The Norse invented the SteerBoard, and it was placed on the right hand side of the boat…to be used by the predominantly right handed steersmen. Old habits die hard…especially in sailing, and all steering mechanisms continue to be placed on the right.
Here’s the link to the site: http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mdriveboat.html
It’s helpful if you post that link, so others can read the Mailbag article before responding – saves time and duplication of effort.
Sailing? I thought steering wheels were usually in the middle of the boat in sailboats. We were talking about power boats, and I think we ruled out the “right handed” theory.
The steering wheel is usually in the middle of sailboats, but that was a much latter invention, only a few hundred years old. Ships used to be steered with a “steerboard” which was normally mounted on the right for right-handed steersmen, and it is fairly reasonable to assume that certain traditional rules of navigation derive from that practice. At any rate, the English words “starboard” and “port” do.
The connection, if any, of all this with the location of the steering wheel on power boats is much more problematic.
John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams
[[The connection, if any, of all this with the location of the steering wheel on power boats is much more problematic.]]
The “counter the torque” answer I came up with in the column seemed pretty reasonable, I still think. And I’m thinking it’s not connected to the historical reasons for starboard steering wheels on ships.