USPS Education

Educational Opportunities

Education is an integral part of Power Squadron membership. The educational opportunities that are available provide an invaluable source of knowledge and an unequaled chance to make new friends and acquaintances among your fellow classmates and instructors.

Power Squadron classes are divided into two groupings: Advanced Grades and Elective Courses. The Advanced Grades are a progressive course of study in seamanship, piloting, and navigation and are designed to develop and enhance your skills in boating. They build a cumulative knowledge base and are generally taken in the order of Seamanship, Piloting, Advanced Piloting, Junior Navigation, and Navigation.

The Elective Courses teach various aspects of the boating experience and include: Cruise Planning, Engine Maintenance, Instructor Qualification, Marine Electronics, Sail, and Weather. Classes are generally held in the non-boating months during the evenings at various locations.

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United States Power Squadrons®

USPS provides basic boating education to the public with no charge for instruction. Local squadrons may teach America's Boating Course or Boat Smart.

Squadrons may also follow a Boat Smart or America's Boating Course with a Chart Smart course to provide charting and plotting information not covered in those two courses. Locate a course to be taught near you soon.

Find out about the public courses offered at USPS and how to become a member of USPS.

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Advanced Grades

Seamanship (S)

Building on the basics taught in the USPS Boating courses, Seamanship is the recommended first course for new members, both powerboaters and sailors. The student learns practical marlinespike, navigation rules, hull design and performance, responsibilities 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. This course provides an introduction to the USPS educational program and a strong foundation for the other Advanced Grades courses, and the Elective Courses, Cruise Planning and Basic Sail.

Piloting (P)

Piloting introduces the fundamentals of piloting and positioning—the study of marine charts, aids to navigation, adjustment and use of the mariner’s compass, dead reckoning, planning and plotting course, and taking bearings to determine on-the-water position.

Advanced Piloting (AP)

Advanced Piloting builds on the knowledge gained in Piloting to teach how to navigate safely in coastal waters—predict tides and tidal currents and their impact on boat position, advanced positioning techniques, and the use of electronic navigation systems for positioning and course planning.

Junior Navigation (JN)

Junior Navigation begins the study of offshore navigation—integrated electronic positioning systems, sight taking with a mariner’s sextant on the sun, moon, planets, and stars, how to reduce sights using the nautical almanac to determine position, and passage planning with special open-ocean charts.

Navigation (N)

Navigation further develops the understanding of celestial navigation theory and the skills in sight taking and reduction—additional sight reduction techniques 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.

Elective Courses

Cruise Planning (CP)

This course is preparation for a cruise, whether the cruise is 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.

Engine Maintenance (EM)

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 make you a more intelligent and more resourceful boat engine operator.

Instructor Qualification (IQ)

The development of practical skills and methods in preparing for both classroom and meeting presentations are the objectives of this unique course. The course includes practice assignments in 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 students is afforded the opportunity to become familiar with their best use.

Marine Electronics (ME)

Essential knowledge about your boat’s electrical and electronic systems is studied in this course. Proper wiring, grounding, electrolysis control, and batteries and their maintenance are included. Depth finders, marine radio telephones, radar, loran, GPS, and advanced systems for electronic navigation are also studied. Information is provided on FCC requirements for station licensing and operator permits for radio telephone.

Basic Sail (Sail 101)

This course module provides a thorough study of the terminology of sailing, as well as information on the following subjects: sailboat rigs, sail plans, boat design, and hull types, sails, standing rigging, running rigging, wind, preparing to sail, sailing upwind, sailing downwind, docking and anchoring, marlinespike seamanship, and navigation rules.

Advanced Sail (Sail 102)

This course module provides information on the following subjects: wind forces, stability, balance, sail shape, turning the rig, steering and helmsmanship, spinnaker handling, heavy weather sailing, storm conditions, sailing safety, sailboat racing, race management, and navigation rules.

Note: Both Basic Sail and Advanced Sail must be successfully completed before credit for completion of the Elective Grade of Sail is granted.

Weather (Wx 101 and Wx102)

Awareness of weather phenomena, how to read the weather map and the sky, and understand and anticipate weather developments for more pleasurable boating are the objectives of this course. Subjects studied 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. Observations 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 broadcasts. 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.

Note: Both Weather 101 and 102 must be successfully completed before credit for completion of the Elective Grade of Weather is granted.

Operations Training (OT)

The Operations Training course offers members the opportunity to learn about the workings of USPS, including the relationship among squadrons, districts, and the national organization.  It includes insight into squadron education, training, organization, staffing, planning, communications and USPS history and protocol.

To learn more about USPS Member Courses, please click here.

Learning Guides and Other Educational Materials

In addition to Advanced Grade and Elective Courses, the following Learning Guides and other materials are available from USPS. There are generally no prerequisites for these self-study courses that cover a single subject in 28 to 152 pages of in depth study.

For a synopsis of each guide, as well as pricing information, please click here: