USPS Educational Programs

Member Courses

The USPS Educational program is diverse and challenging. It offers members the promise of greater enjoyment and safety in your own boating activities, the satisfaction of personal accomplishments, and the opportunity to share with others the knowledge and skills you have acquired.

There are currently three major divisions in the USPS Educational Program:

Advanced Grades

A sequential group of five courses in seamanship and navigation.

Elective Courses

Six non-sequential courses on diverse marine-oriented topics

Learning Guides

These guides are generally short booklets that provide useful information on a variety of marine-related topics.

Advanced Grades


Building on the basics taught in the USPS Boating Course, Seamanship is the first of the five advanced grades courses for members, either power boaters or sailors. The student learns practical marlinspike, navigation rules, hull design and performance, responsibility of the skipper, boat care, operating a boat under normal and abnormal conditions, what to do in various emergencies and weather conditions, nautical customs and common courtesy on the water.


Piloting is the first of a two-part program of study of inland and coastal navigation. Focus is on the fundamentals of basic piloting - keeping track of your movements on the water, determining where you are at any given moment, and laying out a course to your planned destination. Included are a thorough study of charts and their use, aids to navigation, mariner's compass, variation and deviation, bearings, dead reckoning, and developing skill at plotting and labeling. Prerequisite: Seamanship

Advanced Piloting

The second part of the study of inland and coastal navigation, with strong emphasis on the latter is Advanced Piloting. The student learns many more advanced positioning techniques and is introduced to the phenomena of tides and tidal currents, and their impact on piloting. Also covered are the simple use of the marine sextant and various modern electronic navigation systems for positioning and course planning. Prerequisite: Piloting

Junior Navigation

Junior Navigation is the first of a two-part program of study in offshore - open ocean - navigation. It is designed as a practical, "how to" course, leaving the theoretical and more advanced techniques for the Navigation course. The subject matter includes: the basic concepts of celestial navigation, how to use the mariner's sextant to take sights of the sun, moon, planets, and stars, the importance and technique of accurate time determination, use of the nautical almanac, how to "reduce" sights to establish lines of position (LOPs), and the use of special charts, plotting sheets, and other navigational data for offshore positioning and passage planning. Prerequisite: Advanced Piloting


This is the second part of the study of offshore navigation. It further develops the student's understanding of celestial navigation theory, essential to shortcut emergency methods. The student is introduced to additional sight reduction techniques and 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 study of offshore navigation using minimal data and/or equipment, such as when on a disabled vessel or lifeboat. Prerequisite: Junior Navigation

At the end of this page, you will find a form to request information

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Elective Courses

Cruise Planning

This course is preparation for a cruise, whether the cruise is for a day, a week, a month, or longer. If you are planning to cruise on rivers, lakes, the coasts, or across the oceans, you will be provided with very valuable information 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. Prerequisite: None.

Engine Maintenance

This course covers the general construction, operating principles, maintenance and repair of marine gasoline and diesel engines, cooling, electrical, fuel, and lubricating systems and associated propulsion components - clutches, shafting, and propellers. Since one of the major objectives of the course is to help the student become more self-reliant afloat, trouble diagnosis and temporary remedies are emphasized along with safety measures. The course is intended to produce more intelligent and more resourceful boat engine operators. prerequisite: None.

Marine Electronics

This course gives an essential knowledge about your boat's electrical and electronic systems. You will get acquainted with proper wiring, grounding, electrolysis control, batteries and their maintenance. You will also study depth finders, marine radio telephones, radar, loran, omega, and advanced systems for electronic navigation such as GPS. You will be provided information on FCC requirements for station licensing and operation permits for radio telephone. Prerequisite: None.


This course provides a thorough study of the terminology of sailing; types of hulls, rigs and sail-plans; running and standard rigging and their adjustments and tuning, and sailboat marlinspike. The dynamics of sailing are covered, including: hull and water forces caused by wind and waves, forces versus balance, techniques of sailing, points of sail, sail handling, sailing under various wind conditions from light air to storm survival, boat operation and emergency techniques unique to sailboats. prerequisite: None.


The objectives of this course are awareness of weather phenomena, how to read the weather map and the sky, and understand and anticipate weather developments for more pleasurable boating. The subjects include: characteristics and structure of the atmosphere, what weather is and its basic causes, normal development and movement of weather over the earth, and the factors considered in weather forecasting. Observation that the skipper can make afloat include both instrumental and visual: cloud sequences and the weather they predict, air masses, fronts, storms, and fog, and the use of radio and television weather broadcast. Throughout the course, the student is encouraged to make observations and predictions in order to gain experience in applying the principles taught and develop greater insight into weather phenomena. Prerequisite: None.

Instructor Development

The objectives of this unique course are the development of practical skills and methods in preparing for both classroom and meeting presentations. It includes practice assignments preparation and delivery of presentations in the classroom, including the use of visual and other aids. All types of aids that can enhance a presentation are studied and the student is afforded the opportunity to become familiar with their use. Attendance at the majority of the class sessions is mandatory before taking the examination. Prerequisite: None.

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Learning Guides

These Learning Guides have been developed to extend members' knowledge in fields related to boating. Subjects have been selected in areas about which members have expressed interest or supplement other courses. These specialized home-study guides may be ordered through our Squadron Educational Officer or directly from the USPS Ship's Store at the USPS headquarters. You may take any of the programs you wish and in any order. There are no prerequisites and a certificate of completion is available.

Amateur Radio

Intended to inform members of the procedures for obtaining radio licensing, and other related information regarding shipboard radio.

Boat Insurance

Explains, simplifies, clarifies the elements of yacht policies and provides information for selecting the right amount of coverage.

Calculators for Navigation

A guide to the use of pocket calculators for the tedious computations relating to navigation from coastal piloting to celestial navigation.

Compass Adjusting

Describing every method known to man for the skipper of a boat with a plastic, wood, or aluminum hull to determine his or her vessel's precise heading, in sunny or foul weather. The course includes the use of the pelorus and the manipulation of the compass corrector magnets.

Global Positioning System (GPS)

If you don’t own a GPS unit now, you probably will soon.  Everybody's using GPS: boaters, hunters, anglers, commercial ship operators, drivers, and Co-op Charting enthusiasts.  Determine your exact position anywhere on earth and plan the next leg of your journey.  Here's a step-by-step guide that's easy to read and understand.

How To Fly Flags

What's the best and most nautically-correct way to fly flags on your boat? This colorful little booklet shows you everything you need to know: flying the US Ensign on any boat; displaying an officer's flag or a yacht club or squadron pennant; dressing ship for a parade or celebration; and more. You'll also see the correct way to display flags ashore—indoors and out.

Introduction to Navigational Astronomy

A pleasant, non-technical introduction to the wonders of the night sky. No prior familiarity is needed to enjoy this easy-to-read guide to stars, planets, and major constellations.

Introduction to Sailing

This program covers the basics of small sailboat handling, including nomenclature, relationship of wind to moving boat, action of the keel or centerboard, leeway, lee and weather helm.

Knots, Bends, and Hitches (Marlinspike)

This manual is a practical guide to the tying of a variety of useful and decorative knots, bends, hitches and splices.


It covers marine geography, including earth crusts, tectonic plates, fractures and movement, ocean chemistry, the effect of weather on water, the physical aspect of tides, currents and waves, and marine ecology.

Plotting and Labeling Standards

How do you move your boat from here to there? Via the safest route? In the least time? With accurate, consistent, and rock-solid knowledge of your position? And, how can you reconstruct and repeat your passage, or tell the oncoming watch the course to steer, speed to make, and bearings to take? Plotting and labeling your course using standard symbols, labels, and abbreviations is the way to go. In easy-to-understand form, here they are and how to use them.

Predicted Log Contests

The first part of this program is an introduction to logging and the second part is for the basically experienced logger.


You use RADAR whether you're the equipment operator or the target.  Know what a radar system will and will not show a skipper. And, if you're thinking of buying a radar set, take the time to read this quick guide to radar selection, installation, use, and maintenance first. The dollars and aggravation you save will be well worth your time and effort.

Sight Reduction Methods

A self-instruction guide to five popular methods of sight reduction: Law of Cosines, Nautical Almanac (NASR), Modified Ageton, HO-229 and HO-249.

Skipper Saver

A blend of two USPS objectives, education and safety. The purpose of this program is to help the student acquire basic boating handling ability without frills or superfluous information.

USPS Nautical Glossary

You're reading an interesting book about boating and come across a new word or phrase. Where do you find the correct definition? This handy reference provides the definitions of over 1300 nautical words and phrases used by boaters, including those found in USPS courses and publications. It's easy to read and worth keeping handy.

Water Sports

Boating is fun, but there’s a lot more you can do on the water! Like skiing and windsurfing, to name a few. But, even these have safety rules, special equipment, procedures, and hand signals. Some seem so basic that it’s hard to find them in writing, but it’s important to know them to enjoy these sports safely. Here they are, in a booklet ready for use by long-time enthusiasts and beginners alike!

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