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Course Descriptions ...

  • America's Boating Course and Boat Handling are open to the public.

  • All other courses are for members only.

  • Contact our Education Officer for additional information or assistance.

America's Boating Course

Provides you with basic boating knowledge that will allow you to have a safe boating experience. Become a more competent boater, learn from the best, and enroll in America's Boating Course today.  Offered as an 8-hour classroom course that is designed to inform you of all the elements of safe boating. Successful completion meets the boating education requirements for operator permits in our state.

Many boat insurance companies will offer discounts on boating insurance to boaters who successfully complete America's Boating Course.

What's included?
  • Types of boats and their uses

  • Boating laws, both federal and state

  • Safety equipment, both required and recommended

  • Finding your way, and adverse conditions

  • Communications

  • Trailering, knots and lines, and water sports topics

ABC Course
Boat Handling

Build boating confidence and competence for safe and fun on-the-water adventures.  Boat Handling  provides a foundation of knowledge and skills in boat handling and maneuvering, boat operation, skipper's responsibilities, and boating techniques that will advance your boating enjoyment.

What's included?

For both sail and power boats, Boat Handling covers a wide range of topics, covered in the following seminars:

  • Rules of the Road:  A Practical Approach

  • Confidence in Docking and Undocking:  Slow-Speed Maneuvering

  • Boating with Confidence:  Handling Your Boat Underway

  • Anchoring with Assurance:  Don't Get Carried Away

  • Emergencies on Board:  Preparation to Handle Common Problems

  • Knots and Line Handling:  The Knots You Need to Know

Marine Navigation

Learn the essentials of safe coastal and inland navigation using basic GPS in conjunction with charts and other marine data.  The Piloting course teaches you how to use the GPS along with traditional dead reckoning techniques for planning and laying out safe routes, as well as ensuring that you are on-course while underway.

What's Included?

  • Charts and their interpretation

  • Landmarks and navigation aids (buoys, daymarks, lights, etc.)

  • Plotting courses and determining direction and distance

  • The mariner's compass and converting between True and Magnetic

  • Use of GPS - basic GPS displays and information they provide, setting up waypoints and routes, staying on a GPS course

  • Pre-planning courses and entering them into the GPS

  • Monitoring progress and determining position by both GPS and traditional techniques such as bearings and dead reckoning

  • The "Seaman's Eye" - simple skills for checking that one is on course


Ten classes of two hours each normally are scheduled for presentation of this course. In addition the students have seven days to complete an open book exam.

Advanced Marine Navigation

Do you want to navigate unfamiliar waters in limited visibility or take an extended cruise with confidence?  Learn to use radar, chart plotters, AIS and other electronic tools to supplement basic GPS navigation.  Obtain a thorough understanding of piloting techniques in a variety of coastal tide, current and wind conditions.

What's Included?

  • Advanced positioning techniques, such as advancing a line of position to obtain a running fix

  • Use a variety of electronic tools:  radar, depth sounders, autopilots, chart plotters, laptop computer software, and more

  • Hazard avoidance techniques using electronics (e.g., avoidance waypoints or safety zones in GPS)

  • Collision avoidance using radar, GPS, and AIS

  • Working with tide and current data to determine clearances, depth of water and effects of current

  • Piloting in various wind and current conditions

  • The “Seaman’s Eye” – simple skills for checking that one is on course

  • Ten classes of two hours each normally are scheduled for presentation of this course. In addition the students have seven days to complete an open book exam.

Advanced Piloting
Engine Maintenance
Engine Maintenance

Every skipper needs to understand the fundamentals of gas and diesel engines to perform basic maintenance and diagnose problems under way.  Learn about transmissions, propellers, and steering.  Get the knowledge you need to keep your boat in tiptop shape.

What's Included?

  • Basics of engine layout and operation for gasoline inboards, outboards and diesels

  • Basic mechanical systems such as drive systems (propellers), steering systems, and engine controls

  • Repairs that do-it-yourselfers can perform

  • Diagnose problems that might be beyond your ability to fix

  • How to share information with your mechanic so the right repairs get performed

Engine Maintenance can be taught in ten two-hour sessions including time for review and the multiple choice closed book exam.

Offshore Navigation

What happens when your GPS fails? Have fun and satisfy your curiosity about boating in the days before electronics in the Junior Navigation course.  Learn to use a marine sextant to take sights on celestial objects such as the sun.  Even if you are not traveling long distances off shore, remember that GPS is not infallible, nor always available.  Be confident when no aids to navigation or land objects are in sight.

In Junior Navigation, you will continue to use GPS as the primary position sensor as you learned in Piloting and Advanced Piloting, but with celestial navigation as your backup technique. Because terrestrial landmarks are no longer visible to the offshore navigator, you will learn to use a marine sextant and the sun as your reference point, derive a line of position, and develop a running fix. You will also learn to calculate your latitude from a noon sight on the sun.

What's Included?

  • Determining precise time

  • Using the Nautical Almanac

  • Taking sextant sights of the sun

  • Reducing sights to establish lines of position

  • Determining latitude from a noon sight

  • Using special charts and plotting sheets for offshore navigation

  • Setting offshore navigational routines for recreational craft


The course will take approximately 14 weeks to complete and you will have two additional weeks to complete an open book exam.

Jr Navigation
Celestial Navigation

Learn navigation using all the celestial bodies! Use navigational software tools to plan and execute an offshore voyage. In the event of a loss of electronics on board, you’ll be glad you took this course and developed the necessary backup skills for an offshore voyage. Even if you have no plans to travel offshore, you will be able to impress your boating friends with your depth of celestial knowledge.

The Navigation course will teach you how to use the moon, planets, and stars to determine your position at morning and evening twilight to supplement daytime sights on the sun, moon, and bright planets. You will also get access to and use navigational software tools that can be used to plan and execute any voyage.

What's Included?

  • An overview of how the celestial bodies in the sky appear to us on earth

  • Finding local mean time of solar and lunar phenomena and converting these times to watch time

  • Reducing sights of the moon, stars, and planets by the Law of Cosines and Nautical Almanac Sight Reduction methods, along with sight data averaging

  • Achieving acceptable 2- and 3-body fixes, using both traditional and electronic tools

  • Determining your latitude from a sight on Polaris, the north star

  • Provisioning an emergency navigation kit and constructing emergency plotting sheets

  • Using navigational software to plan an offshore voyage (Visual Passage Planner 2) and execute a voyage (OpenCPN)


As with the Junior Navigation course, you will learn to prepare a sight folder that documents your positioning skills using sights taken on the moon, planets and stars. The course will take approximately 10 weeks and, you will have two additional weeks to complete an open book exam.

Electronic Navigation

Overwhelmed by all those functions on your GPS or chart plotter?  Want to use your tablet or smartphone to help you navigate on your boat?  Interested in using a desktop computer program to plan your cruise and then copy that information to your GPS?  This course covers the topics you need and want to know.

What's Included?
  • Navigating by establishing waypoints and routes

  • Running the planned courses

  • Electronic charting software for the desktop computer

  • Tablet and smartphone apps that provide the electronic navigation function at the helm

  • Hands-on exercises on a PC that simulates GPS functions

  • Using charting software and a chart plotter emulator

  • Overview of the Automatic Identification System (AIS)


This course is usually completed in eight two-hour sessions, followed by an exam.

Electronic Navigation
Marine Electrical Systems
Marine Electrical Systems

Learn the ins and outs of your boat's electrical systems.  Gain the confidence to tackle direct current, shore power and communications installations.  Ensure the safety and reliability of your vessel; enroll in this course today.

What's Included?
  • Boat electrical wiring practices

  • Direct Current (DC) power

  • Alternating Current (AC) power

  • Galvanic and stray current corrosion

  • Lightning protection

  • Troubleshooting electrical problems

  • How to use a multimeter

  • How to solder and crimp

  • How to read electrical wiring diagrams


This course is usually completed in eight two-hour sessions, followed by an exam.

Marine Communication Systems
Marine Communication  Systems

Become a better boater by mastering your radio in the digital age.  Learn voice communications and the use of digital selective calling (DSC), and get the skills you need for a day sail or offshore adventure.  Learn from experienced instructors in an interactive classroom environment. 

What's Included?
  • Radio history, frequencies, and VHF communications

  • Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS)

  • FCC rules and radio licenses

  • Radiotelephone operating procedures

  • Long-range radio communications

  • Radio maintenance

  • Other marine communications systems


This course is usually completed in seven two-hour sessions, followed by an exam.


For boaters, knowing the forecast isn't enough; you need to understand its impact on you and your boat.  Gain the knowledge and confidence to venture out on the water.  Be a responsible skipper, protect your friends and family and take this course today. 

What's Included?
  • How weather systems form, behave, and move

  • Where to get weather reports and forecasts on the Internet

  • Using full color photographs and drawings to understand weather in the United States

  • Using Daily Weather Maps - learning aids with a compete explanation of map symbols designed to develop weather map reading and analysis skills

  • Understanding NOAA’s Sky Watcher Chart - a reference to assist in identifying cloud types.


The Weather Course is designed to be conducted over ten two-hour sessions including time for review and the multiple choice closed book exam.


Learn about basic sailboat designs and nomenclature, rigging, and safety from experienced USPS sailors.  Then tackle the physical aspects of sailing forces and techniques, sail applications, marlinespike, helmsmanship, and handling of difficult sailing conditions.  This course will benefit non-sailors as well as novice and experienced sailors.

What's Included?
  • Types of sailboat rigs and hull shapes, including sail configurations and standing rigging

  • Wind and water forces affecting sailboat stability and balance

  • Sail shape and tuning the standing rig

  • Steering and helmsmanship

  • Sailing upwind, downwind and spinnaker handling   

  • Heavy weather sailing and storm conditions

  • Boat operations including docking, anchoring and safety issues

Course completion is usually accomplished in nine two-hour sessions, followed by a closed book exam.

Cruising and Cruise Planning

 Want to take a "road trip" on the water?  Gain the confidence and practical skills needed to explore ports and coves for a weekend or weeks at a time.  Take Cruising and Cruise Planning and join your fellow boaters for raft-ups and rendezvous up the river, down the bay, and along the coast.

What's Included?
  • Cruise preparation and planning

  • Boat and equipment

  • Anchors and anchoring

  • Security

  • Chartering

  • Cruising outside the United States

  • Crew and provisioning

  • Voyage management

  • Communications

  • Navigation

  • Weather

  • Emergencies

The Cruising and Cruise Planning Course is comfortably taught in eight two-hour sessions including time for review and the multiple choice closed book exam.

Cruise Planning
Instructor Development

 Unlike other USPS courses, the Instructor Development course is not designed to enhance boating skills. Rather, its emphasis is on enhancing presentation techniques and instructor skills. The course has been designed to demonstrate interactive teaching methods focused on adult learning.


Students are required to prepare lesson plans and give three presentations to their peers utilizing a variety of teaching aids and presentation skills. The instructor may assign a topic for these presentations or you may use material and PowerPoint slides from existing USPS courses, and they may build on one another.

Instructor Development
Radar for Boaters

The course covers the different types of radar equipment, their capabilities and limitations, as well as their features and how they apply to students’ needs. It covers what you need to know about radar, from how and where to mount the antenna to how to interpret the displays, so you can use your radar for collision avoidance and for navigational purposes.

Students attending this course should have completed America’s Boating Course (or another NASBLA-approved boating safety course), preferably have completed Marine Navigation and Advanced Marine Navigation (currently Piloting and Advanced Piloting), and have boating experience. Radar for Boaters is a required course for BOC-Offshore Navigation certification.

Radar for Boaters
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