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Abaft vs Aft vs Astern

Abaft, aft and astern all are nautical terms meaning behind or to or at the rear (of).

What’s the difference?

Abaft and aft are applied to objects or their positions in a ship.

Abaft (opposed to afore) commonly suggests position relatively nearer the stern or rear part of the ship.

  • The swell was either just abaft or on the beam and at night you couldn’t see it.

Aft (opposed to forward) suggests position actually in that part of the ship to the rear of the midship section.

  • Getting into the aft cabin involves a slight step down from saloon level.
  • Clark shook hands with the pilot and walked aft to find his way off the ship.

Astern (opposed to ahead) chiefly implies position outside and to the rear of a ship.

  • The captain was astern, pretending he was sleeping.
  • At the crucial moment, the barge would not go astern.