Courseline Course Descriptions

Volunteer Taught Courses:

Courses available through the Courseline Online are typically offered at low-cost. Most of the courses include volunteer instruction, but nominal funds may be required to cover course materials. These courses are thorough, NASBLA-approved (National Association of Boating Law Administrators), and often taught by the US Power Squadron and US Coast Guard Auxiliary.

State Agency Courses:

Your State Boating Office may offer boating courses with textbooks and certificates of completion. Many states have study-at-home programs. Topics covered include boats and motors, legal requirements, Rules of the Road, getting underway, weather, navigation, trailering, first aid, white water, and sailboats. Young Boater's courses are also available in some states. These courses are NASBLA (National Association of Boating Law Administrators) approved and recognized by the US Coast Guard as meeting the minimum educational standards for basic safety, navigation, and survival information.

Private Schools:

Many companies offer boating courses that meet in local sites across the country. These companies typically charge a higher fee, but you usually only need one to two days time to complete the course. In many cases, private companies can only certify in that particular state, so check before you sign up if you plan to boat in another state.

State Education Requirements Information:

Boating laws change periodically, thus affecting educational requirements for some boaters. If you are looking for a course which fulfills a specific state requirement (i.e., New Jersey approved PWC courses), view State Educational Requirements (opens in new window) to learn more about the state requirements. Many states require specific courses depending on the age of the boater and/or the kind of boat being operated. So be sure that the course you take is approved for your state, age, and the kind of boating you intend to do.


Specific Course Providing Agencies

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Americas Boating CourseAmerica's Boating Course 3rd Edition is certified by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and recognized by the U.S. Coast Guard, and meets licensing requirements for almost all states.

The course has been extensively revised and rewritten to enhance enjoyment and retention of the material, and to address new technological developments.

America's Boating Course 3rd Edition can be completed in one of three ways: on the internet, as a CD-based home-study course, or in the classroom. All receive an extensive full color book and self-study animated, narrated CD. The book and CD provide easy reference after the course has been completed. Since all material is identical, those starting on the internet can finish at home or in the classroom.

The basic material has four chapters, each requiring about 2 hours.

Chapter 1 - Getting Started, Required Safety Equipment and Going Boating.
Chapter 2 - Navigation Rules, Navigation Aids, Lights and Sound Signals, Government Regulation, State and Local Regulations.
Chapter 3 - Finding Your Way, Anchoring, Adverse Conditions and Emergencies, Communications Afloat.
Chapter 4 - Water Sports Safety, Trailering, Personal Watercraft Operation, Knots and Lines.

A fifth optional chapter provides an introduction to navigation, that covers:

  • GPS waypoint navigation
  • Using charts, and traditional navigation principles
  • Using digital charts, and
  • Practical navigation exercises

America's Boating Course is a complete program covering the basics of recreational boating. The course is designed for boaters with all types of watercraft - power, sail, or paddle. The course material package includes:

  • A full-color 244-page boating safety course manual, and
  • A boating instruction CD, a digital charting CD, and
  • Personal contact with United States Power Squadron members.

Both the course manual and the CD provide review questions so that you can test your understanding of the material as you go along. In addition to the lessons, this package includes resources which will come in handy long after you have completed the course: printable forms (such as checklists, accident reports, float plans, etc.) and links to documents such as the U.S. Coast Guard's Navigation Rules, which can help you with any specific boating rule.

When you purchase America's Boating Course over the Internet, you will receive the complete package by mail. You will also receive a PIN (Personal Identification Number) that provides you with Internet access to our boating web site (www.americasboatingcourse.com) . Learn the basics of boating online at your own pace, at home or away.

In addition to the boating course package, a fellow boater in your area from USPS will contact you and offer assistance with the material, state regulations, and arranging for you to take a final safe boater exam accepted in your state, or answer other questions you may have. The United States Power Squadrons is on call at any time to help you.

The Seminar Series

Providing up-to-date information on a wide-range of topics important to today's recreational boaters. A good way to build skills, learn how to use equipment, or just update your knowledge. Seminars are open to the general public. Many are single session of about two hours.

Focused topics

  • How to Use a Chart
  • Using GPS
  • Trailering
  • Using Marine Radar
  • Anchoring
  • Sail Trim and Rig Tuning
  • PaddleSmart
  • Using VHF/DSC Marine Radio
  • Rivers & Locks
  • Onboard Weather Forecasting
  • Knots, Bends, & Hitches for Mariners
  • Selecting & Using Marine Compasses
  • Boat Handling Under Power
  • Advanced Powerboat Handling
  • Basic Coastal Navigation
  • Hurricanes and Boats
  • Crew Overboard
  • Marine Maintenance Series
  • Heavy Weather Sailing
  • Emergencies On Board
  • Diesel Engine Care & Repair
  • Partner in Command
  • and, more on the way!

Americas Boating Course Books

What's in it for Me?

  • Stay current with new technology.
  • Refresh boating skills.
  • Meet needs of those unable to commit to a multi-session course
  • Learn subjects targeted to a specific boating environment or subject
  • Ease into a full educational curriculum
  • Gain credits toward boat operator certification

United States Power Squadron Homepage


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Basic Boating Course: Boating Skills and Seamanship:

Comprehensive course designed for both the experienced and the novice boater. The course consists of 6 required two-hour lessons plus elective modules, providing up-to-date knowledge for handling boats in all conditions.

Topics include -

  • Which boat is for you...
  • Equipment for your boat...
  • Trailering your boat...
  • Handling your boat...
  • The rules you must follow...
  • Piloting your boat
  • Powering your boat
  • Lines and knots for your boat
  • Weather and boating
  • Your boat's radio
  • Inland boating
  • The rest of our story

Basic Boating Course: Sailing Skills and Seamanship:

The U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary's Sailing & Seamanship (S&S) course is a comprehensive course to prepare the beginning boater with the basic knowledge needed to safely operate a sailboat. The course consists of 6 required two-hour lessons plus elective modules, providing up-to-date knowledge for handling sailboats in all conditions.

Topics include -

  • What makes a sailboat?
  • How a boat sails
  • Basic sailboat maneuvering
  • Legal requirements and aids to navigation
  • Rigging and boat handling
  • Tuning and heavy weather
  • Navigation rules
  • Marlinspike seamanship
  • Engines for sailboats
  • Trailering
  • Weather
  • Radiotelephone
  • Inland waterways/locks & dams
  • Piloting

Boating Safely:

Boating Safely is a eight-hour, eight-chapter course designed to appeal to hunters, anglers, personal watercraft operators and other boaters who cannot find time for a full, comprehensive course. Boating Safely was developed by the U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in cooperation with the US. Power Squadrons and Mosby Lifeline, and is approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA). It is also approved by most of the states which require formal instruction in order to operate a boat.

Topics include -

  • Introduction to boating
  • Boating laws
  • Personal safety equipment
  • Safe boat handling
  • Navigation
  • Boating problems
  • Trailering, storing, and protecting your boat
  • Hunting/fishing, waterskiing, river boating

Basic Coastal Navigation Course:

The U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary's Basic Coastal Navigation (BCN) course is a comprehensive course to introduce the advanced boater to the methods needed to safely pilot a boat.

Topics include:

  • Introduction to coastal navigation
  • The marine magnetic compass
  • he nautical chart
  • The navigator's tools and instruments
  • Dead reckoning
  • Piloting

Advanced Coastal Navigation Course:

The U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary's Advanced Coastal Navigation (ACN) course is a comprehensive course to prepare the advanced boater with the knowledge needed to safely pilot a boat.

Topics include:

  • Introduction to coastal navigation
  • The marine magnetic compass
  • The nautical chart
  • The navigator's tools and instruments
  • Dead reckoning
  • Piloting
  • Current sailing
  • Tides and tidal currents
  • Radionavigation
  • Navigation reference publications
  • Fuel and voyage planning
  • Reflections

Personal Watercraft (PWC) Course:

The U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary's Personal Watercraft course is a very basic, one-hour introduction to the safety issues involved when operating a PWC. Because of its brevity, it is not approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) nor is it approved by most of the states which require formal instruction in order to operate a boat (the Auxiliary's Boating Safely, Boating Skills & Seamanship and Sailing & Seamanship courses are more appropriate for meeting legal requirements).

The purpose of the course and its associated text, Personal Watercraft Rider's Handbook, is to teach that PWCs are boats and that their skippers have legal responsibilities and should learn the "rules of the road." 

Boat 'n Kids Course:

The U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary's Boats 'n Kids course is a short one-hour presentation designed to teach 5- to 12-year-olds some basic safety tips around boats.  The presentation includes a slide show demonstrating the correct and wrong things to do around water and boats. There is also a short video showing the safe things to do around and in boats.

Boats 'n Kids ends with a demonstration on how to put on a PFD (personal flotation device or life preserver) and what to do if someone else is in trouble in the water. Each child is given a work book to help them remember what they have learned, including proper boat loading, safe fuel handling and basic safe boating tips.

Water 'n Kids:

The U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary's Water 'n Kids course is a short one-hour presentation designed to teach 4- to 7-year-olds some basic safety tips around water.  The presentation includes a slide show demonstrating the correct and wrong things to do around water.

There is also a short video showing the safe things to do in and around boats. Water 'n Kids ends with a demonstration on how to put on a PFD (personal flotation device or life preserver) and what to do if someone else is in trouble in the water. Each child is given a coloring book to help them remember what they have learned. The coloring book (and several others) is also available online for downloading and printing in .GIF graphics format. It is also available  in Adobe Acrobat (.PDF) format which requires the free Adobe Reader software for viewing and printing.

US Coast Guard Auxiliary Homepage

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