What is Starboard?


Learning the nautical terms for ships can be quite hard. What is Starboard on a boat or ship? Let’s look at what it actually is, what it means and the history behind it. Cruise ships are so big and it can be easy to lose your bearings. Understanding cruise terminology and some of the basic nautical terms can to help you get around the ship more easily and port vs starboard On a ship is a good one to start with.

What is Starboard on a ship or boat? ( an easy guide with diagram )

So what is Starboard on a boat or ship? Where does the word come from and what colour is it? Let’s learn about some of the most used terms in history of boats and ships and where the word Starboard side came from.

What is Starboard on a ship and how to easily remember it pin image

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What is Starboard on a boat or ship? Where does the word come from and what colour is it?

The Starboard side is the right side of any nautical vessel or ship. The right side of a ship is permanently called the Starboard side.

Sky Princess Cruise Ship Facts Sky Princess showing her Starboard side
Sky Princess showing her Starboard side

Portside and starboard stay the same on every ship, vessel and boat and the term is also used for aircraft. The terms are used for the mariner and crew’s orientation. The nautical terms of Portside and Starboard are used instead of left and right to avoid confusion particularly over radio communications. By recognising Portside and Starboard you can determine the way the ship is sailing and you will always know which way is left and which way is right.

When looking forward toward’s the bow of a ship, Starboard side will always refer to the right of the ship. This makes Port the left. When looking the opposite way towards the Stern of the ship Starboard will be left and Port will be right. Therefore the best way to determine whether you are on the Starboard the right of the ship is to work out which is the rear of the ship (stern) or the front of the ship ( bow ).

What side is Starboard on a ship?

What side is Starboard? The right side of a ship is called ‘Starboard’ because ships with steerboards or star boards in history ships would dock at ports on the opposite side to the steerboard. This makes the steerboard or starboard the right. As the right side was always the steerboard side or star board side the left side is left to be the Port side.

Ship terminology diagram

This is a Ship terminology diagram of the nautical words and how to remember port and starboard sides. Use this Starboard side diagram to understand Starboard, Port , Stern and Bow easily.

This is a Ship terminology diagram of the nautical words and how to remember port and starboard sides.
Boat and Ship terminology Diagram

What colour is Starboard side?

Starboard side on a ship is seen as the colour Green

Why is Starboard side green?

The Green Starboard side is given this colour as this side of the ship indicates a clear view. The British Admiralty in 1847 ordained that starboard was to be green and port red.

How can I remember Starboard?

There are a few easy ways to remember Starboard here are a few ways to remember the Starboard side of a ship. If you identify one term on one side you’ll know the other by default. See these easy ways to determine Starboard side on a ship;

  • This is a fab Rhyme for remembering Portside particularly for children; Billy Bow is a the front, Lucy Left lives in the Port, Suzie Starboard rows to the right. Stern Stan Stands at the back.
  • Remember the words port and left both have 4 letters, if you can remember that one thing you will always remember that Starboard is right.
  • Also remember the saying “sailers had a wife or girl in every port” and think of your wedding finger. So the right is Starboard.
  • For little ones it’s a great idea to get a friendship band on their left arm, or ask the cruise staff to put the cruise line kids band on the left arm, this will help them remember.
  • Which are do you wear your watch on? Note that, is your watch on your port or starboard arm, then you only have to look at your watch to remember, my watch is always on my left arm.
  • Remember this saying: “There is no Red Port wine Left in the bottle.” Therefore Starboard is right
  • Remember The drink of Port is red recognising the Port side, you now know the other side is green Starboard
  • Another saying to remember is “Port is always Left at sea, but never left at dinner” Therefore Starboard is right
  • Remember the saying “The ship’s Left Port” Therefore Starboard is right
How To Remember Port And Starboard easy fun diagram for kids in Rhyme

Why is it called Star board side?

In the early days of ships and boating, boats were steered and controlled using a steering oar. As naturally most sailers where right handed the steering oar was placed through the right side of the ship. Sailors years ago began calling the right side of the ship the steering side. This word Steer soon became “starboard”. The other side is now known as Portside but was previously known as “larboard”, or “the loading side.” The larboard would be were crew and goods were loaded on to the ship or boat.

The word Starboard came from combining two Old English words: 

  • Steor (which means “steer”) and
  • Bord (which means “the side of a boat”).

Over time it became evident that word “larboard” was too easily confused with “starboard”. The words sound the same during communication over radios.

In 1844 Admiralty issued an order, stating that: ‘The word ‘Port‘ is frequently substituted for the word ‘Larboard‘, and as the distinction between ‘Starboard‘ and ‘Port‘ is so much more marked than that between ‘Starboard‘ and ‘Larboard‘, it is the Lordships’ direction that the word ‘Larboard‘ shall no longer be used.’

Thus Larboard was then replaced with the word “port” or Portside as this was the side that faced the port thus it easier to distinguish.

Do ships dock on both Port side and Starboard side now?

As the size of ships grew so did the steering oar. This made it easier to make a ship dock on the side opposite the oar on the starboard side. Ships now use both sides.

Now ships dock on both port side and starboard side. The way a ship docks is not determined by the steering anymore. It depends on the layout of the port, the direction the ship is sailing in and individual government regulations about how cruise ships are positioned on the pier. The captain may also choose how to position the ship in port as well.

Odyssey of the Seas in Port on its starboard side
Odyssey of the Seas in Port on its starboard side


  • Donna Vallance

    Donna loves cruising with her husband and two teenage boys. Having cruised with the children from a young age she feels it is the perfect way to experience the world safely. Her boys are social butterfly’s and love meeting other children their own age whilst onboard some of the most extraordinary floating ships. She also writes over at Like Love Do, a travel memoir of her trips, from London to far off beaches. She has an eye for the unusual and like to go off of the beaten track just to find the perfect photo. With a passion for photography and exploring cruising has become the perfect holiday choice.

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