How to Remember Port and Starboard: Easy Tricks & Tips

how to remember port and starboard

If you are one of those people that asks how to remember port and starboard, then do not be ashamed. It is something that even the most experienced boat owners and enthusiasts tend to get confused or jumbled in one way or another.

Admittedly, even a few of us can get lost in terms of directions between left and right, so it shouldn't come as a shock to anyone that port and left and starboard and right are words that are confounding and confusing.

If you need help to remember port and starboard, or would fancy learning about the origins of the nautical terms, check out this very informative guide!

Here is One of the Best Ways to Remember Which Side is Which (Port vs Starboard)

Port side is the left side while starboard side is the right side, assuming you are facing in the direction of the front of the boat.

Our best way to remember is to remember only one side, say the port side, and eventually the other side will come more naturally to you.

Whether it be trying to remember port side is to left side, or starboard is star-right, you will eventually get the hang of it after a couple of memorable attempts.

The bigger challenge (arguably), however, would be to recall to use the front direction of the boat as reference point. So if you are tasked to identify the left and right sides of the boat, make sure that your orientation or viewpoint is in the same direction as the front of the boat.

This way to remember is the most common and effective way, but there are several others that may be better for you, such as:

  1. The word port and the word left have the same number of letters (four letters). Try remembering the phrases "port and left" and "port is left).
  2. The starboard side is usually where the steering oar is situated back in the old days, which is almost always the right-hand side.
  3. The word starboard, if pieced apart and turned into star (omit board), has the ending letter that is the beginning letter of the right side port.

The Significance of the Placement of the Steering Oar

As mentioned briefly in the section above, the vessels of the past were operated by a steering mechanism, and since a captain would often be right-handed, such a case gave birth to the positioning of the steering oar on the right side of the boat, as well as the ships' port (larboard in old English) and starboard nautical terms.

The Explanation Behind Port and Starboard Colors

port and starboard of a boat

Navigational lights and color coding are very important, not only to avoid collisions, but also to help neighboring vessels steer clear of your path in terms of the position and orientation of your boat.

A wise and experienced captain would know the distinction between red and green, but for the apprentice, the light and color of light may not be an example that is easily observed and understood as an indicator of the sides of the boat, so let us tackle the distinctive colors of each side of the boat from a navigational and practical standpoint.

When talking about the portside, refer to sea port wine which is also sea red wine. In other words, a vessel would designate red color coding to the left-hand side of the cruise ship (or any other type of ship).

As for the starboard, opposite to the portside's port wine (red wine) phrase, a bottle of starboard wine (if one even exists) would be color green in practice.

Remembering the practice of color coding and the phrase associated with the port side (meaning the side known through the phrases "port wine" or "red wine") will help you handle navigational situations where you are moving forward with an oncoming cruise ship, cruise boats, or vessels steered from the opposing direction.

Other Clever Tricks and Advice to Never Forget Where Port and Starboard Are

Directions, orientation, letters, knowing what they are called, and knowing where they are in reference to the direction of the boat is something that every person, captain, steward, or random cruise tourist has had to deal with at some point

To remember directions is one thing, but to understand the technical concepts, knowing what the different parts of the boats are called, why some have green lights and some have red, are but a realistic example of the effort and knowledge you must put in and learn, respectively, to become experienced when it comes to the boat life.

Here are a few more tricks and tips that any person could do so that the experience with boats is a splendid one:

  1. Port (left hand side) and starboard (right hand side) are highly technical boat concepts but when reduced to acronyms or letters, life would be much easier. Try using the letter "P" as in "P. Left" and the letter "S" "S. Right" to recall the concepts quicker.
  2. Port and starboard can also be reduced to a person or bottle. Just remember, port is for wines, and wines are all that are left. Starboard is for stars, and a superstar is right. This would be a fun way to remember where port and starboard are, respectively.
  3. Port and starboard can also be converted into a tune such as a nursery rhyme. Say for example, "Twinkle, twinkle, little left port, starboard, starboard, other side of port."

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Port left and Starboard right?

Port is left because historically, the left portion of the boat was the closest to the port where a boat is parked while the starboard side is where the steering oar is located, usually in the opposite portion.

What are the 4 sides of a ship called?

The 4 sides of a ship are the portside (left), starboard (right), bow (front), and stern (rear).

How do you remember starboard and portside?

There are several ways to remember which side is starboard and which side refers to port. Arguably the quickest way is to break them down into acronyms. P.L. for Portside, Left and S.L. for Star, Right.


It can be mind-boggling to a few individuals that port and starboard are confusing (or even downright ignored by beginners), but patience must be given to these new people in order to ensure a stronger, more populated, and livelier boat community.

If you have a friend or acquaintance that you feel needs a bit of a tutorial on nautical concepts such as port and starboard, then this would definitely be a great reference

Just remember, if you yourself are lost as to how to remember port and starboard, give yourself a refresher and come back to this handy guide as soon as possible!

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