“Maritime skill is like skill of other kinds, not a thing to be cultivated by the way or at chance times; it is jealous of any other pursuit which distracts the mind for an instant from itself.”1
These words from Pericles’ address to the Athenaeum echo through our profession as mariners, particularly as mariners with a mission to conduct prompt and sustained combat operations at sea. What naval officers do is a blend of science and art, a juxtaposition of the rigid machine and the fluid, dynamic environment of the ocean, and it is a perishable skill.
Perishable skills must be revisited, refreshed, and renewed if one hopes to attain and then retain proficiency. Among the principle skills a mariner must have is the ability to navigate safely in restricted and open waterways, including negotiating maritime traffic. Today, our predominant reference is the 1972 Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, commonly referred to as the ColRegs or Rules of the Road.2
1. Thucydides, vol. 1, trans. B. Jowett (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1881), 91.
2. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Coast Guard, Navigation Rules & Regulations Handbook (Paradise Cay Publications, 2015), i.