I recently read Nic Fields' 'Ancient Greek Warship: 500-322 BC'. In it, he makes the claim:
Control of the seas in the modern sense was impossible for a trireme navy, and sea power, therefore, had distinct limitations. Nevertheless, it did allow a maritime state to strike at very great distances; Athens could reach as far as southern Italy, Cyprus or Egypt, the last location being some 1,400km (870 miles) from Peiraieus. Much closer to home, Athens could raid up and down the Peloponnesian coast.
I interpret this as meaning a Mahanian-style "control of the seas", though it does not necessarily have to mean that. However, I think Mr Fields is stretching for a definition which is meaningless for Athens and Her Allies. Please note that Mr Fields does not define what exactly he means by 'modern sense' 'control of the seas', hence my interpretation of this as completely trying to forbid the enemy from taking to say, as for example the British tried, not necessarily succeeded, in the Napoleonic Wars against the Franco-Spanish alliance.
In no place, for example, while reading Thucydides did I get the impression that a Clausewitzian 'Total War' was what the Athenians had in mind. I have seen interpretations of the Athenian refusal to support Corcyra with full strength in the beginning of the war, alongside with their willingness to allow Attica to be laid waste to, brought up as examples of endless (total) war (war for creating a total hegemony), but I am not entirely certain that holds up to scrutiny. And while Athenian sailors were not employed in any other field and could stay at sea for a long time, I imagine they would have had regular breaks during a year if only to avoid the winter seas (or, at least, avoided very major expeditions in those time periods) (no proof of this except vague recollections from Mr Hale's book on the Athenian navy).
However, this hasn't really brought me closer to my question. What I am trying to say here is that I don't think the Athenians tried to ever totally "control the sea" because that idea did not come to them as an existential strategy. While the creation of outstanding forts near Spartan properties was common enough, this never seemed to be a permanent goal as opposed to trying to gain a short-term benefit (for leverage in later negotiations -- especially true with the captured hoplites after Sphacteria, etc).
So, the question: Is it right to discuss 'control of the seas' in the 'modern sense' as an Athenian objective in the Peloponnesian War and why?
Note that I have steered away from the reasoning of whether 'control of the sea' was impossible as it has secondary relevance, and because it is also far more opinion-based. If someone, however, can utilise factual information to prove or disprove this, you are welcome to add this to your answer.