Iremember well the first time I went sailing on a larger boat. My sailing buddies were all good friends of mine, but it seemed that as soon as they stepped aboard, they started to talk in a foreign language I couldn’t quite follow. That was many years ago, and since then I’ve learned that there are legitimate safety reasons for using the correct terms on board boats.
Let’s start with the most important four terms. The front of a boat is called
the “bow,” and the back is the “stern.” “Starboard” refers to what is the right
side of the boat if you’re facing the bow; “port” refers to what is the left side
if you’re facing the bow. (To remember this, note that “port” and “left” each
have four letters.)
Let’s Come To Terms
Marine terminology may all sound like archaic jargon to some landlubbers.
But there are good reasons why it’s important to use the right words aboard a boat
So why don’t we just say front, back,
left, and right? The answer is that the
starboard side is ALWAYS the starboard
side, no matter which way you, or anyone
else, is facing on board. This is important.
Imagine that you’re on a boat and the
captain asks you to quickly put fenders
over the right side. If you were facing one
another, would that be your right or his?
Or imagine it’s getting dark, or heavy
weather is upon you, and you can’t see
which way people are facing on the boat.
Saying “It’s to your left!” or “Look to the
BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water By Mark Corke
Learn more about nautical terms,
and using a VHF radio. Visit
Aft starboard quarter
Aft port quarter
Give this story to your guests, or
to new boaters, to help everyone
aboard to feel involved, and to