America’s Boating Course 3rd edition (ABC)
ABC is a course designed for all beginning boaters (the personal watercraft operator; the hunter or fisher operating an outboard boat; the skipper of a family cruiser; the sailboater). For the safety of all concerned, all boaters must follow the same nautical rules, regulations, and courtesies of the sea. And all are subject to the same forces such as wind, waves, and storms while boating. The course also trains boaters for any state and local regulations that apply in the area where the course is taught.
Our instructors are qualified, enthusiastic, and experienced. They instruct for free as volunteers. The only costs are those for any books and materials, plus fees required for classroom rental, shipping, sales tax, etc. On-the-water supplements may also add a little to the costs to cover boat operating costs.
For those concerned about getting a state boater education card, this course meets the educational standards of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators honored by all states and includes a supervised examination required by many states and insurance companies.
Participating squadrons offer an On-The-Water component where students are taken to a marina, shown the different boat types, anchor types, tie-ups, etc., and then go out on the water to experience what they learned in class on USPS volunteer boats or their own boat.
Practical On The Water Training
This is an eight hour seminar offering a combination of classroom training and hands-on, on-the-water training in a USPS® boat or similar volunteer boat. The seminar provides explanations of how a boat handles and why. Video clips let students visualize the maneuvers they learned in class prior to actually experiencing them on the water. Also covered are the use of lines, departing docks, operating in fairways, pivot turns, mooring, backing, docking, steering, holding course, and using a range. The on-the-water experience lasts about 3 hrs. and every student gets to have the experience. Also, students receive a copy of Powerboat Handling Illustrated, a DVD, a Student Manual, and a certificate acknowledging their training.
Seamanship is the recommended first course for those wanting to continue with boater training whether as powerboaters or sailors. The training includes more about practical subjects such as navigation rules, boat control, boat care, operating a boat under normal and more challenging conditions, what to do should an emergency arise or weather conditions change, nautical know-how and tips for increasing enjoyment while on the water. For those that want to learn
even more, this course provides a strong foundation for follow-on navigation and fun-enhancing courses such as Cruise Planning and Sail. Participating squadrons offer an on-the-water component that provides students real experience combining theory and classroom learning while dockside and underway on USPS® volunteer boats similar to what the students have or want to purchase.
Piloting / Inland and Coastal Navigation
This is the first navigation course and introduces the fundamentals of inland and near-shore navigation. Topics included are descriptions of the different types of marine charts, US Coast Guard and other aids to navigation, the boat’s compass, basic GPS and use of electronics for navigation, planning and monitoring courses, and back-up methods to use if your electronics stop working. Participating squadrons offer an on-the-water component that enables each student to experience classroom and theoretical concepts in action – including radar, gps, and other electronics – while on the water on USPS® volunteer boats or student boats.
This course builds on the skills learned in Piloting and teaches how to navigate when going further outside of your normal boating waters. Topics include course planning with electronics, position finding with electronics and without, methods for predicting tides and tidal currents and their effect on your boat as it moves through the water, more advanced use of GPS systems, the more extensive use of radar, and other electronic navigation techniques. Similarly to piloting, you also will learn back-up methods should your electronics stop working. Participating squadrons offer an on-the-water component that enables each student to experience classroom and theoretical concepts in action – including more radar, gps, tides and current displays, and other electronics – while on the water on USPS® volunteer boats or student boats.
Junior Navigation is the first of two courses that train boaters for offshore navigation – out of sight of land and with or without a working GPS unit. It is designed as a practical “how to” course. In this course you learn about boating beyond sight of a shore and what needs to be done to ensure enjoyment and successful trips of greater distances across open bodies of water. There is also the introduction to the back-up method of celestial navigation using a sextant and the sun to find your boat’s position anywhere on Earth. Topics include: Precise time determination, Nautical Almanac use, sextant use, position calculation from sun sightings, special materials (charts and plotting sheets) needed for offshore navigation, and procedures and routines needed for navigating your recreational boat offshore. An offshore on-the-water component may be offered by participating squadrons that will let each student experience the challenges and confidence-building skills resulting from offshore navigation with and without a functioning gps unit.
Once Junior Navigation has been mastered, this final navigation course continues the students celestial navigation knowledge by teaching the inclusion of celestial bodies in addition to the sun. For example, the moon, other planets, and stars that are available for confident offshore position finding. This course also deals with electronic software tools that can be used both to plan and execute an offshore voyage. Students learn to reduce celestial body sights by the Law of Cosines method and by the the Nautical Almanac Sight Reduction (NASR) method. Planning for celestial-sight taking is an essential technique. The course includes a chapter on using software-based voyage planning tools and a complete navigation program. The final chapter of the course challenges the students with a practice cruise from Seattle to Hawai’i that uniquely integrates the separate topics of the course and demonstrates how an offshore voyage would be conducted. Some participating squadrons offer an on-the-water component for those students that want to experience celestial navigation while on board a vessel sufficiently far from land to enable valid practice of the theory and skills learned in the classroom. This activity will be conducted on the students own or a USPS® volunteer boat of sufficient size so as to be a safe and stable platform for the students and instructors.
This course prepares you and your boat for a cruise, whether for a day, a week, a month or longer. Whether you are going to cruise on rivers, lakes, the coasts, or across the oceans, very valuable information is provided by those who have been there. The topics discussed are: planning the voyage, financing the voyage, equipping the boat, crew selection, provisioning, voyage management, navigation planning, weather, communications, entering and clearing foreign and domestic ports, anchors and anchoring, emergencies afloat, medical emergencies and security
The Engine Maintenance course is intended to help recreational boaters understand their propulsion systems whether they are outboards, inboards, stern drives, or jet drives. You don’t have to be an engineer or mechanic benefit from this course. You will learn about marine propulsion systems, basic engine principles, engine components; controls, instruments and alarms, marine engine maintenance, and steering systems. In addition, you will learn about cooling and exhaust systems, lubrication, fuel and air induction systems, ignition systems, electrical and starting systems, power trains, and trouble shooting. It concludes with a chapter on emergency repairs afloat. Included is a useful chapter on winter storage (with a 25 step winterizing checklist) and spring servicing before launching for the boating season.
Marine Electronics Family of Courses
1. Marine Electrical Systems (MES)
This course covers the properties of electricity and the practice of wiring your boat for both DC and shore power (AC). Galvanic and stray current corrosion are covered, as is lightning protection. The course manual concludes with a chapter on troubleshooting and repairs. This has been found to be extremely helpful to make boaters feel more comfortable and safe when maintaining their boat’s electrical system.
2. Marine Communications
This course covers everything you need to know about on-board communications.
It begins with a brief history of radio communications and an explanation of the various types of marine radios, focusing especially on the VHF/FM radio. Important radio operating procedures are included as well as Federal Communication Commission rules and licensing procedures, as are. If you are an offshore, deep water boater, options for long range communications are covered. A helpful troubleshooting and communication system maintenance chapter is included.
3. Marine (Electronic) Navigation Systems
This course goes deeper into electronic navigation systems than other courses. Topics and equipment covered include modern GPS chartplotters, the Automatic Identification System (AIS), up-to-date descriptions of electronics such as radar, depth sounders, sonars, autopilots, computers for navigation, smart phones and tablets for navigation, troubleshooting and maintaining your electronics, and so forth.) Newer devices such as night vision aids also known as Forward Looking Infrared Systems are covered. In addition, a chapter on networking will demystify the connection of all these devices so boaters get the maximum enjoyment out of their boat’s electronic navigation systems.
Sailboats and Sailing Theory
This course provides an extensive overview into sailboats and sailing principles. Whether you are a novice, intermediate or expert dreaming about sailing to exotic ports in distant islands, this course will provide you with more knowledge about sailboats and what makes them so popular. Topics covered include the types of sailboat rigs and sail plans, sailboat design and hull types, sails, standing rigging, running rigging, wind effects, getting ready to sail, sailing upwind, sailing downwind, sailboat docking and anchoring, and “marlinspike” for sailors.
Also included are sailing-specific navigation rules, wind forces, stability, balance, sail shape, rig tuning, steering and helmsmanship, and spinnaker handling. The course concludes with descriptions of heavy weather sailing, storm conditions, sailing safety, and for enthusiasts, sailboat racing and race management.
This course will develop the boater’s awareness of weather phenomena, and show how to maximize boating pleasure with knowledge about the weather. Topics included in this course are the atmosphere, what the difference between climate and weather is, what causes weather, the movement of weather over the earth, and a whole lot more about weather forecasting. After completing this course, the boater will have the skills to understand weather forecasts and predictions, to make better instrument and visual observations from the boat and to know what it means when radio or television “weathermen” talk about air masses, fronts, storms, and fog. Throughout the course the instructors will show how to make observations and predications before the boaters have to apply their new skills on the water.
Boat Operator Certification
For those USPS® members who want to have their On-The-Water skills validated or refreshed, USPS® offers three levels of skill evaluations leading to certifications. The three levels of navigation competency are Inland, Coastal, and Advanced Coastal. Each level requires a combination of completed courses, seminars, emergency responses, and on the water skill demonstrations in vessels appropriate for the level. Certification provides an additional benefit to members who may want to charter, rent, or lease a boat (especially in a foreign country) and/or who are seeking insurance discounts based on their BOC achievements.
Inland Navigator requires demonstrations of boat handling capabilities needed for small boat control. Examples of skills to be demonstrated are: steering precision through a slalom course, forward and reverse traversal on a range, approaching and departing from docks and mooring floats. emergency stops, anchoring, constant radius turns, and so forth.
Coastal Navigator requires previous completion of Inland and demonstrations of route navigation along a developed series of waypoints with and without the use of electronics (without requires use of charts, clocks, ships compass, and plotting tools. More advanced anchoring and docking skills are also evaluated. A man overboard drill is conducted.
Advanced Coastal Navigator requires previous completion of Inland and Coastal and demonstrations of navigational skills and cruise planning skills and execution. A minimum three-day cruise is planned and evaluated. An on-the-water skill demonstration under limited visibility (night, rain, fog) and in area where other night traffic can be expected is required with all safety considerations exercised. An additional man overboard drill including a quick stop and return to the MOB will be conducted.