Why Do Boats Drive On The Right Side? (Explained)

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There are two major factors why boats drive on the right side. 

Boat drive‘ on the right side was done by manufacturers to achieve two important functions in boating, which are:

  • Mechanical 
  • View

Before I explain “Mechanical” and “View”, let’s answer the question.

“Why do boats drive on the right side?” It’s to balance the weight of the boat while on water, and also for the boat operator to have a clear view.

Mechanical Reason Why Boats Drive on The Right Side

The mechanical function of a propeller torque (the turning force of a boat), is part of the reasons boats drive on the right side.

As the boat propeller on the right side rotates clockwise, the torques on the propeller hub cause the right side of the boat to rise above the water.  

While the port side (left side) tends to pull down into the water by 2˚ or 3˚.

The pull-down is caused by physical push, which usually comes from the propeller force or cargo. 

To balance the boat’s weight, manufacturers place the wheel steering on the right side. So, that operator’s weight will balance it or make it to be in an equilibrium state while in water.

However, the mechanical aspect is to balance the boat’s weight while in water.

“For View” Reasons Why Boats Drive on the Right Side

The boat drives on the right side to enable the boat operator to have a clear view. (Driving a boat for the first time? Here was my experience)

The right side of a boat gives the sailor the proper lookout on the starboard — to have clear visibility is part of the reasons, wheel steering is on the right side.

Right drive makes view becomes easy for sailors to keep watch over everything they’re required to watch out for.

Common Terms in Boating

When it comes to boating, there are two terms people tend to use interchangeably to mean the same thing — they’re not the same in any way. 

  • Starboard
  • Port/Larboard


The starboard in boating simply refers to the right side of the boat. 

The origin of the starboard dated back to when the paddle was used to control the smaller boats. 

As manufacturers began to build larger boats, there was a need to replace the paddle with an oar. The oar is attached to the right side of the boat permanently.

The oar finally replaced the paddle that was named by Anglo-Saxon sailors to be “steer board”. Gradually, the name changed to starboard, which means the right side of a boat.


The name of the left side of a ship is “port”. The term port was initially called larboard by the Anglo-Saxon Sailors.

The idea behind the name was because the boat operators had their back to the left side.

Thereafter, the sailor changed it to a larboard, which means the left-hand side of the ship.

This left-hand is where passengers and cargo are loaded. It was built like this to avoid crushing the starboard.

After this, the term “port” was adopted in the 19th century to mean the left-hand side of the boat. 

This was a result of the similar sound of both Starboard and larboard. This helps to clear the difference between the starboard and the port/larboard.

Why Boat Drive is Not on The Left Side

The boat drive on the right side is dated to the old days when boats were paddled. Formally, boats were steered with paddle backs in the past.

The idea of boats driving on the right side came into existence after the manufacturer had watched the system paddling the olden day’s boats. 

When the larger boat was built, paddles were replaced with wheel steering but maintained the same position on the right side.

So, bringing the wheel steering to the left side will require another set of work for the manufacturers.

They have to begin the entire boat setting, which will take a long time before it will be out for use.

 Also, if the boot drive is on the left side, it means the entire weight will be on one side, which may cause it to capsize as a result of one-sided weight.

To avoid the risk of capsizing that’s why manufacturers design the boat operators’ weight to be on the right side — the operator’s weight is what level the boat while in the water.

(Go here to find out how to drive a runabout boat)

Direct Drive of a Boat

The direct drive of a boat is simply the way a boat engine functions. How it turns in the water.

This is the make-up or the composition of a direct drive engine of a boat. The engine is at the center of the boat.

The transmission receives power from the engine that causes shifts between forwarding, neutral, and reverse in the boat.

When you want to sail, the force that makes the boat move from neutral to forward is the power the transmission receives from the engine.

Also, the prop shaft passes through the boat bottom at an angle of 7 to 12 degrees. This prop shaft gives energy to the angle that lifts the boat instead of pushing it forward.   

Why is a Direct Drive Boat Important? 

The direct drive of a boat is important because it allows for better turns, especially when water sporting, wakeboarding, and water skiing.

These activities require a vessel that you can easily turn. Also, direct-drive boats are perfect for towing a rider during water skiing. 

They’re different from other boats when it comes to function and performance.

One of the best ways to enjoy water sports is with a direct drive boat. Not all boats will make you enjoy water skiing and waterboarding like direct-drive boats.

The direct drive boat is simple to learn. It’s efficient in energy consumption. The direct drive is perfect when it’s come to weight distribution. It’s easy to access when you want to service the engine.

That’s why most sailors prefer a vessel that has a direct drive. Direct drive boats make water porting easy because of their functions. 

The engine is located close to the middle of the boat but under the dog house. This is one of the disadvantages of direct drive.

The direct-drive loses little horsepower as the transmission process.

The V-Drive

The engine is placed a little bit far from the stern of the boat. But close to the area forming the stern (transom).

In a V-drive, the engine output shaft is facing forward. It’s connected to the transmission, which uses a series of gears to reverse the output.

The angle at which the reverse takes place is 180 degrees that are connected to the prop shaft.

The position of the prop shaft and the angle are the same in the direct-drive inboard system.

Advantages of V-directs

The advantages of a V-direct are many, though, the engine is placed far from the center.

The engine of a water sports boat with a V-direct system is covered.

Advantages of Boat Driving on The Right Side

V-Drive Transmission

The transmission of V-direct in the past makes a lot of gear noise but this has been worked on. 

The engines are facing backward in the newer V-direct — this causes a smooth and quiet operation.

Also, gearing can now be specified by the sailors’ own style of boating. The V-direct system loses more power in the process of transmission, which makes it unique.

The Placement of Aft Engine 

Just as I stated earlier, the V-direct engine is placed at the far end of the astern, which is not so with a conventional inboard.

The placement frees up space at amidships for a storage locker, tanks, and a mid-cabin.

It also provides more room below decks than other boat engines like the stern drive.

The compartments of V-direct engines make it difficult to access engines for service.

V-Drive vs. Direct Drive

The direct-drive engine is placed at the center of the boat, which allows a quick wake, while that of the V-drive, the engine is far from the center makes a delay in the wake.

The motor of the direct drive is stronger than the V-drive. Skiers prefer to speed with direct drive than the V-drive when riding on water.

However, they both have many things in common.  Though they’re used for different purposes. They’re both towboats — this is what makes them good for water sports.

How Direct Drive Boat Work

The direct drive boat uses V-8 engines that have inbound motors, which are center-aligned.  

The alignment and the speed make it not kick up a lot of water.  Also, have the capacity to tow a rider behind.

Most of the direct-drive boats still require rudders to help steer the water because they’re inboard.

However, the outboard engines perform in an opposite direction to the inboard.

Though, the outboard layout doesn’t change the direction of the motor in making turns.

The difference between the inboard and outboard engines is in the function. Especially when you’re used to inboard, you might find it difficult to drive the outboard.

How to Operate a Direct Drive Boat

The operation of the direct drive looks the same way as handling other motor vessels. Though you will notice the difference immediately as soon as you start up the boat. (Boat not starting? go here to find out the top 8 reasons why your boat won’t start)

How experienced you’re in handling the direct drive, is one of the factors that will make you stay safe and enjoy your ride alongside others that you’re towing. (Speaking of safely enjoying your ride, find out why you need to wear a helmet during your water sports. )

There are factors that you need to consider, which will make the operation of a direct drive boat easy for you.

Let’s discuss these factors

How to Drive Straight 

The first thing you should do if you want to drive straight is to focus. Watch out for obstacles and keep your hands on the wheel steer as you move forwards.

Most importantly, you will like to move in a straight line when you have a skier behind you. When you observe these you will get a better result. 

How to Make Turns

The direct drive isn’t different from other vehicles when turning. The way to make a turn in a direct drive is to slow down the speed by easing off on the throttle before you start to turn.

Be alert, and maintain a very low speed until you’ve finally turned in the direction you want to go.

Taking turns is very important when towing a rider. The turn will help you to calm the water that’s skiing in after you. To get the best turn, take wide circles.

Driving in reverse

One of the most difficult aspects of a direct drive boat is driving in reverse. It’s more difficult when you’re driving at lower speeds.

The reason driving in reverse is a major problem because it’s because of the inboard motors that rely on a rudder to change directions.

The inboard motors sit behind the propeller, which lacks the force to back up the boat.

Then your boat might pull in one direction without you turning the wheel. Though this depends on how the rotating prop rests.

Most vessels tend to drift more to the right. This problem occurs more anytime you want back up, like moving in or out of dock space.

One of the best approaches is to take an advantage of pulling up the dock at an angle of 45 degrees. Then shift into reverse and allow the push-pull, pull you in while you use the wheel to make little adjustments.

Often practice will make you understand how better to pull up and how many levels of turn you can expect.

This is another easy way to get this done.

Alternate between reverse and forward gears while backing up your direct drive boat.

Before you do this, adjust to ensure you’re facing the correct direction before shifting back to reverse.

Through this process delays but you will definitely land where you want. Don’t forget the more practice you do, the better result you get.


The boat drive on the right side is not an error from the manufacturers. This was done to have a proper view. 

A good reason why a boat drives on the right side is to balance the weight of the boat while in water.

This weight level is one of the ways to prevent the boat from capsizing. 

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