Boats have long been associated with leisure, recreation, and transportation across water bodies. One question that many enthusiasts ask is why boats are right-hand drive. Unlike cars, where the majority of the world drives on the right side of the road, boats have an alternative arrangement. Here is an explanation of why boats are right-hand drive.
Before the invention of cars and modern transportation, boats provided an essential means of moving goods and people across water bodies. Back then, boats were hand-powered and limited in speed, but the direction of movement was predicated on various factors.
One such factor was the use of paddles, which were usually mounted on one side of the boat. The paddles were designed such that the boat would steer in the opposite direction to the side being paddled. This construction made it easier for paddlers to paddle and maneuver their way around obstacles, especially in narrow waterways.
As technology advanced, boats evolved into more complex and powerful vessels. Motors replaced paddles, and new designs emerged, with engines mounted at the center or rear of the boat. However, the steering wheel was still positioned towards the right side of the boat.
The reason for this is primarily attributed to the orientation of the engine and the propeller rotation, which causes water to jet out from the right side of the hull. By placing the captain’s position to the right, it allows them to have a clear view of the water and the surrounding environment.
Additionally, having the steering wheel on the right side something you see across the globe. It is not just an American thing, but it is also present in European boats, where the captain’s position is usually seated on the starboard (Right) side of the boat.
In summary, boats are right-hand drive; it is not because of any particular engineering consideration, but rather, the convention dates back to ancient times when paddlers steered their boats using their dominant hand. The direction of movement was predicated on the side being paddled, thus leading to the placement of the steering wheel on the right side of the boat.
While advanced technology replaced hand-powered paddles with engines, the steering wheel remained at the same position. The engine orientation, propeller rotation, and the captain’s line of sight were some of the deciding factors in maintaining the status quo of keeping the steering on the right side.