Starboard or Port Tie?

docking-starboard-sideIs docking on the starboard side better than docking on the port side? Like just about everything else in boating, it depends….

Many boaters say you should always dock on the starboard; but, in some cases, it would be far better to dock on the port side.

In other cases, boaters say you should always dock port side, but that isn’t always the case either.

It depends on many factors and, when you know what they are and take them into consideration, you will know on which side to dock your boat.

So what are some factors to consider?


Most power boats have the helm on the starboard side, so for the convenience of being able to directly see the space left between the hull and your dock, you would choose the starboard side. For boats with a centerline helm, like centre console fishing boats or centreline helm yachts, it doesn’t matter because your vision to the dock is the same. Most Houseboats and twin engine Trawlers would dock starboard side because their access doors are always on the starboard side.

Drive System

For boats with a single inboard, like ski boats, trawlers and sailboats and older wooden launches, their torque pulls to port in reverse; therefore, it would be best to dock on the port side. For the few single inboards with starboard torque in reverse, they would choose starboard side docking. For all other drive systems, starboard or port works.

Access Gate

For boats with a transom access or a side deck access gate, choose that side to dock on, so that you have a shorter route on and off the boat.

Fuel/Pumpout Fittings

When docking for fuel and/or a pumpout, choose that side so that the hoses don’t have to be dragged full width of the boat. You don’t want to end up with hose marks, shoe dirt and spills all across your cockpit or deck.


Shorecord inlets can be located on either the port side or the starboard side, or in the cockpit or on the transom. Depending on the configuration of the boat side decks, and the location of the shore power outlet on the dock, you’ll want to choose docking on the side that gives you the easiest and safest route to connect the shore cord. In some cases, the length of your cord may be so tight that it will dictate which side you have to dock on for it to actually reach.

Have a look at your boat with these points in mind and knowledgeably decide whether docking starboard side or port side is right for you.

Feel free to forward this article to your boating buddies who aren’t sure which side is right for them.

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