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America’s Boating Course®

Become a Better Boater, Take an In-Person Boating Course.

The most comprehensive in-person boating course available, America’s Boating Course gives you the skills you need to enjoy your time on the water and boat with confidence.

Taking a boating class reduces your risk of accidents and injuries, saves you money on boat insurance, and qualifies you for a state boat license or operator certificate in most states.

Our in-person boating course includes an comprehensive introduction to boating, covering boat types, boat engines, boat selection and more.

The course is also available on-line.

For more information click here

Our new Boat Handling course is intended for newer recreational boaters who have completed a basic boating class (like America’s Boating Course) and want to gain more knowledge, skill, and confidence to boat safely and have more fun in a variety of situations.

Details available on the national site here.

Piloting (aka Coastal Navigation) (P)

​Piloting (aka Coastal Navigation) (P) is the first of the navigational classes focusing on reading and using coastal and inland conditions. The course emphasizes plotting and checking your progress along with the use of GPS for determining position, and introduces digital charting along with traditional charting, compass and dead reckoning navigation skills. Plotting, labeling, use of the compass, aids to navigation and a host of related topics are included.

Advanced Piloting (AP)

ADVANCED PILOTING (AP) 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 skill through hands-on practice and learning. Topics covered include:

  • Review of skills learned in Piloting
  • Advanced positioning technique 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.

Junior Navigation (JN)

The advanced grade course is the first of a two-course program of Offshore Navigation for the well as conventional route planning techniques. Students also learn traditional celestial navigational skills to determine position, using these techniques to check their electronics and as the backup navigation technique in the event electronics fail.

ELECTRONICS IN THE OFFSHORE MARINE ENVIRONMENT – Students will continue to use GPS as the primary position sensor, as they learned to do in the advanced grade prerequisite courses Piloting and Advanced Piloting. The offshore environment impacts how one uses the GPS and other electronic tools; students will learn about some of these considerations.

SUBSTITUTING CELESTIAL OBJECTS FOR TERRESTRIAL LANDMARKS – While offshore, visible terrestrial landmarks are no longer available to the navigator as reference points. Students will learn to substitute celestial objects such as the sun as a reference point. The course begins with the study of celestial navigation, teaching students to take sights on the sun with a marine sextant and derive a line of position from that observation.
The sun represents but a single reference point, so students will apply the principles of the running fix learned in Advanced Piloting, and be able to plot a running fix of one’s position from the sun sights. Once the student has learned the basics of celestial sight reduction, the course continues with planning, positioning, and checking one’s position the offshore environment, using both electronic and celestial tools.

Celestial Navigation

Course Overview

After Offshore Navigation (currently offered as 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 2015 course 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.

Chapter 1. A View of our Solar System. A simple overview of how the celestial bodies in the sky appear to us on earth.

Chapter 2. Sunrise…Sunset. Finding local mean time of solar and lunar phenomena and converting the time of these events to zone time.

Chapter 3. Taking Sights and Finding Ho, LHA, and Dec. Taking sights on the moon, navigational planets and stars; applying proper altitude corrections to these sights to obtain Ho; applying corrections for low altitude sights; and computing the LHA and declination of these bodies.

Chapter 4. Sight Reduction and Plotting by the Law of Cosines. Reducing sights of the moon, stars, and planets by the Law of Cosines method; and plotting lines of position (LOPs) for these sights to obtain an estimated position, a running fix, and a true fix.

Chapter 5. Sight Reduction and Plotting by the NASR method. Reducing sights on the sun, moon, stars, and planets by the Nautical Almanac Sight Reduction (NASR) method; and plotting the lines of position (LOPs) for these sights to obtain an estimated position, a running fix, and a true fix.

Chapter 6. Sight Planning. Planning your sights to achieve good 2- and 3-body fixes, using both traditional and electronic tools.

Chapter 7. Emergency Navigation. Provisioning an emergency navigation kit and constructing emergency plotting sheets; and determining destination coordinates mathematically from course and distance traveled.

Chapter 8. Electronics and Software for Offshore Navigation. Using a software-based voyage planning tool to plan an offshore voyage (Visual Passage Planner 2); and using a navigation program in executing the voyage (OpenCPN).

Chapter 9. Underway. A review of the Navigator’s duties and USPS Plotting and Labeling Standards; and setting up and using a 900 series plotting sheet. The student will execute a leg of an offshore voyage using both electronic and traditional tools, including celestial positioning. This Practice Cruise is an excellent preparation for the open book exam.


There are two exam elements for the N2015 course, the Sight Folder and an Open Book Exam. Both are graded by the Offshore Navigation Committee. Sight Folders must be submitted with an ED33 Exam Order (electronic fill in or paper fill in) to be graded. There is no set order for completion of the Sight Folder and Exam.

To sign up for any of these courses, please check the main education page for registration information.

For course schedules, check our calendar.