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Eight Elective Courses are offered by USPS. They cover separate and independent topics and therefore may be taken in any order according to a person’s interests and time.

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Cruising and Cruise Planning

Designed for mariners who plan to cruise for a day or for a week 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 into neighboring countries, crew and provisioning, communications, navigation, weather, and emergencies. The manual includes sample cruises in four geographic regions of the US and detailed appendices.

Engine Maintenance

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 Engine Maintenance 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 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.

Instructor Development

This course deals with effective communication for speakers and teachers—a quality that benefits the individual in all walks of life. It offers practical instruction in: preparing for teaching assignments, preparing for meeting presentations, effective teaching techniques, conducting efficient meetings, and selecting and using audiovisual aids.

Marine Electronics

The new series of Marine Electronics courses is being structured into three new manuals: Marine Electrical Systems, Marine Communication Systems, and Electronic Navigation.

Marine Electrical Systems (MES) covers the practice of wiring your boat, including boat electrical wiring practices and diagrams, direct and alternating current power, galvanic and stray current corrosion, and lightning protection. Troubleshooting is emphasized throughout, so students should feel comfortable performing even tricky wiring tasks after passing this course.

Marine Communication Systems (MCS) is an in-depth, nine chapter review of communications systems available to the recreational boater. 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. 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.

Electronic Navigation (EN) covers all aspects of electronic navigation using GMDSS as the foundation for modern marine communications. GPS is taught as the primary method of position fixing. This is a systems course—not “how to” navigate—that focuses on the use of electronic devices to augment the practice of safe navigation on the water. Topics include GPS, the Automatic Identification System (AIS), RADAR, depth sounder and related instruments, electronic charting systems, and a working understanding of the electronic bus structures needed to tie these devices together. The EN course was developed in conjunction with the Canadian Sail and Power Squadrons.


The Sail course serves 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.


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. It 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 complete 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.