PILOTING AND NAVIGATION
Five piloting and navigation courses are offered by USPS. The first four below are designed to be taken in sequence because each builds on skills taught in the previous course. The last one, Electronic Navigation, can be taken at any time. However, you 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.
PILOTING is the first of the advanced navigational classes focusing on techniques for piloting a boat in coastal and inland conditions. The course emphasizes planning and checking along with the use of GPS for determining position, and introduces digital charting along with traditional charting, compass and dead reckoning skills. Plotting, labeling, use of the compass, aids to navigation and a host of related topics are included in this all-new approach to coastal and inland piloting.
ADVANCED PILOTING is the final part of the inland and coastal navigation series. This material continues to build on the base developed in Piloting, and includes practical use of additional electronic navigation systems and other advanced techniques for finding position. Among topics covered are: finding position using bearings and angles, collision avoidance using GPS and RADAR, what to do when the electronics fail, tides, currents and wind and their effect on piloting, and electronic navigation with GPS, chart plotters, RADAR, autopilots, etc. Application of course lectures takes place through practical in-class and at-home exercises.
JUNIOR NAVIGATION is the first of two courses in advanced off-shore boating topics, with an emphasis on Celestial Navigation in the GPS age, an essential backup when off-shore. It is designed as a practical, how-to course based on sun sight taking using a sextant as a confirmation to GPS navigation. The more advanced techniques for other celestial bodies and sights are for study in the subsequent Navigation Course. JN subject matter includes: basic concepts of celestial navigation; how to use the mariner’s sextant to take sights of the sun; the importance and techniques of accurate time determination; use of the Nautical Almanac; how to reduce sights to establish lines of position (LOPs); and the use of GPS, special charts, plotting sheets and other navigational data for offshore positioning and passage planning.
NAVIGATION is the second part of the study of offshore navigation. It further develops the student’s skills and understanding of celestial theory. The student is introduced to additional sight reduction techniques for bodies other than the sun. The student develops greater skill and precision in sight taking, positioning and the orderly methods of carrying on the day’s work of a navigator at sea. Of particular interest and importance is the navigation software that is explained and used in practices for planning and navigating in the offshore environment with the included software. Offshore navigation using minimal data and/or equipment, such as when on a disabled vessel or lifeboat is also studied.
ELECTRONIC NAVIGATION introduces GPS technology from the most basic receiver to chart plotter systems for navigation on board. The process of navigating by establishing waypoints and routes, and then running the planned courses, is demonstrated. Further, electronic charting software for the desktop computer is examined, with creation of waypoints and routes on the desktop and subsequent download to the onboard unit. Despite differences among the various manufacturers' offerings, a thorough discussion of the features being made available is included. Special attention is paid to apps for tablets and smartphones that provide the electronic navigation function at the helm, for relatively little cost.
Where Can I Take a Course?
If one or more of these courses interest you, locate a course in your area. If you're a USPS member, contact your Squadron Educational Officer and take a course at your squadron rate. We hope to see you soon!