ON YOUR BEAMS END
When you are either hard-up or in a bad situation you are said to be ‘on your beams end’ a nautical phrase that dates back to the 18th century. The beams referred to are the horizontal transverse timers of a ship. Subsequently if a ship is said to be on its beams end the beams will be touching the water and it is in imminent danger of capsizing.
One of the earliest recorded citation comes from a 1773 issue of The Gentleman’s Magazine 'The gust laid her upon her beam-ends.'
By the early 19th century the phrase was being used figuratively for instance in ‘The King’s Own’ Captain Marrytat 1830: 'Our first-lieutenant was..on his beam-ends, with the rheumatiz.'