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For Boaters, By Boaters®

Catalog of All Courses

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America's Boating Course

America's Boating Course provides you with basic boating knowledge to decide what type and size boat you need, what to do when meeting another boat in a crowded waterway, and how to recognize and handle hazards.

Many boat insurance companies will offer discounts on boating insurance to boaters who successfully complete America's Boating Course. This course also provides a sound basis for continuing your recreational boating education.

Topics include:
  • Trailering, knots and lines, and water sports
  • Introduction to electronic navigation using paper charts and chart plotters
  • Safety equipment – required and recommended
  • Finding your way
  • Boating laws – federal and state
  • Types of boats and their uses
  • Communications
  • Dealing with adverse conditions
CPR/AED Certification

Learn how to perform CPR and use an Automated External Defibrillator – essential first aid skills that can help save a life.

Passing this class grants an American Heart Association CPR/AED certification for adult, child, and infant care, and for first aid. Certification is valid for two years.

Topics include:
  • Safe and correct AED usage
  • Adult CPR skills
  • Child CPR skills
  • Infant CPR skills
  • First aid basics and skills
Safe Boating in Canada (PCOC)

This is the place to learn the laws and rules for safe boating in Canada. Successful completion of the class awards a Pleasure Craft Operator Card (PCOC) that should always be aboard and accessible when traveling in Canadian waters.

Topics include:
  • Review of all pertinent regulations
  • How to share waterways
  • Responses to emergency situations
  • Minimum safety equipment requirements aboard your boat
  • The Canadian Buoy system
Advanced Grade
Boat Handling

Boat Handling is the first of the Advanced Grade courses and presents material applicable to both power and sail, covering such topics as the construction and functioning of a boat, the skipper’s responsibilities, preparing the boat for use, handling and maneuvering a vessel under various conditions in close quarters and on the open water, rules of the road, anchoring, emergencies, and marlinespike/basic knots.


This course is presented as six separate units, which can be taken in any order. Each unit is available in our Seminars catalog.

Topics include:
  • 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
Piloting

Piloting is the second of the Advanced Grade courses and is the first course in the sequence of USPS courses on navigation, covering the basics of coastal and inland navigation. It is required for the Boat Operator's Certificate at the Coastal Navigation level. It introduces OpenCPN, Marine Navigation software.

This course focuses on navigation as it is done on recreational boats today and embraces GPS as a primary navigation tool while covering enough of traditional techniques so the student will be able to find his/her way even if GPS fails. The course includes many in-class exercises, developing the student’s skills through hands-on practice and learning.

Topics include:
  • Charts & Their Interpretation
  • Navigational Aids
  • Plotting Courses and Determining Direction and Distance
  • Using a Compass
  • Converting between True and Magnetic
  • Using GPS
  • Preplanning Safe Courses
  • Monitoring progress and determining position on the water
  • Traditional Techniques such as Bearings and Dead Reckoning
Advanced Piloting

Advanced Piloting is the third of our Advanced Grade courses. It continues to build coastal and inland navigation skill, allowing the student to take on more challenging conditions – unfamiliar waters, limited visibility, and extended cruises. GPS is embraced as a primary navigation tool while adding radar, chart plotters, and other electronic navigation tools. As with Piloting, the course includes many in-class exercises, advancing the student’s skills through hands-on practice and learning.

Topics include:
  • Plotters
  • Electronic Navigation
  • GPS
  • Digital Charts
  • Radar
  • Positioning
  • Collision Avoidance
  • When Electronics Fail
  • Piloting with Tides, Winds & Currents
  • Bearings
Prerequisite course:

Piloting

Junior Navigation

This is the first in a two-part program of study in offshore (open coast) navigation. In Junior Navigation, students will continue to use GPS as the primary position sensor. However, the offshore environment poses many different elements for consideration by the Navigator. Ocean currents, wind, and sea state all affect a vessel's performance over the longer passages.

In the Junior Navigation course, students will learn to use celestial objects such as the sun as reference points. The course begins with the study of celestial navigation, teaching the student to take sights on the sun with a marine sextant and derive a line of position from that observation.

Topics include:
  • Use of the Nautical Almanac
  • Precise time determination
  • Taking sextant sights of the sun
  • Reducing sights to establish lines of position
  • Use of charts and plotting sheets for offshore navigation
  • Offshore navigational routines for recreational craft
  • Passage planning
Prerequisite course:

Advanced Piloting

Navigation

After Junior Navigation, this course is the second part of the study of offshore navigation, further developing the student's understanding of celestial navigation theory.

This course deals with learning celestial positioning using other bodies, in addition to positioning using the sun (covered in the Junior Navigation course). This course also deals with electronic software tools that can be used to plan and execute an offshore voyage. You will first learn to reduce these sights by the Law of Cosines method. Later in the course, you will learn an additional method of sight reduction, the Nautical Almanac Sight Reduction (NASR) method. You will also learn about sight planning techniques. With that knowledge, you will have the tools to take sights and complete your Navigation Sight Folder.

The course includes a chapter on using a software-based voyage planning tool and a navigation program. The final chapter of the course contains a Practice Cruise that ties the separate elements of the course together.

Topics include:
  • Electronics and Software for Offshore Navigation
  • Plan an offshore voyage using both electronic and celestial positioning
  • Sight Reduction and Plotting by the Nautical Almanac
  • Sight Reduction Method Sight Planning
  • Sight Reduction and Plotting by Law of Cosines
  • Emergency Navigation
  • Overview of the celestial bodies in the sky
  • Find local mean time of solar and lunar phenomena and convert to zone time
  • Taking sights and finding observed altitude, local hour, angle and declination
Student requirements:

Students will need possession of a computer running Windows with the ability to download Navigation software.

Prerequisite course:

Junior Navigation

Elective
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.

Topics include:
  • Chartering
  • Weather & Emergencies
  • Voyage Management & Navigation
  • Crew Selection & Provisions
  • Outside the United States
  • Boat & Needed Equipment
  • Cruise Preparation and Planning
Electronic Navigation

Electronic Navigation introduces GPS technology from the most basic receiver to chart plotter systems for navigation on board. Despite differences among the various manufacturers' offerings, a thorough discussion of various features is included.

Students should be familiar with basic charting concepts such as latitude, longitude, the compass, course plotting, and time/distance calculation, to get the most out of the course.

Topics include:
  • Special attention is paid to apps for tablets and smartphones that provide the electronic navigation function at the helm, for relatively little cost.
  • Downloading to the onboard unit.
  • Creating waypoints and routes on the desktop
  • Examining electronic charting software for the desktop computer
  • Running the planned courses
  • Navigating by establishing waypoints and routes
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.

Topics include:
  • Outboard Engines and Stern Drives
  • Basic Engine Principles
  • Spark Ignition & Diesel Engine Components & Routine Maintenance
  • Inboard Engine Drive Systems
  • Controls, Instruments, Alarms
  • Emergency Repairs Afloat
Instructor Development

This course is meant to prepare our members for classroom and meeting presentations. Our educational program is highly regarded in the recreational boating community. The class's emphasis is on enhancing presentational skills and is designed to demonstrate interactive teaching methods focused on adult learning.

This course is free to all USPS members!

Marine Communication Systems

Marine Communications Systems is an in-depth review of those systems available to the recreational boater. Radio history and spectrum definitions are presented along with definitions of radio circuits that the student should learn, to choose the best communications method for his/her situation. Chapters cover Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), FCC Rules and regulations, operating procedures (both voice and digital messaging are covered), High Seas radio (MF/HF and satellite communications), and other systems such as Family Radio Service transceivers. There is also a chapter on troubleshooting of radio installations.

Topics include:
  • Global Maritime Distress and Safety Systems (GMDSS)
  • Definitions of Radio Circuits
  • FCC Rules and Regulations
  • High Seas Radio (MF / HF and Satellite Communications)
  • Troubleshooting of Radio Systems
  • Radio History and Frequency Spectrum
Marine Electrical Systems

The Marine Electrical Systems course is presented in seven chapters that start with an explanation of what electricity is, followed by discussions on boat electrical wiring, DC and AC electrical systems, galvanic and stray current corrosion, lightning protection, and ends with troubleshooting of boat electrical problems.

The course includes detailed instructions on how to use a multimeter, how to solder and crimp electrical wiring circuits, and how to read electrical wiring diagrams. This course can be used as a reference guide for anyone interested in properly maintaining their boat electrical system.

Topics include:
  • Properties of Electricity
  • Boat Electrical Wiring Practices
  • Troubleshooting
  • Lightning Protection
  • Galvanic and Stray Current Corrosion
  • Alternating Current Power
  • Direct Current Power
Sail

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.

Topics include:
  • Introduction to Heavy Weather Sailing
  • Basic Sailboat Designs and Nomenclature
  • Rigging
  • Safety and Sail Processes
  • Physical Aspects of Sailing Forces and Techniques
  • Sail Applications
  • Marlinespike
  • Helmsmanship
  • Handling of More Difficult Sailing Conditions
  • Navigation Rules
Weather

The safety and comfort of those who venture out-on-the water have always been weather dependent. In this course students will become keener observers of the weather, but weather observations only have meaning in the context of the basic principles of meteorology — the science of the atmosphere. The course focuses on how weather systems form, behave, move, and interact with one another and reflects the availability of all sorts of weather reports and forecasts on the Internet.

Topics include:
  • Weather Data Analysis
  • Tropical Weather
  • Thunderstorms and Tornados
  • Hydrological Cycles
  • Rain, Humidity, Fog
  • Storms & Fronts
  • Wind and Pressure
  • Effects of Heat and Cold