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Beverly-Marblehead Sail & Power Squadron
Serving Boston's North Shore
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Updated 01-Jan-2018

Boating Course Details

This page provdes more details about all courses and seminars we offer.

If you've already passed America's Boating Class, skip ahead to the Advanced Courses section.

For seminars, skip ahead to the Seminars section.


America's Boating Class

America’s Boating Course is an excellent opportunity for beginning boaters as well as a refresher for the experienced skipper and crew. Topics include boat handling, knots and lines, trailering, safety equipment, aids to navigation, navigation rules, adverse conditions, and basic chart work. The course consists of four 2-hour classroom sessions and a final exam followed by two additional sessions covering charting and navigation.

Graduates are invited to join the Beverly-Marblehead Sail & Power Squadron and take advantage of the many opportunities and benefits, including more Advanced Courses and Seminars. If you are unable to take one of our scheduled courses,  please check our National Site for courses taught by other Squadrons.

  • Who should take a Safe Boating Course? We encourage this course for anyone who goes out on the water, regardless if they own a boat. Your knowledge of boating safety and boating equipment may save your own life as well as someone else.
  • Is there a minimum age? We ask that students be at least 12 years old and if under 16, that a parent (or another adult) accompany the student to maximize the learning experience. 
  • Do I get a Certificate? During the Course, you will take an examination based on a course material plus some questions of the Massachusetts State Boating Laws. You must pass with a score of 80% on both parts of the exam to be awarded a Certificate of Completion. This Certificate can often result in a discount on your boat insurance.

Massachusetts State Boating Laws. Each state has its own boating laws and regulations; several have their own boater guides, many are online.  We discuss the safety rules, laws, and regulations of Massachusetts as part of our Safe Boating Courses. 

In Massachusetts, persons under 12 years of age may operate a motorboat on Massachusetts' waters only if accompanied and directly supervised by a competent person 18 years of age or older. Persons 12 through 15 years of age may operate a motorboat on Massachusetts' waters only if they have passed an approved boating safety course or are accompanied on board and directly supervised by a competent person 18 years of age or older.

Our Safe Boating Courses are approved and students (ages 12 through 15 years) who pass either Course plus the State quiz can apply for a Boating Safety Certificate. Students may obtain the application form from a Course chairman; there  is no fee. The form must be completed by the parent (or legal guardian) and the Course chairman. It is the responsibility of the student to send the form to the State. Normal processing time is less than four weeks. The Boating Safety Certificate must be on board and available for inspection by an enforcement officer whenever operating a vessel.

Return to the Courses page to find out what courses are scheduled and to register for an upcoming course.


Advanced Courses

Materials are provided by USPS, and courses are taught by B-MSPS Members.

Advanced Grade Course Elective Courses

Advanced Grade Courses

Seamanship has been totally rewritten.  It is typically the 1st course for a new member.  It contains new material far beyond the basic boating course. The student will learn about how boats behave in the water -- boat handling -- including close quarters maneuvering, and then in open water, at sea. Students will learn about anchoring, mooring, rafting, emergencies on the water, and marlinspike. This course includes a supplemental text, “One-Minute Guide to the Nautical Rules of the Road”, to give the student a solid base, explaining what the rules are and what they mean.


Piloting (10 sessions).  The Piloting course is the first in the sequence of USPS courses on navigation, covering the basics of coastal and inland navigation. This all-new 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.

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Advanced Piloting (10 sessions). This all-new course 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.   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

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Junior Navigation (17 sessions). 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

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Navigation (17 sessions). 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.  The course covers:

  • Additional sight-reduction techniques
  • Honing skills in sight taking and positioning
  • Orderly methods for the navigator's day's work at sea
  • Navigating with minimal resources, as in a lifeboat

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Elective Courses

Cruise Planning (10 sessions). Designed for members who plan to cruise for just a day or for a year--in either a sail or powerboat--this course covers the following topics:

  • Cruise preparation and planning
  • Boat and Equipment
  • Anchors and Anchoring
  • Security
  • Chartering
  • Cruising Outside the United States
  • Crew and Provisioning
  • Voyage Management
  • Communications
  • Navigation
  • Weather
  • Emergencies

The manual includes a twelve-month cruise planning timeline. The course is non-modular with one final exam.

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Engine Maintenance (9 sessions). 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.

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 new Engine Maintenance 2007 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.

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Marine Electronics (12 sessions). 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 radiotelephone.  An entire new module was recently added on electronics for navigation.  Specific equipment covered includes: Batteries, VHF and SSB radios, Radar, GPS, electronic charting and autopilots. We also go beyond the text to cover how modern devices can be networked together. 

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Weather (12 sessions). The Weather course will furnish basic weather knowledge for safer and more enjoyable boating. The student will learn to make weather predictions based upon observations of the sky, upon barometer and wind, as well as weather data provided by maps, satellite images, and radio and TV broadcasts. Wx 101 and Wx 102 use a USPS supplement manual together with The Weather Book from USA Today (second edition, 1997) as the textbook.

Wx 101 - Basic Weather - topics include:

  • Effects of Heat and Cold
  • Wind and Pressure
  • Storms and Fronts
  • Rain, Humidity and Fog
  • Floods, Droughts, and Winter Precipitation

Wx 102 - Advanced Weather - topics include:

  • Thunderstorms and Tornados
  • Tropical Weather
  • Atmosphere and Clouds
  • Forecasting
  • Climate

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Sail (two 8 session courses, 101 Basic Sail and 102 Advanced Sail). This course provides a through 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, navigation rules. Topics include:

Sail 101 Basic Sail Sail 102 Advanced Sail
  • 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
  • Navigation Rules I
  • Wind Forces
  • Stability
  • Balance
  • Sail Shape
  • Tuning the Rig
  • Steering and Helmsmanship
  • Spinnaker Handling
  • Heavy Weather Sailing
  • Storm Conditions
  • Sailing Safety
  • Sailboat Racing
  • Race Management
  • Navigation Rules II

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Instructor Development  (5 sessions). 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.

Fully developed suggested lesson plans for each chapter are contained in the instructor manual and PowerPoint presentations are available, as well as overhead transparency masters.

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Seminars are a great way to learn about a specific topic concentrated into a manageable, two-hour commitment.  These focused sessions help you round out your understanding and knowledge of a variety of boating topics.  Click on any seminar below to find out more. If you are interested in any seminar, contact Education Officer Walter Riley.

Boat Handling


Facing the Environment




Hands On Skills


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