Yes, the straighten tool can be a little tricky. If you don't like it, you can always do it the old fashioned way. Go to Image>Rotate>Free Rotate Layer, and click OK when PSE asks if you want to convert the background to a layer, then grab a corner and turn. You can go to View>Grid to get some help with where straight is.
Thanks everyone for your help.
1 Windows 7, elements 8
2 several different aproches:
In full edit- effects>auto straighten and also auto straighten and crop
In guided edit - select straighten tool> draw a line parallel with top of picture> click done and crop.
3 The horizon parallel with the canvus with the same degrees of rotation as drawn.
4 Rotation is not enough or too much resulting with a horizon that is not parallel with the canvus. This is true even when the horizon is say at sea when there is a straight crisp horizon.
5 Yes, some times it works great. About 25% of the time it is as expected.
Thanks for the info. It doesn't seem that there's anything wrong with the program, in general, but might be something to do with the photo itself. I don't have PSE8, but if it has a Straighten tool on the toolbar, does manually straightening in the full edit window work OK?
Does the inconsistent result get resolved if you re-straighten on the same photo?