Hopefully, every boater knows that the port running light is red and the starboard light is green. I learned early to remember that port wine is red and when I have a glass of wine there is never any left. Get it? Port, red and left. This lighting convention of red left and green right comes in handy as one can discern after dark the direction a boat is moving by which lights are visible to him. In addition, the green light also indicates which boat has the right away over the other. Any one that has ever participated in a sailboat regatta is familiar with the resounding calls of “Starboard!” as the skippers declare they have the right of way due to being on a starboard tack. To understand why starboard is called starboard, why it has a green light and why starboard has the right of way, one must delve deep into boating in the days of yore.
Before the advent of modern boats, ships were steered by a paddle or board inserted in the water. Most folks being right-handed, the board was located on the right side of the ship. This caused the right hand side to be referred to as the “steer board side” and that reference evolved to starboard as we now know it. With the steering paddle or steer board located on the right side of the vessel, an approach to a dock when arriving in port had to be made with the left side to avoid slamming the steer board into the dock. Thus the left side of the boat became known as the port side.
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