United States Power Squadrons®

For Boaters, By BoatersTM

Ventura Sail and Power Squadron

Come for the Boatling Education . . . . . Stay for the FriendsSM





Updated 20160722

United States Power Squadrons®
Boating Courses
Offered by the Ventura Sail and Power Squadron


For current course schedule, click here.

For further information on the courses listed here or to express an interest in a particular course click HERE


America's Boating Course (ABC): Introduction to Boating
Advanced Grades: Seamanship  -  Piloting  -  Advanced Piloting - Junior Navigation  -  Navigation

Elective Courses

America's Boating Course


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covers basic deck seamanship, marlinspike (knots and ropes), anchoring and rafting, basic boat care and maintenance, and nautical and USPS customs and etiquette. The Seamanship course is a natural first/next step in building a foundation for confidence and competence for safe and enjoyable boating on the water. It extends the knowledge and skills of the boater in handling and maneuvering a vessel, either sail or power. The course provides a better understanding of how boats behave under various conditions including close quarters and open water operations. Knowledge and skills are increased in the areas of anchoring, emergencies, rules of the road, and marlinspike/basic knots. Appendices include information to safe operation in waters of our neighbors to the north and south, Canada and Mexico. The course content and our coastal navigation courses should help in preparation for completion of the US Coast Guard licensing examination. Course completion is documented by a closed book exam graded by USPS Headquarters.

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PILOTING is the first and most basic navigation course, covering chart reading, course plotting, and basic coastal or inland navigation, including basic GPS usage. This course goes into more detail than the charting information covered in the public courses. 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 their GPS fails. The course includes many in-class exercises, developing the student’s skills through hands-on practice and learning. Ten classes normally are scheduled for presentation of this course. Topics covered include:

  • Charts and their interpretation
  • Navigation aids and how they point to safe water
  • Plotting courses and determining direction and distance
  • The mariner’s compass and converting between True and Magnetic
  • Use of GPS – typical GPS displays and information they provide, setting up waypoints and routes, staying on a GPS route.
  • Pre-planning safe 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.

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ADVANCED PILOTING covers more advanced coastal navigation techniques, navigation in tides and currents, and more advanced GPS usage. Advanced Piloting is the second in the sequence of USPS courses on navigation. 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, chartplotters, 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. Ten classes normally are scheduled for presentation of this course. Topics covered include:

  • Review of skills learned in Piloting
  • Advanced positioning techniques such as advancing a line of position
  • Other electronics: radar, depth sounders, autopilots, chartplotters, laptop computer software, etc.
  • Hazard avoidance techniques using electronics (e.g., “keep out” zones in GPS)
  • Collision avoidance using radar and GPS
  • Working with tides: clearances, depth, effects of current
  • Piloting with wind and currents
  • The “Seaman’s Eye” – simple skills for checking that one is on course

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JUNIOR NAVIGATION teaches the basics of offshore navigation, including basic celestial navigation using the sun and offshore course planning.

Junior Navigation is the first in a two-part program of study in offshore navigation, followed by the Navigation course. It is designed as a practical "how to" course. Subject matter includes:

  • Precise time determination
  • Use of the Nautical Almanac
  • Taking sextant sights of the sun
  • Reducing sights to establish lines of position
  • Determining latitude from a noon sight
  • Special charts and plotting sheets for offshore navigation
  • Offshore navigational routines for recreational craft

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NAVIGATION is the most advanced navigation course taught by USPS, covering more advanced celestial navigation techniques, emergency navigation, and additional sight reduction techniques. 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. The Navigation 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.
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ELECTIVE COURSES are offered by USPS. They cover separate and independent topics and therefore may be taken in any order according to a person's interests and time.

Elective Courses: Engine Maintenance  -   Marine Electrical Systems - Marine Communication Systems - Electronic Navigation - Cruising and Cruise Planning - Weather - Sail - Instructor Development


Engine Maintenance covers the operating principles and basic care and maintenance of outboard and inboard engines, including diesels.

The Engine Maintenance course consists of ten chapters and stresses the diagnosis of modern systems, while also teaching the basics of engine layout and operation. Gasoline inboards, outboards, and diesel engines are taught in a way that reinforces the common aspects of how engines work.  Modern engines offer high reliability and good performance through the use of computerized systems for fuel delivery and engine timing. Most of these systems are “black boxes” that can no longer be serviced by weekend mechanics with ordinary tools. The EM course covers those repairs that do-it-yourselfers can still perform, teaches how to diagnose problems that might be beyond your ability to fix, and how to share information with your mechanic so the right repairs get performed.  Engine Maintenance covers basic mechanical systems such as drive systems (propellers), steering systems, and engine controls.  The last chapter discusses solutions you might use to problems that could occur while afloat and away from a repair facility.  Gasoline, diesel, and outboard engines are treated independently in this chapter.

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 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.

EMSCom has written this course to require nine two-hour sessions.

  • Day 1 - Introduction, Chapter 1: Properties of Electricity
  • Day 2 - Chapter 2: Boat Electrical Wiring Practices
  • Day 3 - Chapter 3: Direct Current Power
  • Day 4 - Chapter 4: Alternating Current Power
  • Day 5 - Chapter 5: Galvanic and Stray Current Corrosion
  • Day 6 - Chapter 6: Lightning Protection
  • Day 7 - Chapter 7: Troubleshooting Part 1; on-the-boat optional
  • Day 8 - Chapter 7: Troubleshooting Part 2
  • Day 9 - Review and Examination

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MARINE COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEMS is an in-depth, nine chapter review of those systems available to the recreational boater, or to those with whom he/she shares the water. 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. One chapter is devoted to the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) and another to FCC Rules and regulations to set the stage for instruction of radiotelephone operating procedures (both voice and digital messaging are covered). The remaining chapters cover 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.

EMSCom has written this course to require seven two-hour sessions.

  • Day 1 - Introduction, Chapter 1: Radio History and Communications, Chapter 2: The Radio Frequency Spectrum, Chapter 3: VHF Communications
  • Day 2 - Chapter 4: GMDSS
  • Day 3 - Finish Chapter 4, Chapter 5: FCC Rules, Radio Licenses and the Radio Frequency Plan
  • Day 4 - Chapter 6: Radiotelephone Operating Procedures
  • Day 5 - Chapter 7: Long-Range Radio Communications
  • Day 6 - Chapter 8: Other Marine Communications Systems, Chapter 9: Radio Maintenance
  • Day 7 - Review and Examination

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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.

There are no prerequisites for MES, MCS or EN and they may be taken in any order, however, the subject matter tends to build on the MES/MCS/EN progression.

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CRUISING and CRUISE PLANNING covers topics of interest for someone planning a cruise – whether for just a weekend or for a year – including preparation and planning, anchoring, security, chartering, and cruising outside the US.

Cruise Planning Course Description

There is something very special about the thrill of cruising in new waters and the sense of accomplishment upon completing an extended cruise. To go beyond what most boaters do on a weekend overnight or even a week or so marina hopping requires boaters to leave their normal cruising areas and comfort zones. The Cruise Planning course focuses on the planning and preparation necessary for safe enjoyable extended cruises on both inland and coastal waters.

Designed for members who cruise on either a sail or powerboat (owned or chartered)—this course covers the following topics:

  • Cruise preparation and planning - General
  • Boat and Equipment
  • Anchors and Anchoring
  • Security
  • Chartering
  • Cruising Outside the United States
  • Crew and Provisioning
  • Voyage Management
  • Communications
  • Navigation
  • Weather
  • Emergencies

The manual includes a comprehensive cruise planning timeline. The course can be comfortably taught in eight two-hour classroom sessions including time for review and the exam, but each instructor will determine the pace of the course.

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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.

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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.

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INSTRUCTOR DEVELOPMENT teaches effective communication skills for not only USPS instructors but everyone, covering various methods of presenting information to others, effective use of audiovisual aids (including PowerPoint), etc.

Course Description

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.

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