Quilts Ahoy! Month six in our river-themed mystery quilt is called Port and Starboard.Image of River Heritage Ad

I knew from Girl Scout days and canoeing that port meant left (both words have four letters) and Starboard meant right when looking out the front of your boat, vessel, canoe, ship, or even kayak, I guess. What I didn’t know was how those terms came to be.  Here’s what I found out:

When boats were controlled by a steering oar (before the rudder was centered on the boat), it was usually on the right side of the stern. Sailors would call that side the “steering side” and eventually it became a combination of two Old English words: “steor”  and “bord”, which mean “steer” and “side of the boat”. 

The opposite, or left side, of the boat was usually used for docking and loading the boat and was known as the “larboard”. Apparently, “larboard” was too easily confused with “starboard”, so the term “port” was adopted to refer to the side that faced the porters who loaded (ported) supplies onto the boat.

So there you have it: Port and Starboard.Image at Ferry Dockign

Image of Elmer Wichern

Uncle Elmer.

Now for the ferry! While brainstorming for ways to photograph the river for this fun mystery adventure, I thought of the ferry crossing in Ste. Genevieve. I have vague memories of crossing the ferry as a kid and I knew my Uncle Elmer piloted the ferry for a number of years. My cousin, Bonnie, shared with me that he and 4 other men purchased the ferry in 1975 to keep it running for farmers who lived in Ste. Genevieve and farmed in Illinois. He would pilot the boat on the weekends during his retirement.  Uncle Elmer loved the river and spent a lot of time there. If my Aunt Alice didn’t know where he was, she could find him at the river talking to fishermen and farmers. Before he married Aunt Alice, he was a river boat pilot pushing barges from St. Louis to New Orleans. Image of Young Man Working the RiverNow his grandson, Jeff, pushes barges from Tower Rock in Ste. Gen. down the river as far as New Orleans.

Elmer’s younger brother, Bill (my dad), also worked the river as a young man. The only story I remember from my dad about working on the river is that once while in New Orleans he got an anchor tattood on his arm–and a lot of trouble from his siblings when he got home! I loved that anchor tattoo.

Image of Orville Wichern

My dad.

Image of River Crossing

The Ste. Gen – MoDoc River Ferry Summer hours  (April 1 – October 31):
Monday – Saturday: 6 am – Last run at 5:30pm; Sunday : 9 am – Last run at 5:30pm
There are different rates for pedestrian, horseback, bicycles, motorcycles, and different size vehicles plus you can choose round trip or one-way. It was a lot of fun and I recommend it! Click here for more information.Image of River Image of Ferry Piloting across River

                                                  River Heritage

Block-of-the-Month Mystery Quilt

Month 6 Port and Starboard

Welcome to the sixth month in the River Heritage Block-of-the-Month Mystery Quilt! Port and Starboard is made from sixteen half-square triangles squares, like Trail of Tears, but with a different layout. Follow the instructions for value (light, medium, and dark) and use your own color scheme to make your block. You can use as few as three different fabrics or as make your block as scrappy as you like. Remember to check your values by taking a black and white picture of your fabric choices.

Cutting Instructions:

From light fabric:                                         From dark fabric:                                        Image of Quilt Block

Eight– 4-inch squares                                     Four – 4-inch squares

From medium fabric:

Four – 4-inch squares

RST = right sides together

Half-square triangles:  Draw a diagonal line from corner to corner on the reverse side of each of the eight light squares. Layer one dark square and one light square, RST.  Likewise, layer the other three dark/light pairs, RST. Stitch ¼ inch from the diagonal line for each set (chain-piecing method). Remove and clip the threads connecting the sets. Stitch ¼ inch seam on the other side of the drawn line. Clip apart. Cut on the drawn line. Press. Trim/square each set to 3 ½ inches. Makes eight sets.


Repeat the above method using medium/light combination to make eight sets. Trim/square each set to 3 ½ inches.


Assemble block:  Position the sixteen half-square triangles according to the picture. Take a black/white photo to double-check your layout using value.Image of Black and White Port and Starboard Block


Turn each piece from Column 2 onto Column 1, RST. Chain-piece a ¼ inch seam on the right edge. Clip apart and press odd rows to the right, even rows to the left.


Repeat with the next section by turning Column 4 onto Column 3, RST, stitch and press.

Repeat with the final two columns, stitch and press.


Nestle seams and pin Rows 1 and 2, RST, and stitch. Press open.

Nestle seams and pin Rows 3 and 4, RST, and stitch. Press open.

Repeat with final two sections, stitch and press open.

Trim and square your block to 12 ½ inches.

River Heritage Month 6 Port and Starboard Printer-FriendlyImage of Vehicle on Ferry


Share your block using #riverheritage on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Month Seven will be posted on July 9, 2018 at www.blog.creativebeestudios.com.