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How to Remember Port and Starboard? – A Simple Instructions

Written by Anthony Roberts / Fact checked by Jonathan Larson

how to remember port and starboard

Have you ever experienced watching whales or dolphins on a cruise ship? If you had, you would probably have heard the captain announcing that there are whales in the direction of the starboard. As a person who knows nothing about ships and vessels, it is easy for you to be puzzled by the meaning of starboard.

Furthermore, it is essential for sailors and even boat owners to understand cruise terminologies like starboard or port. It is all because vessels are so massive these days that it’s easy to become lost until you find your bearings. Therefore, acknowledging cruise lingo and some fundamental nautical terms will assist you in navigating the ship easier.

If you are looking for a proper guideline about ways of retaining the port side and starboard side, this article is perfect for you. In this post, we will compile all things you need to learn about how to remember port and starboard, so that you can locate the two fixed locations easier, such as:

  • The origins of port and starboard
  • Starboard vs Port: The differences
  • Simple methods to memorize port and starboard directions
  • More tips in navigating the boat’s starboard, stern, port and bow

Moreover, a list of tips to identify which side is starboard and further notices on locating two positions in a vessel within real situations will be highlighted in this article. So, you and other sailors can practice this process without too much difficulty. Continue reading to learn more!

The Origins of Port & Starboard

Port and starboard are steering oars that served as the craft’s rudders and needed to be maneuvered properly. As a result, having the steering oar upon that right-hand side made it simpler for boaters to face ahead effortlessly. Hence, the right position of the ship on which he sat was known as the “steerboard”, which was eventually distorted into starboard.

This made loading items from such a side of the vessel more problematic for smaller vessels and yachts. As a result, vessels would moor with the left side towards the port docks. Similarly, the left side was also called “larboard”, resulting in the corruption of an English term for loading.

However, because the phrases larboard, as well as starboard, sounded identical, it was usual for sailors to mix them up. Consequently, terms such as “larboard” were eventually supplanted by names like “port” since they refer to the place where the ship was tied on the left side.

In addition, during the 16th and 17th centuries AD, English commercial ships went to numerous nations, and the use of these phrases became popular. These phrases were widely adopted by seafarers from India to the USA during the colonial era. Because of their extensive use, the words port and starboard were officially approved with the creation of regulatory agencies to produce a consistent code for nautical terms.

Starboard Vs Port: The Differences


Even though they relate to the same boat, there are certain differences that we can recognize in order to distinguish these two navigational terms easier. Follow the below aspects to identify different features between the terms:

1. The boat’s location

Since we all fully understand, starboard and port are located on the ship’s sides. You’ll be gazing ahead in the vessel or ship’s direction. In this case, the port side of boat is set to the left, while the starboard is set to the right.

There are permanent directions on the port or starboard. They’re comparable to cardinal positions in that the person’s position is irrelevant.

2. Light colors

There’s also a difference regarding the lights’ hue used on the port or starboard sides. To avoid misunderstanding, most sailors utilize these as classifications. People always set the red navigating light to the left, whereas the green one mostly stays at the right.

You’ll be able to accurately determine your position thanks to the display of lights in the port as well as starboard directions. These lights are also utilized to alert other boats to avoid mishaps and accidents. They’re similar to a maritime vehicle’s controller.

Whenever you notice a green starboard light, it signifies you should proceed as the opposite vessel yields to you. A red light from the port side, on the other hand, indicates that you must stop because there is a hazard if you do not. Hence, you must make room for the other ship. During the nighttime, the red port’s side is illuminated with a can-shaped light. Instead, the port side features a red light.

3. Cardinal direction

Using the compass can assist in establishing the location of the left or right-hand side. This will be connected with the west and east. According to these coordinates, the vessel’s port side is located at the west, while the starboard side is now at the east.

Simple Methods to Memorize Port & Starboard Positions


After comprehending the terminologies, it is time for you to learn how to remember them. There are numerous options if you want to remember which side of the boat is starboard and port. Study them all, and pick the most suitable to your taste.

1. Numbers of each word

It may be simple to recall the port or starboard since you will only have to be specific about one particular side to recognize the other. To memorize the port position, acknowledge four characters are included in “port” as well as “left”.

It defaults to leaving the starboard on the right-hand side. It’s not too challenging because “port” contains four letters, the same numbers as “left”.

2. Using a pair of sock

Putting on port or starboard socks is an easy method to progress these nautical phrases. However, make certain that the patterns and colors are properly positioned. You can offer it to someone who is having difficulty distinguishing these terms.

3. Referring port wine

The port navigating lights are red, while the starboard lights are green. Even so, they are utilized as signs while you are on board, just like determining if that direction is a port or starboard.

You may use a glass of port wine as a reminder to remember these bright hues. Take in mind the image of red wine, especially when it is put into a glass to inform you about the port position. This image will assist you in remembering the navigational words.

You can also remember the saying, “Port is usually abandoned at sea, yet rarely left for supper.”. It implies that during dinner parties, guests always want to end their port. Anglers should begin to think about port first and starboard second for ease of recall.

4. Alphabet

Making a mental note of the letters can help you recall port as well as starboard. The following sentences can be memorized or chanted:

“L as in left, near P as in port”

“R” stands for “right,” while “S” stands for the word “starboard.”

5. Jokes

There are certain short jokes that can help you to recall the two terms efficiently. This chat line below is an example:

Chat line

Captain: Are you fond of guys in uniform?

Girl: I am keen on firefighters and police officers, but boaters are not my style.

Captain: Why then?

Girl: They utilize nautical terminology far too frequently, which irritates me.

Captain: My ex-wife said the exact same thing to me when she ported me, so I believe you’re starboarding about it.

Other Tips in Navigating the Boat’s Starboard, Stern, Port and Bow

1. Port directions

  • A sailor is said to have a lover at every port. Being married necessitates the wearing of a wedding band, which is often located on the left hand. The port can also be found on the left-hand side.
  • If you have little children on your boat, you can allow them to wear bands on their left arms. It’s an easy method to remind them of the port position.

2. The Starboard

Which side belongs to the starboard side? Think about the starboard while you executed the activity in its position after you steered. Don’t overlook the right-hand starboard!

3. Stern & Bow

Forward and aft refer to the bow & stern of a ship. You must be familiar with them since they are related to port as well as starboard. A bow is referred to as “forward” since it is located in the ship’s front. The stern, however, is located toward the ship’s back and is referred to as apt. Here are tips for memorizing stern and bow:

  • If you draw the bow together with an arrow, the shoot moves forward in the same way the bow is located at the front of the ship.
  • “Stern stands at the back, it seems to function,” says another rhyme. This is something that even a child can remember.


Remembering nautical terminologies is not an easy task, especially with new boaters, even though it is crucial for you to understand them properly. You may spend a lot of time at sea, but there are occasions when you need help remembering a port or starboard. Therefore, by following our instructions, you will be able to learn by heart port and starboard side. We hope that the above stories, lines, little rhymes, and tips can help you practice the terms easier so that even navigating cruise ships will be no more difficult for you! If you want to know more about boat accessories, you can check them out here.

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