(not sure where I found this so as to give credit where due)
Ever wonder where the terms port (left) and starboard (right) came from?
Ships used to have their rudders affixed to the right side, and this was the side they steered from. 'Starboard' is a corruption of 'steorbord' or 'steer-board.' In fact, the word 'steer' comes from the Old Norse 'stýri' meaning rudder.
When pulling into port, ships approached with the land on their left side to avoid damaging the rudder. This is why that side is called 'port side.' It was originally called 'larboard,' derived from 'load-board' (the side you load cargo on), but they decided that the term sounded too similar to 'starboard' and changed it.
When two ships crossed paths, the one on the right side had the right-of-way (hence the name). Since ships often passed in the dark of night, they needed a way to determine the location and orientation of other vessels. So, they affixed a red light to left (port) side and a green light to the right (starboard) side.
If the red light of the other ship was visible, it meant that their left side was facing you, thus they were on the right, and that you should yield to them. If their green light was visible, then you were the one with the right-of-way. This is where we get our modern traffic signal colors: red means stop and green means go. This same color system is still used today on aircraft.
If you have trouble keeping it all straight, remember that port wine is red, and that there's never any left in the morning. Incidentally, port wine is named after the Portuguese seaport city of Porto, from which it was originally exported. All three of those uses of port that I just boldfaced are derived from the Latin word 'portus' meaning 'harbor.'
Now you know.
With best regards,
Sailing Vessel - Cream Puff - SM2K - #275
Currently cruising - Panama