The Lubber's Mark
The following is an excerpt from 'The Cruise of The Nona' by Hilaire Belloc
"With the afternoon the wind freshened, and, as it freshened, went right round by north to a little east of north, whence it blew steadily enough, and gave us about four knots at the fall of darkness. My companion had never held a tiller, but he was a very expert at all sports, and I thought to myself, "I will see whether so simple a thing as steering a boat cannot be easily accomplished by a man at the first trial. Then shall I be able to get what I badly need, which is a little sleep." So I lighted the binnacle lamp, I explained to him the function of the lubber's mark, and gave him the point on the card which he was to keep on the lubber's mark. I said to him: "If it comes on to blow a little harder and the card swings, and the boat tends to yaw a little, don't mind that, but keep the lubber's mark on the average at the point I have given and that will be enough." He said that he understood all these things, and for the first time in his life set himself to steer a ship. But, I, for my part, went down to sleep, confident that if it should come on to blow at all hard it would awaken me there and then, so no great harm could come.
I slept for many hours, when suddenly I was awakened by my companion giving a loud cry of astonishment. I tumbled up on deck quickly, and I found him pointing at a light which shone brilliantly upon the horizon, dead on our bow. He said to me: "Look, look, there is a light dead ahead!" I said to him: "Of course!" and that it was the light of Strumble Head, outside Fishguard; and I asked him what he would have expected. I had given him his course, and naturally, he had lifted the light in good time. But he, for his part, could not get over it; he thought it a sort of miracle. He kept on repeating his amazement that so clumsy a thing as a tiller and a rudder, and so coarse an instrument as an old battered binnacle compass should thread the eye of a needle like that; it was out of all his experience. It is true that he had not been disturbed by and current or strong tide, but even had he been so, he was bound on a clear night to make that light not much off either bow. That things should turn out so gave him quite a new conception of the sea and the sailing of it, and he talked henceforward as though it were his home.
This corroboration by experience of a truth emphatically told, but at first not believed, has a powerful effect upon the mind. I suppose that of all the instruments of conviction it is the most powerful. It is an example of the fundamental doctrine that truth confirms truth. If you say to a man a thing which he thinks nonsensical, impossible, a mere jingle of words, although you yourself know it very well by experience to be true; when later he finds this thing by his own experience to be actual and living, then is truth confirmed in his mind: it stands out much more strongly than it would had he never doubted."
Posted by J.B.Mincher at 3:39 PM