United States Power Squadrons®
Boating Education

One of our primary goals is promoting "safe boating through education." We understand that an educated boater is a safe boater. The USPS provides a number of public and members-only courses, seminars and guides. Below you will find a listing and descriptions of the courses (both public and members-only) available and links to the seminars and guides.

Contact the Educational Officer for the current course schedule

• America's Boating Course
• Piloting • Advanced Piloting
• Junior Navigation • Navigation
• Sail • Engine Maintenance
• Cruise Planning • Marine Electronics
• Weather • Seamanship
• Instructor Development

USPS University Seminars
USPS Ship’s Store – Books, DVD's, Guides

Course Descriptions

America's Boating Course

If you are interested in an exciting, in-depth boating safety course, check out America's Boating Course.

Many boat insurance companies will offer discounts on boating insurance to boaters who successfully complete America's Boating Course. And, this beginner boating class will give you the knowledge needed to obtain a boat license or safety certification in many states.

America's Boating Course can be taken in any of three ways: on the Internet, by studying a 244-page course manual, or with a CD. No matter how you like to learn, when you sign up you'll receive a complete package that includes the course manual, the boating course CD, and a PIN number giving you access to the Internet course.

The course manual, CD and online course contain identical material, except for your state-specific boating law, which can only be accessed online. This boat safety course is fun and very thorough.

Boating Safety Topics

  • Introduction to Boating
  • Boating Law
  • Boat Safety Equipment
  • Safe Boating Practices & Water
  • Navigational Aids, Rules & Information

Advanced Courses

Seamanship (S)


Building on the basics taught in the public boating course, Seamanship is the recommended first course for new members, both power boaters and sailors, who wish to begin working towards "advanced grade" courses. In this course you will learn these practical skills:

S101 - Seamanship

S102 - Boat Handling

  • Marlinspike
  • Hull Desing
  • Safety
  • Docking & Undocking,Towing,
  • The Skipper's Responsibility
  • Anchoring, Rafting, Mooring, & Dinghies
  • Before Leaving the Dock
  • Cruising Considerations
  • Weather & Wave Forms
  • Boating Emergencies -Be Prepared
  • Nautical Etiquette & Customs

Piloting (P)


Piloting is the first of the navigational classes focusing on techniques for piloting a boat in coastal and inland conditions. The course emphasizes the fundamentals of piloting - traking the movement of boats, determining your position anytime, and planning courses.Topics that will be covered include:

  • Charts & How to Use Them
  • Aids to Navigation
  • Introduction to he Mariner's Compass
  • Variation & Deviation of the Compass
  • Courses - Plotting & Steering
  • Dead Reckoning
  • Plotting & Labeling Charts

Advanced Piloting (AP)


Advanced Piloting is the final part of the inland and coastal navigation series. This material continues to build on the base developed in Piloting - including practical use of additional electronic navigation systems and other advanced techniques for finding position. The course consists of lectures and practical in-class and at-home excercises. Some of the information that will be covered includes:

  • Electronic Navigation - GPS, Loran, RADAR...
  • Finding Position Using bearings & Angles
  • Tides, Currents & Wind
  • When Electronics Fail
  • Basic Use of the Sextant
  • Collision Avoidance Using Electronics

Navigation (JN)


Junior Navigation is the first of a two-part program of study in offshore (open coast) navigation. It is designed as a practical, how-to course using GPS for offshore navigation with sun sight taking using a sextant as a backup technique. JN course topics:

  • Celestial Navigation Concepts
  • The Mariner's Sextant for Positioning Using the Sun, Moon & Planets
  • The Importance of Accurate Time Determination
  • The Nautical Almanac
  • Reducing Sights to Establish Lines of Position (LOP's)
  • GPS, Special Charts & Plotting Sheets for Offshore Navigation

Navigation (N)


This is the second part of the study of offshore navigation. It further develops the student's skills and understanding of celestial theory.

  • Additional Sight Reduction Techniques
  • Developing Greater Skill & Precision in Sight Taking & Positioning
  • Orderly Methods of Carrying on the Day?s Work of a Navigator at Sea.
  • Offshore navigation using minimal data and/or equipment, such as when on a disabled vessel or lifeboat

Advanced Electives

Sail (SA)

Sail 2009 is a complete sail course beginning with basic boat designs, rigging and sail processes for the non-sailor.  The course proceeds into the physical aspects of sailing, sail applications, marlinespike, helmsmanship, and handling of more difficult sailing conditions, navigation rules, and an introduction to heavy weather sailing. The concepts that will be covered in the course include:

Sail 101 - Basic Sail

Sail 102 - Advanced Sail

  • Sailboat Rigs
  • Wind Forces
  • Sail Plans
  • Stability
  • Boat Designs & Hull Types
  • Balances
  • Sails
  • Sail Shape
  • Standing Rigs
  • Tuning the Rig
  • Running Rig
  • Steering & Helmsmanship
  • Wind
  • Spinnaker Handling
  • Preparing to Sail
  • Heavy Weather Sailing
  • Sailing Upwind
  • Storm Conditions
  • Sailing Downwind
  • Sailing Safety
  • Docking & Anchoring
  • Sailboat Racing
  • Marlinspike
  • Race Management
  • Navigation Rules - Part I
  • Navigation Rules - Part II

Cruise Planning (CP)

Designed for members who plan to cruise for just a day or for a year?in either a sail or powerboat. The manual includes a twelve-month cruise planning timeline.This course covers the following topics:

  • Cruise Preparation & Planning
  • Boat & Equipment
  • Anchors & Anchoring
  • Security
  • Chartering
  • Cruising Outside the United States
  • Crew & Provisioning
  • Voyage Management
  • Communications
  • Navigation
  • Weather
  • Emergencies

Engine Maintenance (EM)

The complete Engine Maintenance course consists of two modular sections. EM 101, Basic Engine Maintenance, provides information about marine propulsion systems, basic engine principles, engine components, controls, instruments and alarms, marine engine maintenance, and steering systems. There is a chapter on winter storage and spring servicing that includes a 25-step winterizing checklist. An 11-page glossary concludes the student manual.

EM 102, Advanced Engine Maintenance, delves into cooling and exhaust systems, lubrication, fuel and air induction systems, ignition systems, electrical and starting systems, power trains, and troubleshooting. The last chapter is on emergency repairs afloat. An 11-page glossary concludes the student manual.

Marine Electronics (ME)

The Marine Electronics course consists of three modules: ME 101, Boat Electrical Systems, ME 102, Marine Radio Communications, and ME 103, Marine Electronics for Navigation. There are no prerequisites for any of these modules: however, it is suggested that a member take ME 101 before taking ME 102. All three modules must be successfully completed to receive credit for Marine Electronics.

ME 101, Boat Electrical Systems, provides information about properties of electricity, electrical power requirements and wiring practices, direct current power, alternating current power, galvanic and stray-current corrosion, lightning protection, and electrical interference.

ME 102, Marine Radio Communications, delves into radio waves and transmitters, receivers and transceivers, antennas and transmission lines, FCC Rules and Regulations, FCC Frequency Plan, marine radiotelephone operating procedures, and other communication services (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), Digital Selective Calling (DSC), Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), satellite communications, amateur radio, and more).

ME 103, Marine Electronics for Navigation, presents information on depth sounders, RADAR, LORAN-C, GPS Navigation, and two new chapters:  Electronic Charting, and Computer-Assisted Navigation (CAN).  Members may take this module independent of any other ME module.

Weather (WX)

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. It is a general weather course benefiting those sitting in their living rooms, as much as those standing behind the helm.

This weather course will furnish basic weather knowledge for safer and more enjoyable boating. The student will learn to make weather predictions based upon observations of the sky, upon barometer and wind information, as well as weather data provided by maps, satellite images, and radio and TV broadcasts. Wx 101 and Wx 102 use a USPS supplement manual together with The Weather Book from USA Today (second edition, 1997) as the textbook.

Wx 101-Basic Weather

Wx 102-Advanced Weather

  • Effects of Heat and Cold
  • Thunderstorms and Tornados
  • Wind and Pressure
  • Tropical Weather
  • Storms and Fronts
  • Atmosphere and Clouds
  • Rain, Humidity and Fog
  • Forecasting
  • Floods, Droughts, and Winter Precipitation
  • Climate

Instructor Development (ID)

This course deals with effective communication for speakers and teachers?a quality that benefits the individual in all walks of life. It offers practical instruction in: preparing for teaching assignments, preparing for meeting presentations, effective teaching techniques, conducting efficient meetings, and selecting and using audiovisual aids.

Unlike other USPS courses, the Instructor Development course is not designed to enhance boating skills. Rather, its emphasis is on enhancing 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 four presentations to their peers utilizing a variety of teaching aids and presentation skills. Each presentation is to be given on a topic from one of the public boating classes with the intent that upon completion of the course every student will be qualified to teach or proctor at a squadron boating class.

Fully developed suggested lesson plans for each chapter are contained in the instructor manual and PowerPoint presentations are available, as well as overhead transparency masters.

America's Boating Course Piloting Advanced Piloting Junior Navigation Navigation Sail Engine Maintenance Cruise Planning Marine Electronics Weather Seamanship Instructor Development
USPS University Seminars USPS Ship’s Store – Books, DVD's, Guides