Trust the Compass


As a teenager, I spent nearly every summer weekend driving a tour boat filled with people who traveled from all over the country to scuba dive in Lake Superior.

My family owned a large boat and collectively we worked to take people to various shipwrecks on the lake during the summer months.

I never minded piloting the boat, as it provided me with experience and gave me confidence to handle responsibility at an early age.

I always felt in control, despite the wind, rain and waves. It was only fog that caused me concern and doubt. Fog on Lake Superior was thick and made it nearly impossible to see.

Fog on the lake was like a gray curtain hanging off the bow of the boat. You were lucky to be able to see 25 feet in front of the boat.

Out boat didn’t have the luxury of radar, which is used by most ships now to provide a safe guidance through fog. Our boat was only equipped with a large floating compass mounted right in front of the steering wheel.

The compass was always there, steady and true. I looked at it often and knew my headings to each location by heart. I never doubted the compass when I could see clearly–but when the fog rolled in, so did my doubts and fear.

When it was foggy, I was reminded by my father to “Trust the Compass.” As easy as that sounds, it was surprisingly easy to “not” trust the compass as I drove into the unknown.

Fog easily changed my perception and played tricks on my mind. In fog I had to drive slower, so it took much longer to get to where I was heading.

The slow pace and seemingly endless journey staring at the gray curtain created doubt in the compass.

A compass is designed to provide direction, so questioning it really doesn’t make sense. Even though I knew to trust it, I sometimes questioned what I knew to be true.

On a few occasions my lack of trust got us into trouble. Near misses of rocks, piers and other ships is startling when they appear in an instant out of the fog.

On one ill-advised course change, my navigation got our boat stranded on a sidebar. After being swiftly removed of my command, my dad freed us from the sandbar and I was again reminded in a slightly sterner voice to trust the compass.

That was the last time I chose not to trust the compass.

I’m sharing this story as it reminds me a bit of this past year. The pandemic being the fog, with its unknowing clarity and certainty.

With fear and stress during the pandemic I wonder if we have forgotten to follow the compass. It appears to me we are doubting more these days. Is it possible we have lost trust in each other?

I’m sure we all have witnessed neighbors, friends and families split on how best to handle the pandemic or even over debates about politics. I hope as time passes we realize that is is ok to have differing opinions but it’s not ok to lose trust in each other.

When I became Police Chief in Carmel, on of my pillars was that of Trust. The other two are Respect and Compassion. Each of these pillars are equally important to support positive relationships.

Without a solid foundation supported by Trust, the other pillars also begin to crumble, and we lose important relationships.

As we cut through the fog of this pandemic and the conclusion comes into focus, I hope we all can rebuild Trust that has been damaged over the past year and focus again on building Positive Relationships.

Let’s remember to “trust the compass” that guided us prior to the pandemic. We will get through this together.

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Paul Tomasi

Paul Tomasi is a native of Marquette. At the age of 18, he moved from Michigan to Fort Ord, California, where he enlisted in the U.S. Army. After a three-year enlistment, he moved back to Marquette to attend Northern Michigan University for a semester before returning to California to complete his studies. Paul has a B.S. in Liberal Studies and a M.S. in Public Safety Administration. In 2006, Paul was hired by the City of Citrus Heights in Sacramento and worked for two years before being hired as a Sergeant with the Carmel-by-the-Sea Police Department in 2008. Paul was promoted to Commander, January 2013 and Director of Public Safety/Chief of Police in January 2017. Paul currently lives in California with his wife Amy and their three sons, Dominic, Joseph and Ryan.


  1. Freeman Bagnall (originally from the Sault.) on May 17, 2021 at 9:28 am

    Quite a little wisdom in this short article.

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