Steering a Ship with a Pole
When people began traveling afloat, they soon learned that the easiest way to change direction was to stick something in the water on the side toward which they wished to go and let it drag until the new course was reached. That something probably also was the means by which forward motion was achieved, and so the paddle was born.
Over a very long time, watercraft grew in size and it became necessary to have a specially modified paddle for direction control. The result was the steering oar, a device of adequate length to permit its enlarged paddle to be in the water. It might be fulcrum-mounted on either quarter; sometimes oars were placed on both quarters with a pole connecting their inboard ends to unify their use. In the Viking age, Norsemen usually hung their steering oars on the right side, which came to be known as the “steerbord,” the steering side—present-day starboard. (The other side, over which cargo was taken aboard or discharged, was called the “ladebord,” the loading board—larboard.)