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Educational Department
- Basic Public Education -

Lamp of Learning


America's Boating Course 3 Cover

Basic Public Education Committee

This site is provided as a means of communications with the USPS National Basic Public Education Committee (BPECom).  We welcome your questions and comments on our public courses and associated materials.

R/C Jack Purse, SN
Stf/C Richard Carson, JN







Spanish ABC3 CoverNews

  • April 2017 Boating Class Reports Available for Printing or Download

    A legend is available for the Boating course statistics (113KB, PDF). Three graphical tabs are also available on the Excel spreadsheet: a Monthly Values Chart, a Year to Year Comparison Chart, and a Long Term Data Chart. There are good reasons for these tabs:

    One of the confusing aspects of the boating class reports has been that the comparison was of this current year-to-date data versus last year’s year-end values. A more useful comparison would be to look at this year’s results compared with last year’s at the same point in time. To facilitate this, the monthly results from last year’s reports were extracted and were used to compare with this year’s data in graphical form. You can see this comparison in the Year to Year tab. As this year’s values minus last year’s values are being plotted, a positive number indicates that we have more classes or students than last year at this point in time, a negative number fewer. Being shown in the Monthly Statistics Chart is the change in values each month so we can see seasonal trends more easily. Note that the year-end data does not equal the end of June data on the July report. It appears that, although all the classes were reported, the reports of students in those classes continued to come in after the end of the educational year.

    A special end of year report dated 29 July 2016 to pick up late (i.e., July) reports of students completing ABC classes that finished late in the Ed Year (month of June) is also available as an Excel spreadsheet (248KB, XLSM).

    D31 and D18 have been dissolved so the database shows no data for those districts. The District 31 squadrons have been transferred as follows: Beaver Lake and Grand Lake to D/30 and Oklahoma City to D/21. The District 18 squadrons have been transferred as follows: Beverly, Marblehead and Broad Sound Sail and Power Squadrons have been transferred to District 12. Merrimac River Sail and Power Squadron has been transferred to District 19. (12 Jun 17)

    PDF Files Excel File

  • 2015 Printing ABC3 Errata

    An updated errata sheet dated 21 April 2017 for the 2015 printing of ABC3 is available in the Downloadable Materials section of the ABC3 web page. (26 Apr 17)

  • Spanish Language Versions of America's Boating Course Now Available.

    America's Boating Course is now available in Spanish or English language online. The Spanish classroom version materials may be obtained from the USPS Educational Department Online Catalog. The student manual is free courtesy of a USCG grant. There is a $5.00 fee per book to cover shipping, handling, ancillary course materials and required student database support. A bi-lingual instructor PowerPoint is in progress, as is translation of the state-specific examinations. (26 Apr 17)

  • Managing ABC Internet Students, Squadron and District Guide for On-Line America’s Boating Course – 3rd Edition

    The Squadron and District Guide for America’s Boating Course – 3rd Edition, for use by squadrons and districts to manage ABC3 on-line students, may be found in the Downloadable Material section of the ABC3 web page. Information regarding processing of online students, completion using online methods, and completion using proctored examinations where required, is included in the Guide. (09 Jan 17)

  • Updated Exploring HQ-800 Presentation

    The latest PowerPoint presentation of EXPLORING HQ-800 (9143kb, ppt) is now available for download and presentation at District conferences and educational training sessions. (28 Dec 16)

  • Boating Safety 4 Kids

    New this year under the Educational Department is a seminar-style education program on boating safety that complements youth programs with education and hands-on training for children in 1st through 6th grades on essential boating safety practices. The instruction is aided by the listed Boating Safety for Kids DVD and Manual, available in the Educational Department online catalog. The no-cost, down-loadable instructor guide “Boating Safety 4 Kids” is available here (883KB, PDF). This is a great program for youth activities and may be presented concomitantly with parental education in the USPS University courses and seminars for a whole family boating safety experience. (10 Aug 16)

  • 2015 ABC3 Chapter 5

    Chapters 1 through 4 provide the National Association of State Boating Law Administrator (NASBLA) approved basic boating knowledge to meet the boating education requirements in most states. Chapter 5 presents the next step with education on elementary piloting skills, use of charts, and an introduction to electronic charting. Completion of Chapter 5 is student dependent and may take as long as an additional 8 hours. The material in Section 18 Supplement introduces the student to electronic navigation using the OpenCPN software, a preparation for electronic charting in Piloting and Navigation advanced courses. Skill development using Chapter 5 material should not be rushed as the skills are the foundation for continued education. Conduct of Chapter 5 remains a squadron option, and as such completion is not recorded in the USPS data base. At the squadron’s option, the Chapter 5 final examination is available to assess student assimilation of the material, however the results are recorded only at the squadron level. By checking the “16-hour” option in HQ-800, the course completion certificate will recognize the Chapter 5 education by adding below the “Date” line: “Includes Introduction to Coastal and Inland Navigation Endorsement” (23 Apr 16)

  • ABC3 On-The-Water Teaching Guide Included in Student Manual

    The 2015 printing of the ABC3 Student Manual includes the approved ABC3 On-The-Water (OWT) Teaching Aid Guide as Appendix A. Previous editions of ABC3 included Canadian Rules and Regulations as Appendix A, however the challenges to maintain this material current and the advent of on-line sources for current information allowed embedding the OWT Guide in the Student Manual. The OWT training material may also be downloaded from the Downloadable Material section of the ABC3 home page. Incorporating OWT training in your ABC3 class meets a high-demand by students and prepares the student for the continuum of OWT training, including the first level of BOC: Inland Navigator. When registering your class in HQ-800, and if you are including OWT in your class, be sure to check the “plus OWT” box after selecting either the 8-hour or 16 hour course. If you are presenting ABC3 classes in areas of Canadian borders/waters, you may want to consider presenting as a follow-up the USPS University Seminar Crossing Borders. (17 Jan 15)

  • 2015 America’ Boating Course 3rd Edition System Approved

    2015 America’s Boating Course System materials are available from the USPS Catalog and are to be used when presenting ABC3. If you have unused 2012/2013 ABC3 Student Manuals remaining in stock, please use them with the 2015 presentations as they are compatible, then transition to using only 2015 materials when the old manuals are gone. When using the older manuals, there will be some irregularities if students follow along with the 2015 PowerPoint presentation. However, the material is in the older manual. Use of the 2015 PowerPoint with state approved/specific material in Section 8, and the 2015 final examinations is required. (12 Jan 16)

  • Navigation Training Charts

    As we shift navigation training to less costly electronic navigation, we lose the convenience of opening charts from CD/DVDs associated with past courses and seminars. USPS is implementing training based on free, downloadable materials from NOAA and OpenCPN software. The NOAA chart 1210TR remains downloadable from the NOAA Historical site, and the BOWDITCH BAY chart continues embedded in the ABC3 Student Manual series. In the interests of enhancing the USPS continuum of navigational training and providing easy access to the two training charts, they are now available for downloading from the ABC3 Home page, Downloadable Materials section. Both charts remain available from the USPS Materials Catalog. (08 Jan 16)

  • Cold Water Survival Tips

    Cold water survival tips are available on the Useful Web Sites page. There is a pamphlet from the American Canoe Association and a page from the February/March 2015 issue of the BoatU.S. magazine. (05 Feb 15)

  • USPS Float Plan

    The USPS Float Plan (94KB, PDF) that's also available in the Materials Catalog (under Public Boating Courses, Miscellaneous) is available for download and distribution at ABC3 and other USPS courses. The Float Plan is also available on the EdDept Forms web page. (02 Feb 15)

  • New HQ-800 Help Documents

    Helpful tips for using the HQ-800 system are in this HQ-800 Quick Guide (142KB PDF or 400KB DOCX). A “BY THE CLICKS” document to REGISTER classes, ENROLL students in the classes, and REPORT completion of the classes is also available (83KB PDF, 119KB DOCX). (14 Sep 14)

  • Participation in USPS Courses by Minor Age Students

    A potential problem looms within USPS whereby student personal information collected for “official” uses by state and government agencies, or even seemingly benign class pictures, may violate the rights of minor-aged students (under 18 years of age) unless authorized by the responsible parent or guardian. Additionally, such authorization is required for post-course contact for membership reasons and/or to enjoy the benefits provided by USPS partners.

    Registration for the USPS courses and seminars includes collecting a large array of personal data using the ED-46 Course and Seminar Registration Form. The majority of the personal information is required by the respective states for use in positive identification and preparation of state boating operator cards. The squadron transfers the data for ABC3 course students from the ED-46 to the HQ-800 electronic ED-26 Course Completion form. The filed data is automatically distributed under Memorandum of Understanding provisions to state boating law administrators (BLAs), and unless the ED-46 OPT OUT box is checked, made available to USPS partners and Membership for follow-on communications. Since the ED-46 is familiar and in use, it has been modified to provide for parental review of how we use the information then sign the document as authorization for the minor-aged student to attend the class. The signed form is retained for 6 years.

    The ED-46 will serve as the file document of parental/guardian approval for the minor-aged student firstly to participate in the USPS course, and secondly approve of any post-course communications. The ED-46 Course and Seminar Registration Form (20 Feb 2014) is now being shipped with course materials and is available from the EdDept homepage under "EdDept Forms". Of significance, it includes:

    1. On the back of the form, describes use of data, probable class events such as classroom photos and even student photos for identification purposes, why the “last 4” entry is needed, why we need personal identification data such as hair and eye color, and so on.
    2. The front page has a place for the parent/guardian signature and legible printing of the name on the line below. Parent or guardian signature on the front of the ED-46 signifies that the minor-aged student has parent/guardian approval to take the course.
    3. No unauthorized post-course contact is assured by computer programming, which recognizes the date of birth (DOB) being entered is for a minor-aged student. A computer generated check is automatically placed in the OPT OUT box. This item requires SEO or course administrator action.

    When the student DOB entry leads to checking the OPT OUT box, the SEO or class administrator should review the OPT OUT provision and its implications with the parent or guardian. If the parent or guardian so authorizes communications for membership and/or partner benefits, the SEO or class administrator may remove the check in the OPT OUT box using the HQ-800 Student Management provision.

    The "Managing ABC Internet Students, Squadron and District Guide" has been modified to parallel this procedure before the proctored examination, and is available from the “Downloadable Material” section of the ABC home page.

    Lacking parent/guardian written approval, the minor-aged student is NOT allowed to enroll in the course. (15 Mar 14)

  • HQ-800 Educational Presentation
  • District 5 has created a helpful tool for educating prospective and current users of the HQ-800 software. An excellent tool for district conference training, it begins with basic entries then explains procedures to accomplish the necessary actions to manage course and student entries into the HQ-800 system. The 3.5 hour PowerPoint program may be downloaded here (5901KB, ZIP).

    In addition to the HQ-800 PowerPoint program above, District 5 has video taken during the seminar presentations in Jacksonville, FL in January 2013. It is over 3 hours long, but District 5 has started a project to separate the three hours into six segments where each segment describes a portion of this seminar. Four of those segments are now available. A document has been prepared ( to explain and distribute the video segments. It describes all six video segments and provides links to the four segments that are currently available. As time becomes available for additional video editing, this document will be updated as additional video segments become available.

    Note that these are large video files, and it may take some time to download the video. Only a high speed Internet connection is recommended to accomplish this.

    If you encounter video format issues when you try to play a video, send a note with the error message to Joe Gibson ( A minor system update to add a CODEC file to your PC may be needed. (22 Nov 13)

  • ABC3 Class Completions Are Placed in Two Categories in the HQ-800 System: Current and History. Wonder why?

    The procedures for completing the ABC3 classroom courses are almost finished when the squadrons file the ED-26 course completion electronically via the HQ800 system. From this report, called an ED-26, the respective states are notified of those who passed, records are available in DB2000 and Headquarters files, and educated boaters are poised to continue their education. But the action is not over; many graduates wish to participate in the 6-month trial membership.

    Concomitant to course completion filing, the course data is used by the public relations officer to determine better uses of course advertising efforts. The supply officer is busy determining needed replacement course materials and then ordering them. The bridge is working on future schedules and when the new student market is better for classes. The treasurer is determining fund distribution to meet new course material costs – well, everyone is busy. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP PROGRAM? Trial membership is poised in the HQ-800 tools to process the applications, all we need is a bit of time to do it all. But, how do we keep the class data information accessible?

    The HQ-800 software includes provision to expeditiously enter data into the program about those new ABC3 graduates who indicate YES to the option to join the trial membership. Recognizing that this effort requires rapid response by busy squadron members less conversant in the educational system, and that the time is NOW to capitalize on the enthusiasm of the new student, the HQ-800 program retains the class completion data in the CURRENT category – easy access by all for 120 days. The membership team uses this time to capitalize on the automated features of the HQ-800 system and to complete the human aspects. PULLING TOGETHER, WE WILL SOON HAVE NEW MEMBERS IN THE 6-MONTH TRIAL MEMBERSHIP PROGRAM. After 120 days, the course completions are placed in the HISTORY files for later data access as needed.

    There is a caution in the CURRENT-HISTORY migration of course completion data. It is possible for the squadron HQ-800 data entry team members to accidentally delete the “CURRENT” label that signifies that the data is still available. The entry is next to the squadron’s HQ-800 listing of CURRENT courses. Such action changes the course status to the HISTORY category, denies trial membership data access, and in effect scuttles the efforts of all trying to make the free 6-month trial membership program recruiting tool a success. Please be careful. (10 Jul 13)

  • BPECom Assistance Form

    If you need assistance from BPECom regarding HQ-800, the ABC3 CD or DVD, or anything else, please use this form to request assistance. Filling in as many sections as possible will help to minimize the number of times we need to contact you while providing the fastest response for you. (28 Feb 13)

  • America's Boating Course, 3rd Edition Information, Registration, and Assessment Overview

    Announcing and Advertising Your USPS Public Boating Course: All ABC3 public boating courses are to be listed on-line on the USPS website. This serves several purposes. First, it announces to the general public the date, time, location, and point of contact for each class. Next, the new features of the on-line registration system will automatically send email notifications of the boating class schedules and completion results to the designated state Boating Law Administrator (BLA) or his/her representative. This feature meets the reporting requirements contained within just about all of the Memorandum of Understanding between USPS and the states.

    Pre-Registering Students: The on-line registration process for potential students to pre-register for squadron public boating classes supports the student who chooses to do contact on-line, and provides the host squadron with information that helps prepare the student for the course. The process requires that squadron boating class information be listed in the on-line HQ-800 database. Squadrons enter their class information into the database via the USPS Education Department Home page, then select “Manage Public Programs,” select “Register Boating Courses (HQ-800), and enter course data. When entering course data, check the “allow on-line registration” box and consider checking the “offer 6 month memberships" box. Once activated, students may fill in the pre-registration form with all their personal data, greatly simplifying the process of entering the data into the course completion report.

    Supports On-Line Searches: When Google and other on-line search engines are used to seek terms such as "safe boating classes" or "public boating education", the courses listed in the HQ-800 System are provided.

    Summary Information for the Educational Department: The cumulative reports from squadron submissions are used to manage stock levels to support squadron efforts, track trends in USPS Boating Safety Education, and may be used locally to manage course schedules and inter-squadron teaching efforts. The summary report of ABC3 classes completed and numbers of students with these classes is updated and posted monthly on this web page. (Renewed 23 Jan 16)

  • Intracoastal Waterway PowerPoint Teaching Aid

    A short presentation (1814KB, PPT) on navigating the Intracoastal Waterway has been prepared. Please include any part or all of it in those classes where you have students traversing the Intracoastal Waterway. (11 May 10)

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Public Boating Programs

  • America's Boating Course - 3rd Edition is our primary civic effort toward public instruction, providing basic boating knowledge. Both short (8-hour) and full (16-hour) formats are designed to familiarize the student with the fundamentals of safe boating and meet most state requirements for boating education toward certification and licensure to operate boats.

    The 8-hour short course for licensure subjects include:

    • Getting started in recreational boating
    • Required safety equipment
    • Going boating, preparations and casting off
    • Navigation rules – prevent collisions
    • Navigation aids to safe passage
    • Lights and sound signals
    • Government regulations
    • State and local regulations for your area of boating
    • Finding your way, brief introduction to using charts
    • Anchoring and choosing the best anchor system for your area
    • Adverse conditions and emergencies
    • Communications afloat
    • Water sports safety
    • Trailering you boat
    • Personal Watercraft operation
    • Knots and line

    Additional items in the full course include:

    • Introduction to navigation
    • Charts
    • Digital charting and chart plotting

    Information for instructors and assistants is available from the ABC3 information page.

  • Seminars address specific boating topics and needs of interest to both members and the public in a two-hour format. Seminars can complement course content, offer focused education on specific aspects of recreational boating, and provide the squadron with educational opportunities when time may be limited. They have great utility for highlighting seasonal information such as Partner in Command at season start, Hurricanes as spring arrives, and GPS at all times of the year. Seminars also serve as excellent public relations fora from which to entice new members. Information for instructors and assistants is available from the Seminars information page.

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Paddle Smart

Paddle Smart is a USPS seminar on a series of topics created especially for paddle sports.  There is also a related (but more for the public) Paddle Smart web site.  Web site topics include:

  • Navigation Rules with emphasis on kayaks, canoes, etc.
  • Personal Flotation Devices (life jackets)
  • Charts and Maps
  • Homeland Security
  • Weather and its impact on paddlers
  • Electronics for paddlers including GPS, cell phones, VHF marine radios, etc.

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Questions or Comments?

If you have any questions or comments about any of the public boating courses, please contact the National Basic Public Education Committee chair by the form below, e-mail, phone or postal service mail.  Please be sure to keep your SEO and/or DEO advised of any correspondence you may have with the National committee. Addresses for the National BPECom chair are listed in The ENSIGN and on the Committee Chairpersons page.

If you need assistance from BPECom regarding HQ-800, the ABC3 mandatory state/territory specific Section 8, or anything else, please use this form to request assistance. Filling in as many sections as possible will help to minimize the number of times we need to contact you while providing the fastest response for you.

We will try to answer your questions as soon as possible, but please allow 5 working days for an answer.

Anyone wishing to provide input on these courses, please contact the committee chair.

If you are interested in becoming a member of this committee, submit a resume on-line at the Committee on Nominations web site.

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This page last updated Saturday, January 11, 2020 21:48