When you climb aboard a boat or yacht, it’s hard not to notice that the steering wheel is almost always situated on the right-hand side. Many people wonder why this is the case, especially given that most cars and other vehicles have their steering wheels on the left-hand side. In reality, there are several key reasons why boats and yachts are designed this way, each of which has helped to shape the boating industry as we know it today.
Firstly, it’s worth noting that the steering wheel position on a boat is actually referred to as the ‘helm’. The helm is traditionally positioned on the right-hand side of the boat because this allows the helmsman (or helmswoman) to leverage their dominant hand when steering. Most people are right-handed, so it makes sense to place the helm on the starboard side of the vessel where the helmsman can comfortably grip the wheel with their right hand, leaving their left hand free to adjust the throttle or operate other controls.
In addition to this, having the helm on the starboard side of the boat also allows the helmsman to maintain better visibility when navigating. When traveling at speed, it’s important for the helmsman to be able to see ahead clearly in order to avoid collisions, obstacles or other hazards. By placing the helm on the starboard side of the vessel, the helmsman is able to look ahead down the port side of the boat, giving them an unobstructed view of the water ahead. This affords them more control and confidence when piloting the vessel, particularly in busy or crowded waters that require quick reactions.
A third reason why the helm is traditionally located on the right side of boats and yachts is that this provides a more comfortable and practical layout for passengers. Most boats and yachts are designed with a central walkway through the middle of the vessel, which makes it easier for people to move around and access different areas of the boat. By having the helm located on the starboard side, passengers can sit on the port side and enjoy the view without feeling like they are in the way or obstructing the helmsman’s field of vision. This arrangement also makes it easier for the helmsman and passengers to communicate, as they can simply turn their heads towards each other rather than having to shout across the boat.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, and some boats and yachts may have helms located on the left-hand side or even in the center of the vessel. In some cases, this may be because the boat is designed for left-handed helmsmen, or because the owner prefers this layout for personal reasons.
The reasons for having the helm situated on the right-hand side of most boats and yachts can be traced back to a combination of practicality, safety, and passenger comfort. Regardless of whether you’re piloting a sleek speedboat or navigating a massive luxury yacht, the helm position remains one of the most fundamental and vital elements of any boating experience.