Why Are Boats Right Hand Drive?

Why Are Boats Right Hand Drive?

Have you ever been on a boat and thought to yourself, “Why is this thing driving on the wrong side?” Or maybe you’re just curious about why this is the case for all boats.

But, why are boats right hand drive? In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the reasons boats are designed to be steered from the right side.

We’ll also look at how left-handed boaters can compensate for this setup. Read on.

What Does Port and Starboard Mean?

brown wooden ship's wheel
Boat steering

In boating terms, “port” refers to the left side of the boat, while “starboard” is the right side.

This terminology comes from maritime law, which stipulates that vessels must stay on the starboard side of other boats when passing.

This way, if there is a collision, the port side of the offending vessel will take the brunt of the impact.

Why Are Boats Right Hand Drive?

There are reasons why boats are designed to be steered from the right side. Here are some of the main reasons.

1. Propulsion Methods

Most boats are designed with propulsion located on the right side. For example, inboard and outboard motors are typically placed on the right side. These motors create a large torque force that makes steering from the left side difficult.

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This is why boats must be steered from the right side to avoid damage. Since the torque force is applied on the same side as the propeller, it makes sense that boats are right hand drives.

Read: Why are bananas bad luck for fishing?

ship helm

2. Environmental Factors

Most inboard motors are placed on the right side of a boat to minimize environmental obstacles. The propeller is placed near the stern of a boat to cut through water and propel the vessel forward.

This allows for an unobstructed “kick” of water to the left, which is more beneficial than an obstructed kick to the right. Placing a boat’s steering wheel on the right side allows for this unobstructed propulsion area and makes steering easier as a result.

3. Safety and Convenience

Placing the steering wheel on the right side makes it easier for boaters to see where they are going. It also means that people are less likely to hit the propeller, which is driven right of center. This increases safety and convenience for boat owners.

Read: What is the best way to avoid running aground?

person sitting on brown wooden chair near black camera on table
boat steering

4. International Water Traffic Laws

As mentioned above, boats must stay on the starboard side of other vessels when passing. This international safety law is named because ships used to have steering wheels on the right side. To abide by this law, boats must create a steering system with the right-hand side.

5. Manufacturing

Many boats are constructed with the steering wheel on the right side. This is because most boat parts are typically produced for sale worldwide, which means they must be compatible with traffic laws in other countries.

In addition, most boats are manufactured overseas, and it is cheaper for these manufacturers to produce steering wheels on the right side.

6. Conventional Reasons

Due to traditional reasoning, some boats are designed with steering wheels on the right. This tradition dates back to ancient Greece when oars steered boats.

Since most people are right-handed, these oars were placed on the left side. This was done in order to avoid collisions when passing other boats.

Over time, steering wheels replaced oars as a form of propulsion and steering. Since most boats had their oars on the left side, placing the steering wheel on the right side made sense.

Read: Boat motor loses power at full throttle

What if You are Left-Handed?

If you are a left-handed boater, it can be difficult to deal with steering wheels on the right side. It’s particularly frustrating when driving a rental or someone else’s boat, as you will probably have to move the steering wheel every time you get behind the helm.

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution or work-around for this issue. However, there are a few things that left-handed boaters can do to compensate for this design.

  • One technique is to keep the steering wheel on the right side and add a tiller system. This secondary steering wheel allows left-handed boaters to steer the boat from the intended side of travel. Many smaller vessels like canoes and kayaks still use tiller systems.
  • Another method of compensating for right hand drive boats is to learn how to “pilot” a boat. This technique involves using the rudders and propeller to steer the boat in the desired direction. Left-handed boaters can use this technique to compensate for right hand drive boats by doing everything on the left side of the boat.

Although right hand drive boats can be difficult for left-handed boaters to navigate, they aren’t unsteerable. These compensations ensure that all boaters can navigate safely and efficiently, left-handed or right-handed.

Frequently Asked Questions about Steering Boats

Are There Boats with a Steering Wheel on the Left Side?

Yes, there are a few modern-day exceptions to the international right-hand traffic laws. These include:

American powerboats
Hydrofoils and hovercraft
Italian powerboats

However, these boats are very uncommon and account for less than five percent of the market.

Why Boat’s Right Side Is Called the Starboard Side?

The right side of the boat is called the “starboard” side, which comes from the Middle Dutch word “steuerbord,” meaning “steering board.” It would have made sense to put the steering on what had always been our dominant arm.

Is Maneuvering a Steering Wheel of a Boat and a Car the Same?

Driving a boat and driving an automobile are two very different things. One of the main distinctions is that you can’t turn on a dime in a boat. The turning radius will depend on your vessel’s length, width, and weight. Smaller boats are more agile but have less turning power, while larger boats will be more cumbersome and slow to turn.

To wrap up, we hope that this article has helped you understand why boats are right hand drive and hopefully opened your eyes to a perspective of boating that’s different from what you’ve seen before.

We also want to emphasize how important it is for boat manufacturers and sellers alike to keep their customers informed about the design of these vessels to make an educated decision on which one best suits their needs.

Please leave any comments or questions in the comment section below if you have any comments or questions.

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