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Charleston Sail and Power Squadron
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Courses and Seminars

Charleston Sail and Power Squadron's course schedule for this year is available: click here.


The United States Power Squadrons provides many educational opportunities to both the boating public and to its members. One of the key concepts of the USPS is the self-education of its members, meaning that successful students go on to teach other students to perpetuate boating knowledge. Course offerings for members include these advanced grades as well as a series of elective courses covering a range of boating and booating education related topics.

See Educational Department at the United States Power Squadrons website, and the references at the bottom of this webpage, for more information.


America's Boating Course (ABC)

  • America's Boating Course - 3rd Edition is our primary civic effort toward public instruction in the fundamentals of safe boating. Both short (8-hour) and long (12-hour) formats are designed to familiarize the student with the fundamentals of safe boating and qualify for certification in most states that require boating education before operating a watercraft.

    The short (8-hour) version covers the basics needed to operate a boat safely, and is a replacement for previous short USPS courses such as Boat Smart and the 8-hour version of The Squadron Boating Course.

    The long (12-hour) course covers all that's included in the 8-hour course and adds basic information on both paper and digital charts and basic piloting techniques, equivalent to the full version of The Squadron Boating Course.

Advanced Grade Courses

The Advanced Grades are a series of in-depth courses with a focus on seamanship and navigation for members, and completion of the highest level course determines a member's "grade". Letter grades (S, P, AP, JN, N) may appear in USPS printed materials. Descriptions of these courses are shown below.

  • Seamanship (S)

    The Seamanship (2012) course is the next step after completing America’s Boating Course, 3rd Edition (ABC3), taking the knowledge and skills learned there and expanding and extending them with this newly updated edition. Or make Seamanship the first step into building boating confidence and competence for safe and fun on-the-water adventures. Seamanship presents material applicable to both power and sail, covering such topics as the construction and functioning of a boat, the skipper’s responsibilities, preparing the boat for use, handling and maneuvering a vessel under various conditions in close quarters and on the open water, rules of the road, anchoring, emergencies, and marlinspike/basic knots. The Appendices cover boating into the waters of Canada and Mexico, the effects of weather on the boater’s health, and general information on obtaining a US Coast Guard captain’s license. It is suggested that Seamanship be scheduled over nine two-hour class sessions, one session for each chapter and one session for the proctored test.

    The Student Manual Kit includes the text, a knot practice board, and the One Minute Guide to the Nautical Rules of the Road by Charlie Wing. Course instructional materials include a Microsoft PowerPoint® CD with embedded animations and audios that requires a more recent software version to perform correctly. The Student Manual has been updated with numerous error corrections and several topic clarifications. All chapter questions are now multiple choice with true/false and negative questions having been rewritten. The Instructor Manual 2009 is to be used with Seamanship. Each IM 2009 includes an errata sheet with the revised questions, answers, and references. The Seamanship On-The-Water Teaching Guide is available for download: click here. Course completion is documented by a closed book exam graded by USPS Headquarters.

  • Piloting (P)

    Piloting is the first course in the sequence of USPS courses on navigation, covering the basics of coastal and inland navigation. This 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. Ten classes of two hours each normally are scheduled for presentation of this course. In addition the students have seven days to complete the open book exam. 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.
  • Advanced Piloting (AP)

    Advanced Piloting is the second in the sequence of USPS courses on navigation. It 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. Ten classes of two hours each normally are scheduled for presentation of this course. In addition the students have seven days to complete the open book exam. 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

    Note: Both Seamanship and Piloting must be completed before USPS will certify a member for Advanced Piloting.

  • Junior Navigation (JN)

    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
    In Junior Navigation, the student will continue to use GPS as the primary position sensor, as they learned to do in Piloting and Advanced Piloting. However, the offshore environment poses many different elements for consideration by the Navigator. Ocean currents, wind, and sea state all affect a vessel's performance over the longer passages.

    Also, visible terrestrial landmarks are no longer available to the navigator as reference points. In the Junior Navigation course, the student will learn to substitute celestial objects such as the sun as reference points. The course begins with the study of celestial navigation, teaching the student to take sights on the sun with a marine sextant and derive a line of position from that observation. Next, the student will apply the principles learned in Advanced Piloting, and plot a running fix from two sun sights taken about four hours apart. Once the student has learned the basics of celestial sight reduction, the course continues with planning, positioning, and checking one’s position in the offshore environment, using both electronic and celestial tools.

    The new JN12 Instructor Manual for this course includes lesson plans for each chapter and comes with a PowerPoint CD that contains class presentations, quiz and homework answers. The chapter 13 Practice Cruise, and some other homework answers, shown in the Instructor Manual (IM) were calculated using appropriate mathematic methods to produce accurate reproducible answers. Students using the course required graphical methods, are not expected to obtain the identical answers as listed in the IM. Grading tolerances will be allowed.

    There are two examination elements for the JN course, the Sight Folder and an Open Book Exam. The sight folder is graded at the squadron level. The Sight Certification Form (SC07) must be submitted with the completed open book exam for the exam to be evaluated when it is submitted to Headquarters.

  • Navigation (N)

    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. This Navigation course (2009) deals with learning celestial positioning using other bodies, in addition to positioning using the sun (covered in the Junior Navigation course). This course also deals with electronic software tools that can be used to plan and execute an offshore voyage. You will first learn to reduce these sights by the Law of Cosines method. Later in the course, you will learn an additional method of sight reduction, the Nautical Almanac Sight Reduction (NASR) method. You will also learn about sight planning techniques. With that knowledge, you will have the tools to take sights and complete your Navigation Sight Folder. The course includes a chapter on using a software-based voyage planning tool and a navigation program. The final chapter of the course contains a Practice Cruise that ties the separate elements of the course together.

Elective Courses    listed alphabetically

The elective courses are a series of in-depth courses with a focus on boating topics other than navigation. Descriptions of these courses, are shown below. Note: There are no prerequisites for Elective Courses.

  • Cruising and Cruise Planning (C&CP)

    There is something very special about the thrill of cruising in new waters and the sense of accomplishment upon completing an extended cruise. To go beyond what most boaters do on a weekend overnight or even a week or so marina hopping requires boaters to leave their normal cruising areas and comfort zones. The Cruising and Cruise Planning course focuses on the planning and preparation necessary for safe enjoyable extended cruises on both inland and coastal waters.

    Designed for members who cruise on either a sail or powerboat (owned or chartered)-this course covers the following topics:

    • Cruise preparation and planning - General
    • Boat and Equipment
    • Anchors and Anchoring
    • Security
    • Chartering
    • Cruising Outside the United States
    • Crew and Provisioning
    • Voyage Management
    • Communications
    • Navigation
    • Weather
    • Emergencies
    The Cruising and Cruise Planning Course can be comfortably taught in eight two-hour sessions including time for review and the multiple choice closed book exam, but each instructor will determine the pace of the course.
  • Engine Maintenance (EM)

    The new Engine Maintenance course (2011) has been put into one ten chapter course that stresses the diagnosis of modern systems, while also teaching the basics of engine layout and operation. Gasoline inboards, outboards, and diesel engines are taught in a way that reinforces the common aspects of how engines work. This new course is complete in one book with one exam.

    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 course 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.

    EM 2011 is a minor update to EM 2007. We have included metric units throughout and fixed a few minor errors, incorporating the errata published for EM 2007.

  • Instructor Development (ID)

    Unlike other USPS courses, the Instructor Development course is not designed to enhance boating skills. Rather, its emphasis is on enhancing presentation techniques and 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 three presentations to their peers utilizing a variety of teaching aids and presentation skills. The instructor may assign a topic for these presentations or you may use material and PowerPoint slides from existing USPS courses, and they may build on one another.

    Note that ALL materials for the Instructor Development 2013 course MUST be downloaded from the Educational Department web site. No Instructor Development 2013 materials are available from the Materials catalog. Also note that to process the required one hour lesson plan to complete ID 2013, an "exam" order for ID 2013 must be processed using the regular on-line ED-33 exam ordering process; no "exams" or other paperwork will be sent to the squadron however.

  • Marine Electronics

    The Marine Electronics course consists of three modules: ME 101, Boat Electrical Systems, ME 102, Marine Radio Communications, and ME 103, Marine Electronics for Navigation. There are no prerequisites for any of these modules; however, it is suggested that a member take ME 101 before taking ME 102. All three modules must be successfully completed to receive credit for Marine Electronics.

    ME 101, Boat Electrical Systems, provides information about properties of electricity, electrical power requirements and wiring practices, direct current power, alternating current power, galvanic and stray-current corrosion, lightning protection, and electrical interference.

    ME 102, Marine Radio Communications, delves into radio waves and transmitters, receivers and transceivers, antennas and transmission lines, FCC Rules and Regulations, FCC Frequency Plan, marine radiotelephone operating procedures, and other communication services (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), Digital Selective Calling (DSC), Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), satellite communications, amateur radio, and more).

    ME 103, Marine Electronics for Navigation, presents information on depth sounders, RADAR, LORAN-C, GPS Navigation, and two new chapters: Electronic Charting, and Computer-Assisted Navigation (CAN). Members may take this module independent of any other ME module. These courses are being superseded by the new series of Marine Electrical Systems, (MES), Marine Communications Systems (MCS), and Marine Navigation Systems (MNS). See below for more information.

  • Marine Communications (MCS)

    Marine Communications Systems is an in-depth, nine chapter review of those systems available to the recreational boater, or to those with whom he/she shares the water. Radio history and spectrum definitions are presented along with definitions of radio circuits that the student should learn, to choose the best communications method for his/her situation. One chapter is devoted to the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) and another to FCC Rules and regulations to set the stage for instruction of radiotelephone operating procedures (both voice and digital messaging are covered). The remaining chapters cover High Seas radio (MF/HF and satellite communications) and other systems such as Family Radio Service transceivers. There is also a chapter on troubleshooting of radio installations.
  • Marine Electrical Systems (MES)

    The Marine Electrical Systems course is presented in seven chapters that start with an explanation of what electricity is, followed by discussions on boat electrical wiring, DC and AC electrical systems, galvanic and stray current corrosion, lightning protection, and ends with troubleshooting of boat electrical problems. The course includes detailed instructions on how to use a multimeter, how to solder and crimp electrical wiring circuits, and how to read electrical wiring diagrams. This course can be used as a reference guide for anyone interested in properly maintaining their boat electrical system.
  • Marine Navigation Systems (MNS)

    Marine Navigation Systems will be the third course in the Marine Electronics series. This course is currently in manuscript. It presently consists of eight chapters on electronic navigation instruments including depth sounders, radar, and GPS, and on display systems including chart plotters and personal computers. EMSCom will be adding sections on interfacing these systems (bridge integration) and a section on new visual aids to piloting.
  • Sail (SA)

    Sail (2009) is a completely new sail course created to serve the needs of the novice and experienced sailor, as well as the non-sailor, for basic skills and knowledge. The course starts with basic sailboat designs and nomenclature, rigging, safety, and sail processes and then tackles the physical aspects of sailing forces and techniques, sail applications, marlinespike, helmsmanship and handling of more difficult sailing conditions, navigation rules, and an introduction to heavy weather sailing. Appendices provide an introduction to sailboat racing and sailing in Canadian waters.

    This new Sail course is a single volume Student and Instructor Manual (IM) developed in cooperation with the Canadian Sail & Power Squadron. Course instructional materials include material in Microsoft PowerPoint® format with embedded animations that require additional software to perform correctly

    Course completion is documented by a closed book exam graded by USPS Headquarters.

  • Weather (WX)

    The safety and comfort of those who venture out-on-the water have always been weather dependent. In this course students will become keener observers of the weather, but weather observations only have meaning in the context of the basic principles of meteorology - the science of the atmosphere. The course focuses on how weather systems form, behave, move, and interact with one another and reflects the availability of all sorts of weather reports and forecasts on the Internet. Wx2012 is a general weather course benefiting those sitting in their living rooms, as much as those standing behind the helm. Each student receives:
    • a Weather Manual - USPS Weather - an explanatory text with full color photographs and drawings covering weather in the United States and its coastal and inland waters;
    • a set of three Daily Weather Maps - learning aids with a compete explanation of map symbols designed to develop weather map reading and analysis skills; and
    • NOAA’s Sky Watcher Chart - a reference to assist in identifying cloud types – helpful indicators of approaching weather.
    The Weather Course is designed to be conducted over ten two-hour sessions including time for review and the multiple choice closed book exam, but each instructor will determine the pace of the course.

Seminars


References    (at USPS website)


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