Dead Straight

I once took the helm of a giant ship.

Must be about fifteen or sixteen years ago, I took the wheel of the four-hundred-eight foot-long MV Matanuska, of the Alaska Marine Highway fleet.

We were in Frederick Sound, between Kupreanof and Admiralty Islands, in the north-east Pacific.
My friends worked for the Marine Highway, and invited me to steer the iron and diesel-choking leviathan (so long as we were at least a mile from land).
I relieved a twenty-five year-old Tlingit girl from the helm.

My friend, my Master (whose name I will not mention, to protect the innocent) told me: "Don't look at the land. Don't look at the water. Don't get distracted. Just look at the compass. Just keep the compass on my mark. My mark is your only concern. My mark is your life. Only move the wheel to find my mark. Do not move the wheel except to find my mark. Do not take your eyes off my mark. My mark is everything."

I did as I was told.
I held the wheel. 
Steady.
Tight.

Tight.

And the compass began slowly to drift away from my Master's mark.

I almost imperceptibly adjusted the wheel to compensate and rediscover his mark.

I found his mark.
And passed his mark.
I slightly shifted the wheel back the other way.

I found his mark.
And passed his mark.
I slightly shifted the wheel back the other way.

I found his mark.
And passed his mark.
I slightly shifted the wheel back the other way.

The monstrous chugging whale-truck began to zig-zag, back and forth across the ocean.

The twenty-five year-old Tlingit woman relieved me and found our Master's mark.

The four-hundred-eight feet immediately fell in line with her hand and remained true.
Dead straight.

Dead straight.

Small adjustments can have profound effects.
Probably they can make people sea-sick.

Be a good pilot. 
Don't get distracted.
Try to hold the mark as best you can.
Trust the steady hand of a twenty-five year-old Tlingit woman.