Building on the basics of recreational boating presented in the public boating courses, Seamanship adds foundational information for continuing boater education. The course contents should facilitate knowledge development for increased safe operation of recreational boats and provide the basis for completion of USCG licensing examination. Emphasis within the course has been placed on higher level boating skills, rules of the road, and marlinspike.
Piloting is the first course in the sequence of USPS courses on navigation, covering the basics of coastal and inland navigation. 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. 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
Advanced Piloting Course
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
Junior Navigation Course
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
• Special charts and plotting sheets for offshore navigation
• Offshore navigational routines for recreational craft
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. This 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.
Cruise Planning Course
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
• Cruising Outside the United States
• Crew and Provisioning
• Voyage Management
Engine Maintenance Course
The Engine Maintenance course has been put into a ten-chapter course that 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. The Engine Maintenance also 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.
Marine Electrical Systems Course
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 his or her boat electrical system.
Marine Communications Course
Marine Communications Systems is an in-depth 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.
Sail 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 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. Wx2008 is a general weather course benefiting those sitting in their living rooms, as much as those standing behind the helm.
Instructor Development Course
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.