Please point out where ‘abaft the beam’ is on this picture. I cannot find it.

adv. Toward the stern.
prep. Toward the stern from

Black and white picture of a boat with multiple annotations

  • Abaft the beam (Naut.) - in an arc of the horizon between a line that crosses the ship at right angles, or in the direction of her beams, and that point of the compass toward which her stern is directed. – FumbleFingers Sep 22 '18 at 13:24
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    I disagree that this is not about the English language. I believe that it is. – Nigel J Sep 22 '18 at 15:20
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    The poster obviously did enough research into the phrase "abaft the beam" to find a diagram of a boat that includes labels for both abaft and beam. As a non-nautical person, I share the poster's confusion about what exactly "abaft the beam" refers to, despite the labeled diagram and despite the highly technical definition that FumbleFingers cites in a comment above. Also, as Nigel J observes, this is certainly a question about the English language—specifically, a question about what a specific term means. – Sven Yargs Sep 23 '18 at 22:55

Here is a another picture which points out all locations on a boat and which indicates where 'abaft the beam' refers to, whether port or starboard beam.

I have highlighted the relevant terms for you, in red.

'Abaft' is formed (from 'baft') within English by derivation, says the OED

'Baft' : 1. Of place: Behind, in the rear; in later usage only Nautical: Astern, aft, abaft. arch.

enter image description here

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    Worth noting that baft itself is also a compound, from the Old English precursors of by and aft (be+æftan). So abaft is really ‘on by aft’. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 23 '18 at 18:58

As I understand it, just looking up the nautical descriptive terms, "abaft the beam" would apparently be just behind (toward the rear of) the widest part of the ship at center. From your picture diagram that would represent the square outlined area just behind the middle of the boat.

"Abaft" generally means "behind or toward the rear" and the "beam" of a boat is generally the "width at the widest place". From what I gather, if "starboard" or "port" is also used describing the "beam" position, that means to about 45 degrees behind the widest part of the ship on the right side or on the left side respectively.




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    I've heard the term "abeam" used many times in the context of boating without ever being concerned about what part of the boat is widest. It's simply a direction 90 degrees from dead ahead or dead astern. If it makes a difference what part of the boat you measure the direction from, you specify which part of the boat to use. Here's an example from the sailboat racing rules: "One boat is clear astern of another when her hull and equipment in normal position are behind a line abeam from the aftermost point of the other boat's hull and equipment in normal position." – David K Sep 22 '18 at 22:19
  • @BrianDrummond The beam is the width of the hull at its widest point. There is no question about that. A beam can also be a structural member joining the two sides of the hull. So a beam measures the width of the hull and it points in the abeam direction. One root word, three distinct (but related) meanings. This answer correctly explains one meaning; the question is about one of the others. – David K Sep 23 '18 at 17:59

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