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For Boaters, By Boaters®

Catalog of All Courses

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:
  • Introduction to electronic navigation using paper charts and chart plotters
  • Communications
  • Trailering, knots and lines, and water sports
  • Dealing with adverse conditions
  • Finding your way
  • Safety equipment – required and recommended
  • Types of boats and their uses
  • Boating laws – federal and state
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:
  • Adult CPR skills
  • Child CPR skills
  • Safe and correct AED usage
  • 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:
  • How to share waterways
  • Review of all pertinent regulations
  • 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 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:
  • Plotting Courses and Determining Direction and Distance
  • Navigational Aids
  • Traditional Techniques such as Bearings and Dead Reckoning
  • Monitoring progress and determining position on the water
  • Preplanning Safe Courses
  • Converting between True and Magnetic
  • Using a Compass
  • Using GPS
  • Charts & Their Interpretation
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:
  • When Electronics Fail
  • Piloting with Tides, Winds & Currents
  • Digital Charts
  • Collision Avoidance
  • Plotters
  • GPS
  • Electronic Navigation
  • Bearings
  • Positioning
  • Radar
Prerequisite course:


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

Advanced Piloting


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

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

Prerequisite course:

Junior Navigation

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
  • Boat & Needed Equipment
  • Outside the United States
  • Crew Selection & Provisions
  • Voyage Management & Navigation
  • Weather & Emergencies
  • 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:
  • Navigating by establishing waypoints and routes
  • Running the planned courses
  • Examining electronic charting software for the desktop computer
  • Creating waypoints and routes on the desktop
  • Downloading to the onboard unit.
  • Special attention is paid to apps for tablets and smartphones that provide the electronic navigation function at the helm, for relatively little cost.
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
  • Emergency Repairs Afloat
  • Controls, Instruments, Alarms
  • Inboard Engine Drive Systems
  • Spark Ignition & Diesel Engine Components & Routine Maintenance
  • Basic Engine Principles
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:
  • High Seas Radio (MF / HF and Satellite Communications)
  • Radio History and Frequency Spectrum
  • Definitions of Radio Circuits
  • Global Maritime Distress and Safety Systems (GMDSS)
  • FCC Rules and Regulations
  • Troubleshooting of Radio Systems
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
  • Galvanic and Stray Current Corrosion
  • Lightning Protection
  • Troubleshooting
  • Alternating Current Power
  • Direct Current Power
  • Boat Electrical Wiring Practices

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

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