Boating Education

One of the key philosophies of USPS-America’s Boating Club is the self-education of its members, with a certified training program where successful students gain experience and then go on to teach other students to perpetuate boating knowledge. Our instructors bring many years of practical experience to the classroom using modern instructional techniques.

Experienced Squadron members provide classes in all boating topics throughout the year. They are open to sailors of all skill levels, members or non-members. These classes include instructor led courses, on-the-water and in the classroom, along with seminars and workshops on many boating topics.

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Descriptions of all our offerings:


To pre-register for any course

Offshore Navigation/ Junior Navigation (requires P and AP): This course will introduce you to using a sextant to calculate your geographic location based on sun sights. The skills developed include understanding local time, and using special charts and graphs to reduce sights, and determining latitude by noon sights. Tuesdays, Jan 21 – Mar 24 7pm-9pm COST: $90 (members only)

Electronic Navigation: This course covers using GPS, Chart plotters and chart plotting software in order to navigate with electronics. We will also look at using apps and incorporating AIS information into your decision making. Thursdays, Feb 6 – April 16 COST: $60 members/ $110 non members

America’s Boating Course: This course introduces basic boating skills in a weekend. The certificate that you receive upon passing the final exam is valid for receiving a California Boater’s Card. Friday, Feb 7: 6-9pm AND Saturday, Feb 8: 9am-5pm COST: $50 members/ $50 non members

VHF/DSC Seminar: Learn how to use your VHF properly, including hands on practice for calls and setting up your own VHF to use the DSC “Distress” button. Saturday, March 7 9am-12pm COST: $20, includes text and DSC simulator

Cruise Planning: Learn how to prepare a cruise, be it for a day, a week or around the world, including planning the route, provisioning, anchoring, and communications. Taught by experienced cruisers. Tuesdays April 21 – June 14, 7-9pm COST: $60 members/ $110 non members

Paddle Smart Seminar AND PADDLING EVENT: Join us for a seminar on paddling safety, bring your paddle craft to put in the water with your friends! Saturday, April 25: 9am-12 COST: $20, includes text

Mariner’s Compass Seminar: Learn the ins and outs of your compass onboard, including “swinging ship” to account for how your boat affects the compass itself. Saturday, May 23: 9am-12 COST: $20, includes text

America’s Boating Course: This course introduces basic boating skills in a weekend. The certificate that you receive upon passing the final exam is valid for receiving a California Boater’s Card. Friday, June 26: 6pm-9pm AND June 27: 9am-5pm COST: $50 members/ $50 non members

Rules of The Road Seminar: Master the rules of the road with hands on activities and practice on the finer points. Great as an introduction or review for experienced mariners. Saturday, Aug 22: 9am-12 COST: $20, includes text America’s Boating Club®

Partners in Command Seminar: This seminar is meant to get the conversation going between skippers and crew so that everyone feels comfortable and can act safely in an emergency. Saturday, Sep 12: 9am – 12 COST: $20, includes text

Celestial Navigation/ Navigation (requires P, AP and JN): This course builds on use of the sextant to add in navigation by the stars. Tuesdays, Sep 15 – Nov 17 COST: $150 (members only)

Boat Handling/ Seamanship: This course builds on the basics of ABC and covers Rules of the Road: A Practical Approach; Confidence in Docking and Undocking: Slow-Speed Maneuvering; Boating with Confidence: Handling Your Boat Under Way; Anchoring with Assurance: Don't Get Carried Away; Emergencies on Board: Preparation for Handling Common Problems; Knots and Line Handling: The Knots You Need to Know Thursdays, Sep 17 – Nov 19 COST: $60 members/ $110 non members

To pre-register for any course

Select a course or seminar to expand more information



Public or Member $50

This is an introductory Safe Boating course is taught as an 8 hr weekend Seminar or in five 2 hour evening sessions.

The most comprehensive in-person boating course available, America’s Boating Course gives you the skills you need to enjoy your time on the water and boat with confidence.

Our boater safety class meets most states’ certification requirements and is available in both Spanish and English.

Taking a boating class reduces your risk of accidents and injuries, saves you money on boat insurance, and qualifies you for a state boat license or operator certificate in most states.

Our in-person boating course includes an comprehensive introduction to boating, covering boat types, boat engines, boat selection and more.

You’ll learn about boating laws and regulations as well as boat registration and licensing. Get in-depth knowledge of boating safety equipment, and learn how to become a safe boater by learning the dos and don’ts of boater safety.

Gain practical knowledge of navigation, rules of the road, handling emergencies and mechanical problems on the water, the basics of towing and trailering, important information for hunters, anglers and water sports enthusiasts, and so much more.

For the best, most comprehensive boating education available, take America’s Boating Course with an expert instructor near you or take America’s Boating Course or one of our other online courses.

Member $90

2 Members sharing a book – $100

After taking America’s Boating Course online or in person, take Boat Handling to gain real-world boat handling and boating skills. You’ll boat with more confidence and feel more confident on the water.

Boat Handling gives you the boating skills you need to handle your boat like a pro — whether you’re at the ramp, at the dock or on the lake.

You’ll learn
    * Boat handling
    * Maneuvering
    * Anchoring
    * Tying basic knots
       And much more . . . 

This instructor-led course covers boat construction and function, your responsibilities as skipper, and getting your boat ready for launch. You’ll also learn boat handling and maneuvering skills that allow you to boat under various conditions in close quarters and on the open water.

You’ll get expert advice on the rules of the road, anchoring, emergencies, tying basic knots and much more.

Course materials include a downloadable or printed student manual as well as a downloadable U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Rules and Regulations Handbook. Some squadrons and clubs offer on-water Seamanship sessions, allowing you to put your newfound boating skills to the test.

Typically taught in 9 (2 hr sessions), followed by a test

Member – $90

2 Members sharing a book – $100

Non Member – $180

Students who need the WEEKEND NAVIGATOR BOOK add $25

Learn the essentials of safe coastal and inland navigation using basic GPS in conjunction with charts and other marine data. The Marine Navigation 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 (buiys, 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.

Typically taught in 9 (2 hr sessions), followed by a test.

Course Materials – $100

2 Members sharing Book – $120

Non-members (no exam) – $180

Students who need the WEEKEND NAVIGATOR book add $25

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 of 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

Typically taught in 10 classes (two hours each) normally are scheduled for presentation of this course. In addition the students have seven days to complete an open book exam.

Members only – $90

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 Offshore Navigation, you will continue to use GPS as the primary position sensor as you learned in Marine Navigation and Advanced Marine Navigation, 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
      • Determining latitude from a noon sight
      • Using special charts and plotting sheets for offshore navigation
      • Setting offshore navigational routines for recreational craft

This interesting and challenging course emphasizes the practical aspects of daytime celestial navigation. You will also learn to prepare a sight folder that documents your positioning skills using sights taken on the sun.

The course will take approximately 14 weeks (2 hr sessions) to complete and you will have two additional weeks to complete an open book exam.

Member $200

2 Members sharing 1 book – $220

Non-member (no exam) – $280

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 Celestial 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 planest 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 end electronic tools
      • 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 Offshore 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 (2 hrs sessions each) and, you will have two additional weeks to complete an open book exam.

Part of the Marine Electronics 

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 function
      • Using charting software and a chart plotter emulator
      • Overview of the Automatic Identification System (AIS)
Typically taught in 10 (2 hr sessions), followed by a test

Member – $70

2 Members sharing 1 book – $80

Non-members (no exam) – $140

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 the gasoline inboards, outboards and diesels
      • Basic mechanical systems such as drive systems (propellors), 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 10 (two-hour sessions) including time for review and the multiple choice closed book exam.

Member – $ 70

2 Members sharing 1 book – $80

Non Members (no exam) – $140

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?

      • Boat electrical wiring practices
      • Direct current (DC) power
      • Alternating current (AC) power
      • Glavanic and stray current corrosion
      • Lightning protection
      • How to use a multimeter
      • How to solder and crimp
      • How to read electrical wiring diagrams

This course is typically completed in 9 (two-hour sessions), followed by an exam.

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 communication systems

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

Member – $90

2 Members sharing 1 book – $100

Non-members (no exam) – $140

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 complete 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

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

Member – $70

2 Members sharing 1 book – $80

Non-members (no exam) – $140

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

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

Member – $60

Non-members (no exam) – $110

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


Welcome to Radar for Boaters. Developed by Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons, this course is up to date for radar technologies available now and into the near future. 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.

September 18, 2018. At this time:

      • Student and instructor course materials may be ordered using the online shopping cart or standard order form. 
      • However, squadrons will not yet be able to set the course up in HQ800, pending completion of HQ systems work to handle new electives. If your squadron runs a course before this capacity is available, don’t worry. As soon as systems are ready, you will be able to add the course and students after the fact.
      • The instructor kit includes a 50-question multiple choice exam and grading sheet. Exams will be administered and graded locally in a proctored setting. Once HQ systems are available, SEOs will be able to communicate exam results, and successful completion of the course will be able to be added to students’ training records.

Approx time is 10 hrs followed by multiple choice questions.

Feel more competent and look more confident handling your powerboat. Our hands-on boating course helps you develop handling skills and techniques that last a lifetime.

Our certified and experienced instructors combine classroom learning with on-the-water coaching. That means with technical education plus real-world techniques, you get onto the water and into fun, safer and faster.

Free to Members

Free to Members