium. It was crucial to accurately refer to one side of the boat or the other without regard to stem or stern (which is a whole ‘nother discussion).

Way back when boats were invented, a hundred years ago or more, ships were commonly steered with a sweeping board or oversized paddle mounted on the right side of the vessel. In Olde English it was referred to as a “steorbord,” literally a “steering board.” Phonetically, it was a short hop from steorbord to “starboard.” Without getting into nautical engineering issues, I hope the genius who finally thought of putting the rudder in the back of the ship where it belongs was awarded an extra ration of grog.

We got to the term “port” from a whole different direction. Logically, I surmised that “port” referred to the side of the ship over which certain Portuguese sherries were smuggled aboard, but this turns out to be incorrect. I did post my theory to Wikipedia, however, in case someone finds the information useful.

While starboard was the side of the ship from which it was steered, the other side was referred to as “larboard.” The left side, of course, was the right side for the port. If you’ve been paying attention, you recall there were rudders mounted on the right side, so that left the larboard side as the right side for docking. See how easy this is? Literally, “larboard” means … oops. Apparently no one knows. Not even Google.

Etymology and pure conjecture have it that “lar” was an Olde English word for “lade,” or “load,” so “larboard” referred to the side of the ship from which cargo was taken in – cases of sherry or anything else. That would be the side without the rudder, of course, the right side of the ship to be up against the port – the left side. Clear?

Voila, we have now accounted for “starboard and larboard.” But the story doesn’t end there, thankfully, or I wouldn’t have enough material to fill this space.

Now imagine a fierce battle between great sailing ships, with cannon exploding and sailors yelling. Over the howling wind, the skipper orders a strategic maneuver. “Hard to 'arboard! Step lively, lads!”

“Huh?” the first mate asks, “Did he say starboard or larboard? I couldn’t tell with all this racket.”

“Me either,” the coxswain shrugs, “let’s go with larboard, there’s a 50/50 chance that’s right.”

“No, no, I’m certain that’s left,” the first mate argues with authority, as the ship is rammed from behind and sinks ignominiously to the bottom.

It was clear that “larboard” sounded too much like “starboard.” The similarity was costing battles and sinking ships. So someone – perhaps the same guy who had that Eureka! moment about putting the stupid rudder in the back of the stupid boat – came up with the bright idea of calling the left side of the ship where the port lies the “port” side. And that seemed right to everyone.

So now we have port and starboard, and it doesn’t matter which direction we’re facing, the terms are always accurate. We never again have to ask, “Your starboard, or mine?” All we have to remember is that starboard is right and port is left. Right?

I’ve also found it helpful that “port” and “left” each have four letters. Some little kid at the dock told me that.

Until Next time,
My best from the Stern,
Ted A. Thompson

The Bad Ted

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post #2 of 10 Old Oct 28th, 2009, 3:28 pm
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Re: Port and Starboard - Ending the Confusion

And just to add to a most outstanding treatis. As you said Port has (4 letters) whichare fewer letters than starboard. Also, red has fewer letters than green. Therefore the red light is on the Port side(left) and the green is on the starboard (right).
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post #3 of 10 Old Oct 28th, 2009, 4:45 pm
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Re: Port and Starboard - Ending the Confusion

I use:
1=L 2=E 3=F 4=T LEFT
1=P 2=O 3=R 4=T PORT

StaRRRboard = R is for RIGHT

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post #4 of 10 Old Oct 28th, 2009, 5:59 pm
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Re: Port and Starboard - Ending the Confusion

The ship left port.

Regards

Graham Wintersgill
On the bonnnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond

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post #5 of 10 Old Oct 28th, 2009, 6:06 pm
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Re: Port and Starboard - Ending the Confusion

And just in case you didn't know the derivation of POSH (do you have posh in the USA?)
Port Off Starboard Home - These were the best cabins on a cruise ship - (something to do with the weather or sun made them better and more expensive cabins).

If you use the phrase "not enough room to swing a cat" - this also has nautical derivation - the 'cat' being the cat'o'nine tails whip, not the moggy.

Lastly - "Son of a Gun" is the child born on a Man-o'-War ship - supposedly below on the gun deck (surprising how many women slipped on board at the last second before departure.)

"Whenever you find you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect" Mark Twain


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post #6 of 10 Old Oct 28th, 2009, 6:50 pm
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Re: Port and Starboard - Ending the Confusion

Also a helpful way to remember is:

1 is less than 2
Red has less letters than Green
Port has less letters than Starboard

so if you are meeting port to port, sound one whistle, and meet red to red

and meeting starboard to starboard, sound two whistles, and meet green to green.

Now if overtaking another vessel, that changes everything, depending if you are in Western Rivers, Inland Waters, or International Waters!

NOGILLS2


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post #7 of 10 Old Oct 28th, 2009, 7:35 pm
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Re: Port and Starboard - Ending the Confusion

I was taught to remember it by "PORT wine is RED".

Ray Rau
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post #8 of 10 Old Oct 28th, 2009, 11:12 pm
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Re: Port and Starboard - Ending the Confusion

Quote:
Originally Posted by RiderRay
I was taught to remember it by "PORT wine is RED".
That was intended to help you remember the color of the running lights, but yes - it still applies.

Howard Schisler
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post #9 of 10 Old Oct 29th, 2009, 3:21 pm
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Re: Port and Starboard - Ending the Confusion

Quote:
Originally Posted by fenixroyale
Beyond Port and Starboard – An End to Confusion

A friend suggested I write a column about the origins of the terms “port” and “starboard.” So I did some research – on the internet, of course, to assure absolute accuracy – and found plenty of information from some expert nautical etymologists. Whatever those are.

There’s no need for confusion. See, port is to the … um, left side of the boat, right? No, your other left. Facing forward. That’s right. So if left is port, reason dictates that the right side of the boat must be starboard, because that’s what’s left. Remember, however, that the “right side” of a boat does not necessarily mean the correct side, especially as it applies to pulling into port, when the right side is totally wrong. Thus ends the confusion.

In days of old when one of the salty sailors was high above the deck in the crow’s nest facing forward, left and right might have been referred to simply as left and right.

But the crusty old seacaptain down on the poop deck preparing lunch for the crew – perhaps marinated shish kebob with just a hint of chipotle and a nice Caesar salad – might have been facing aft in order to monitor the grill. So his left could well have been someone else’s “other left.” Imagine the pandemonium. It was crucial to accurately refer to one side of the boat or the other without regard to stem or stern (which is a whole ‘nother discussion).

Way back when boats were invented, a hundred years ago or more, ships were commonly steered with a sweeping board or oversized paddle mounted on the right side of the vessel. In Olde English it was referred to as a “steorbord,” literally a “steering board.” Phonetically, it was a short hop from steorbord to “starboard.” Without getting into nautical engineering issues, I hope the genius who finally thought of putting the rudder in the back of the ship where it belongs was awarded an extra ration of grog.

We got to the term “port” from a whole different direction. Logically, I surmised that “port” referred to the side of the ship over which certain Portuguese sherries were smuggled aboard, but this turns out to be incorrect. I did post my theory to Wikipedia, however, in case someone finds the information useful.

While starboard was the side of the ship from which it was steered, the other side was referred to as “larboard.” The left side, of course, was the right side for the port. If you’ve been paying attention, you recall there were rudders mounted on the right side, so that left the larboard side as the right side for docking. See how easy this is? Literally, “larboard” means … oops. Apparently no one knows. Not even Google.

Etymology and pure conjecture have it that “lar” was an Olde English word for “lade,” or “load,” so “larboard” referred to the side of the ship from which cargo was taken in – cases of sherry or anything else. That would be the side without the rudder, of course, the right side of the ship to be up against the port – the left side. Clear?

Voila, we have now accounted for “starboard and larboard.” But the story doesn’t end there, thankfully, or I wouldn’t have enough material to fill this space.

Now imagine a fierce battle between great sailing ships, with cannon exploding and sailors yelling. Over the howling wind, the skipper orders a strategic maneuver. “Hard to 'arboard! Step lively, lads!”

“Huh?” the first mate asks, “Did he say starboard or larboard? I couldn’t tell with all this racket.”

“Me either,” the coxswain shrugs, “let’s go with larboard, there’s a 50/50 chance that’s right.”

“No, no, I’m certain that’s left,” the first mate argues with authority, as the ship is rammed from behind and sinks ignominiously to the bottom.

It was clear that “larboard” sounded too much like “starboard.” The similarity was costing battles and sinking ships. So someone – perhaps the same guy who had that Eureka! moment about putting the stupid rudder in the back of the stupid boat – came up with the bright idea of calling the left side of the ship where the port lies the “port” side. And that seemed right to everyone.

So now we have port and starboard, and it doesn’t matter which direction we’re facing, the terms are always accurate. We never again have to ask, “Your starboard, or mine?” All we have to remember is that starboard is right and port is left. Right?

I’ve also found it helpful that “port” and “left” each have four letters. Some little kid at the dock told me that.

Until Next time,
My best from the Stern,
Ted A. Thompson
Thanks, Ted! Even a moron like me can't screw that up!!

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." (Some really OLD friggin' White dude who couldn't have possibly known what he was talking about!) WARNING: Official HATE speech!
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post #10 of 10 Old Oct 30th, 2009, 12:07 pm Thread Starter
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Re: Port and Starboard - Ending the Confusion

Quote:
StaRRRboard = R is for RIGHT
Except for sairors from China, where R might actually = REFT. Where does that reave us?

Now I'm so confused...why are you tlying to confuse me?

T "Zachary Syndrome" Thompson

The Bad Ted

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