Definition of Starboard

Starboard is the right side of the boat when facing the bow or front of the vessel.

Starboard is an essential nautical term when figuring out navigation lights, navigation aids, mooring conditions, and basically any activity on a boat that requires you to know left from right.

For example, starboard lamps are the green navigation lights on the front right side of the boat, as in the Vertical Port Starboard Lamp Kit below.

Vertical Port Starboard Lamp Kit from Apex Lighting

Yet, starboard-side navigation aids in the water are red when proceeding into port (upstream), hence the common seafarers’ phrase “red right returning”.

illustration of a boat proceeding upstream

Lastly, the starboard rule is key to staying safe on the water and avoiding collisions. The rule states that when two sailboats meet, the boat with the wind on its starboard side has the right of way.

Fun Fact: The word “starboard” evolved from the Old English words for steering side. Most seafarers were historically right handed, so the steering oar was on the right side of the ship.

Eventually, the term steering side which began as “stéor” (steer) and “bord” (side of boat) became starboard.

Example of Starboard in a Sentence

"The catamaran coming in from the right is on starboard."

Synonyms: right side

Related Terms for Starboard