Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Red and Green

As we enter into the holiday season, the colors red and green come to our mind as colors of seasonal decorations. Where as, in the summer, those colors mean something very different for those that maneuver sailing ships and powerboats along the coast of Maine. Red represents the port (or left) and green represents the starboard (or right) side of a ship or boat.

Historically, before ships had rudders on their centerlines, they were steered by a specialized oar. Located in the stern (back) of the ship, this oar was held by an oarsman. However, like most of the rest of society, there were many more right-handed sailors than left-handed sailors. Therefore, the oar was usually on the right side of the ship. The Old English word steorbord evolved into starboard, which meant, the side on which the ship is steered.

Originally, the port or left side of the ship was known as larboard. Larboard is derived from the practice of sailors mooring on the left side (the larboard or loading side) as to prevent the steering boards from being crushed. The term larboard, when shouted in the wind and weather, was presumably too easy to confuse with starboard. Later in the 1850’s, the word port came to replace it, referring to the side of the ship where cargo is loaded from the port.

So, if you have difficulty remembering left-port and right-starboard, here are a couple of suggestions:
1. "Port", "left", and "red" are all short words while the other side are long words “starboard", "right", and "green".
2. Or if you are a wine lover this one might be the easier to remember. “Is there any Red Port Left in the bottle?


Ryan and Jesse said...

This is a great post. Thanks. My in-laws live on a 36 ft Cat. and so I have had to learn a lot of the boating terms. I try to pair them up with a mental picture of something and that seems to work well.

Jesse, ElectronicCigaretteTruth.com
Find out the facts before you Buy E Cigs!

Dogbite said...

I had a boat for many years & would always remember port as left as they both had four letters. I have heard the wine reference used before as well. I always remember the buoys markings as well. Red : right returning. I love the water & can't wait until my life allows another boat in it.


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rj09 said...

The history of the use of the nautical words port and starboard are indeed interesting.

I wonder how many shipwrecks occurred before they finally figured out they had better change the sounds of the words.

Another piece of trivia for you:
In 1846 the United States Navy change over to the new wording because of the confusion that the two similar sounding words caused.

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