I have known where the term “starboard” came from but for some reason never figured out “port”. Last night I was reading a piece on NOAA’s web site that answered the question. Read it yourself to find out how vessel handling brought about these common terms.
While on the subject of steering oars, I was also reading a novel which was based in Venice. Through that I learned that gondolas are asymmetric to counteract the push of the single oar. The keel in a gondola curves to the right since the oar on the starboard side will push the boat to port. It seems that this curvature is customized for the individual gondolier.