Hard a starboard

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coal eater

Mar 1, 2018
our fishing boat had direct chain drive system,not so complicated..

also why would they use tiller system not rudder, if titanic used rudder system the hard to strboard would result in front collision


Feb 20, 2019
North Carolina
Been reading through the forums for a couple years now but never signed up until tonight.

When the Titanic struck the iceberg and Murdock ordered the ship to starboard to avoid the iceberg from causing damage along the entire side of the ship, did that order actually cause more damage? When the ship changed from hard port to hard starboard would that have forced the iceberg to penetrate deeper into the hull around midship?

Could possibly explain some eye witnesses claims that the ship was sinking bodily.
Dec 4, 2000
Rudders, helm orders, and steering quadrants have been covered and recovered many times and it many threads on this board. A few minutes searching will yield more details than most people care to know.

Rudders and tillers are the direct descendants of steering oars which extend aft from the stern of a vessel to provide directional control. Steering oars remained in common use on lifeboats until well after WW-II. They also gave rise to "starboard" as the name for the right-hand side of the ship looking forward. It was common on larger vessels to put the steering oar on the starboard side as this was most convenient for right handers. So, the right side of the vessel became the "stear board" side which ultimate turned into starboard (pronounce by sailors "stab-erd").

Steering oars are tiresome, especially on large vessels or during heavy weather. Some bright builder or sailor came up with the idea of attaching the blade of the steering oar directly to the sternpost using hinges and the rudder (originally "router") was born. The loom of the old oar became the rudder post, but there was still something missing -- a handle to rotate the rudder for steering. Routers already had small handles for the purpose which were enlarged to become the tiller. The whole mechanism was simple and relatively inexpensive to build and far more effective than steering oars. The rudder/tiller system also made it possible to control larger ships...and we all know "bigger is better."

Because the tiller and rudder are in line with one another, pushing the tiller to the left causes the rudder to swing to the right and vice versa. Thus a command to "port your helm" would result in a right turn. When the quartermaster actually operated the tiller, this was obvious to even the dolts among the crew. But, ships kept growing and tillers became unwieldy. So, starting in the mid 19th century there began a race to come up with steering gear which could be located out of the way below decks, reduce the workload on the quartermaster, and not cost the ship's profits for half its working life. This eventually led to the quadrant and steering engine of Titanic.

Wheels for steering appeared early in the machinery age. Today, thank's to those damned infernal internal combustion coupes we think that everything steers from the top of the wheel. Turn the top right and the car goes right. But, there's no cosmic law requiring this convention. Ships had been using tiller orders for a thousand years or more. Sailors weren't about to change. So, in a ship like Titanic the QM was taught to steer with the bottom of the wheel. Thus turning the wheel the the left was the logical response to a "port your helm" command. And, as in the days of steering oars, the ship's head fell to starboard in a right turn.

Historically speaking, it wasn't the sailors who were wrong. It was the grease monkeys with their sputtering horseless carriages who got things mixed up. But, that's water under the keel now. In fact, the world had so standardized on the convention of steering with the top of the wheel by WW-1 that young farmhands conscripted into navy duty found sailor jargon beyond confusing. By the mid-1930s it had become both the fashion and the law to issue helm orders as "right" or "left" as perceived looking forward. This change was accompanied by a U.S. regulation to put up black and white signs defining the left and right side. These signs were required in pilot houses and other steering stations. You don't see them anymore.

So ends today's lesson. We've only touched half the story, however. The other half is to put this into context with the way ships pivot during maneuvers. Once again, those damned cars get in the way of understanding. But, that rant is for later.

-- David G. Brown
Dec 2, 2000
Easley South Carolina
I think there's something of a misunderstanding here. Helm commands at the time were reckoned not by the turn of the wheel but by tiller commands. In order to turn the ship to the left, you would manually push that pole to the right and vice versa.

Very confusing to the modern ear but to people who came up in the age of sail, it made sense.

Thusly, "Hard a starboard" would be reckoned as a turn to port and "Hard a port" as a turn to starboard.

Will Murdoch tried to "Port Around" the berg and he almost....ALMOST....pulled it off. As it stands, his ship handling served to confine the damage to the forward third of the ship. Bringing the head around kept the other two thirds from being opened to the sea which would have resulted in Titanic being a Bermuda Triangle legend instead of a pop culture catastrophe.

Dan Kappes

Sep 26, 2018
Apple Valley, Minnesota, United States
I decided to ask this question after seeing the 2006 movie Poseidon, which features a first officer on the bridge of an ocean liner using the same orders that were given by the Titanic's first officer Murdoch, this time to avoid a rogue wave.

However, like the Titanic, the orders are ineffective and the ship runs into trouble.

Are these common orders and do they more often help ships than not?

Here is a clip from the film:


The officer orders the ship "hard a-starboard" and "full astern on starboard engine". The order hard a-starboard that is used in modern times means 'turn right', and the order to reverse only the starboard engine would mean the starboard propeller would be reversing while the port propeller would continue at full ahead. Those orders would turn the ship rapidly to the right. When a vessel encounters a large wave it is correct procedure to turn 'into the wave' and ride over it. In the movie above they were attempting to turn their ship into the wave, but the wave was too large and approached too rapidly for them to successfully turn the ship into the wave.

The orders that were given when Murdoch saw the iceberg were allegedly hard a-starboard (which in those days meant they would turn the tiller right which made the ship turn left) and also full speed astern on both engines, but these alleged orders very likely never happened, as the survivors contradicted each other so much and there is very little evidence to say the orders did happen. They had to justify their speed at the Inquiry so that no acts of negligence could be made against them. I believe the next best thing (the only option to save their careers) was to make it look like they had plenty of time to make every effort and attempt to move the ship out of the way. e.g. hard a-starboard and full speed astern.

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Oct 29, 2005
This is Silvano from Florence, Italy. Excuse me. I am new. Surely you have already talked about it. I have a doubt on the "Hard-a-starboard!" order. Does it mean "Rotate the helm to the starboard side" or "I want the ship to move to the right"?

Lon Doty

Jan 26, 2019
Why does every story about the collision say that Murdock called for a turn to starboard when a turn to port is why she was damaged on the starboard side?


Why does every story about the collision say that Murdock called for a turn to starboard when a turn to port is why she was damaged on the starboard side?
Helm orders in those days were in reference to 'tiller' commands. When a tiller is turned right the ship will move left e.g.


The officers were accustomed to giving orders this way.


These orders were primarily given during the days of sailing vessels as the bridge was located at the stern near the tiller. As the age of steam progressed there may have been some confusion, especially during the war which lead to a number of accidents, and I believe the orders were modernised in the 1930's to make sure the crew knew exactly which way to turn.

Possibly too many accidents like this were occurring. e.g.


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Feb 20, 2019
North Carolina
I don't know why my post was moved to a topic that doesn't pertain to what I'm asking. What I'm wanting to know is if the command to swing around the berg to prevent the berg from scraping along the entire side of the hull caused more damage since in a way the ship was like a fulcrum against the iceberg. Could that maneuver possibly have caused the iceberg to penetrate deeper into the hull around mid ship?


I believe that if the Titanic had slid over the shelf of the iceberg as she twirled around it and turned north, then she may have buckled, weakened, or fractured part of her bottom plates primarily where she later broke in two, which at first glance might not have shown signs of visible damage as the damage might have been confined at first to the outer plates underneath the ship, but it might have later on increased as she settled lower and the water pressure outside and underneath the ship increased as she settled lower into deeper compressive waters, and the list to starboard and port might have twisted the hull and increased the original fracture underneath the ship caused by the ship sliding over the shelf of the iceberg. As the wreck has broken into pieces it would be almost impossible to examine how much of her bottom plates were damaged by the collision / grounding over the ice. We therefore can only speculate.

Here are survivor accounts which describe the collision:

Harold Bride - The wireless operator
"The captain told us we had been struck amidships, or just aft of amidships."

Mr. Daniel
"The officers who survived told me afterwards that the Titanic slipped up on the iceberg and practically broke in two. It tore out its bottom."

Mr. Hichens
"We could hear the grinding noise along the ship's bottom."

Mr. Symons
"What awakened me was a grinding sound on her bottom."

Mrs Candee
"It made a picture in my mind of our ship striking on the top of a mountain under the sea.....I stepped to the door of my cabin which gave no sign of having been affected. I opened it. I had expected to see the top rock of a mountain piercing through the ship."

(Possibly the Titanic's bottom was sliding over the shelf or spur of the iceberg which caused the ship to shunt back and forth as her plates and rivets slid over the hard jagged ice passing underneath.)

Mr. Ray said the collision felt like:
"A kind of a movement that went backward and forward. I thought something had gone wrong in the engine room."

(As the ship turned right she would twist herself around the iceberg and lean over to port.)

Mr. Hyman
"There came a tearing sound and the boat listed a little to one side."

Mr. Lee
"The ship seemed to heel slightly over to port as she struck the berg....Very slightly over to port, as she struck along the starboard side."

Mr. Fleet
Q - Did it seem that the blow came beneath the surface of the water and caused her to shift?
A - Yes, sir.

Mr. Taylor
"I felt the boat rise and it seemed to me that it was riding over the ice. It was a veritable sea of ice and the boat was rocking over it. I should say that parts of the iceberg were 80 feet high and had been broken into sections, probably by our ship."

When the Captain looked over the bridge wing he would possibly have seen the ship twisting herself around the iceberg and the point of contact where she twisted around could have been "just aft of amidships". This is might explain why Harold Bride said - "The captain told us we had been struck amidships, or just aft of amidships."
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Apr 21, 2012
I am sure I cannot be the only person to notice this but on all the films I have seen about the loss of the Titanic the order "Hard a Starboard" is given in an effort to miss coliding with the berg. I have noticed that in all the films I have seen the helmsman turns the wheel to port and in fact this must have been what actually happened. This is because the damage to Titanic's hull was down the starboard side. Did the helmsman deliberatly ignore the order or am I missing something? Please help anyone who can.

Bob Godfrey

Nov 22, 2002
This has caused confusion for generations of moviegoers. With traditional tiller steering, in order to swing the rudder in one direction the tiller is moved in the opposite direction. So a 'tiller order' for starboard was issued to move the rudder (and the ship) to port. By 1912 the tiller in large vessels was controlled by a wheel which was swung in the same direction as the desired turn, but the traditional tiller orders, which made perfect sense for experienced seamen if not for us landlubbers, were retained until the 1930s.

The problem for film makers is that the actions seen by the average viewer don't correspond with their expectation based on the spoken lines. If I remember right, the makers of A Night to Remember made some attempt to address this by making it difficult to see from which direction the ship was approaching the iceberg. But there's no easy solution to this problem if the Director wants to tell it like it was.

Brian Crowley

Feb 25, 2019
I hope this answers your question. I am not completely sure what the phrase meant, however, I may have some logical answers. The port side of the ship was the left, (say you were looking out at the sea from the bow at this point) and this is the side where people got onto the ship from the boarding docks. That is how it got its name, the port side. The starboard side is where the iceberg collided with the ship. The starboard side got its name, because this is where the ship was steered from. Since the iceberg was seen and hit on the starboard side, I think the phrase "Hard a' starboard" means that there is an object approaching the starboard side that could be hazardous. I am not sure, but I am pretty sure, but if the iceberg was on the port side, they might have said "Hard a' port!" But I am not very sure. I am sure they said "Hard a' starboard" since it was on the starboard side. I hope this wasn't too repetitive and it was somewhat helpful to you (less or more, you decide). -Brian.
Mar 22, 2003
Chicago, IL, USA
I think the phrase "Hard a' starboard" means that there is an object approaching the starboard side t
It had nothing to do with any object. It is simply a command to the helmsman to put the tiller all the way over to the starboard (right) side. To do that,the helmsman turn the wheel counter-clockwise all the way.

Christopher R. Graf

Can anyone fully explain the "Hard to Starboard" story? The order proir to collison was "Hard to Starboard" was is shown in the movie as the wheel being turn counterclock wise or to the left. Starboard is the right side of the ship when facing forward. What is the real story?

Chris from New Jersey

Jan C. Nielsen

Senior Member
Dec 12, 1999
In Don Lynch and Ken Marschall's book "Titanic: An Illustrated History," Lynch explains that "The (Hard a starboard) order stemmed from the early days of sailing when putting the helm to starboard caused the ship to turn to port."


Expanding on what Shomi says above - only since the mid-twenties have helmsmen turned the wheel the direction they want to go (like in a car) The best way to explain the commands given on the Titanic is to look at a small rowing boat or yacht: If you want to go left (As the Titanic did when colliding with the iceberg) you have to pull the tiller right - hence "hard a starboard" Titanic's wheel would still be turned left (as on a car) as she wasn't steered by a tiller but the command would have been so.

This is one of the theories behind the collision between HMS Hawke and the Olympic - the helmsman turned the wheel the wrong way - misunderstanding the bizarre and outdated orders given to him.