When we're offshore, we sail a compass course, and the waves are always trying to send us off course. A common mistake neophytes make is to fix their gaze on the compass and try to keep the boat right on the mark. But that's almost impossible; you end up overcorrecting because the lubber line only tells you where you are at that moment. Besides, it's boring to just stare at the compass. To keep the boat on course, line the headstay up with a cloud or a star-remember poet John Masefield's desire for "a star to steer her by"-then just glance at the compass every now and again for reference. The other secret to steering in waves is anticipating what the boat will do when a wave rolls under it. Part of this involves getting a feel for the boat you're on, but generally boats behave in the same way. Quartering seas-that is, seas that are coming from the aft corner of the boat-are the most difficult in which to steer. Try to keep the boat under the mast. When a wave comes and the boat rolls to leeward, it'll want to round up to weather. You'll feel it in the soles of your feet and from pressure on the wheel as the wave first starts to pick up the stern; this is the time to put the helm up, steering to leeward slightly. As the wave passes, the boat will come more upright, and the wave will try to pull the bow to leeward-you'll feel it; this is the time to put the helm down a bit. This can be trying at first, but with practice, it can be the most delightful rhythm, and it makes your watch pass quickly.