Home > 2011 Posts, About Dave > Rocks and Shoals

Rocks and Shoals

Dave the WriterMost ships and crews lost at sea are in sight of land. Or, rather, where land would have been visible in good weather.

To even lubberly souls, the term ‘rocks’ is clear: something much harder than a ship that sticks out of the water or juts up enough to reach the hull. Shoals are a relatively smooth but stony sea bed just under the surface. Tides—especially Pacific tides—compound the challenge for sailors who must navigate near rocks and shoals.

For military sailors, there is also another, legal meaning of ‘rocks and shoals’. And, to some who are excessively rowdy ashore, that definition can be almost as distressing as the physical one. Rocks and Shoals is Navy shorthand for the seventy Articles for the Government of the United States Navy that were published in 1930. They cover everything from personal appearance to cursing to mutiny.

Of course, these rules have since been revised and wildly expanded so as not to make the civilian morons in Washington feel as bad as they should about their own work. But, I find it refreshing now and then to reread some of that straightforward 1930s wording.

Take Article 1 for example. In part, it says,

commanders … are required to show in themselves a good example of virtue, honor, patriotism, and subordination; to be vigilant in inspecting the conduct of all persons who are placed under their command; to guard against and suppress all dissolute and immoral practices; and to correct, according to the laws and regulations of the Navy, all persons who are guilty of them ….”  

Talk about the word-by-word polar opposite of today’s rules for politicians and their slithery henchpeople. Here’s hoping that 2012 brings them all they secretly wish for us. Twice, actually.

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