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

Engine Maintenance
Covers the operating principles and basic care and maintenance of outboard and inboard engines,
including diesels.    
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Marine Electronics

The Marine Electronics curriculum consists of three courses: Marine Electrical Systems, Marine Communications Systems, and Marine (Electronic) Navigation Systems.

Cruising and Cruise Planning
Covers topics of interest for someone planning a cruise – whether for just a weekend or for a year – including preparation and planning, security, chartering, and cruising outside the US.    
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Covers weather forecasting and reading weather patterns on-board.    Read More>

Covers everything from the basic elements of how a sailboat works to sail trim, rig tuning, and sailboat racing.    Read More>

Instructor Development
Teaches effective communication skills for not only USPS instructors but everyone, covering various methods of presenting information to others, effective use of audiovisual aids (including PowerPoint), etc.    Read More>

Engine Maintenance


Every skipper needs to understand the fundamentals of gas and diesel engines to perform basic maintenance and diagnose problems under way.  Learn about transmissions, propellers, and steering.  Get the knowledge you need to keep your boat in tiptop shape.

What's Included?

  • Basics of engine layout and operation for gasoline inboards, outboards and diesels

  • Basic mechanical systems such as drive systems (propellers), steering systems, and engine controls

  • Repairs that do-it-yourselfers can perform

  • Diagnose problems that might be beyond your ability to fix

  • How to share information with your mechanic so the right repairs get performed

Engine Maintenance can be taught in ten two-hour sessions including time for review and the multiple choice closed book exam.

Marine Electrical Systems

Learn the ins and outs of your boat's electrical systems.  Gain the confidence to tackle direct current, shore power and communications installations.  Ensure the safety and reliability of your vessel; enroll in this course today.

What's Included?

  • Boat electrical wiring practices

  • Direct Current (DC) power

  • Alternating Current (AC) power

  • Galvanic and stray current corrosion

  • Lightning protection

  • Troubleshooting electrical problems

  • How to use a multimeter

  • How to solder and crimp

  • How to read electrical wiring diagrams

This course is usually completed in nine two-hour sessions, followed by an exam.

Marine Communications Systems

Become a better boater by mastering your radio in the digital age.  Learn voice communications and the use of digital selective calling (DSC), and get the skills you need for a day sail or offshore adventure.  Learn from experienced instructors in an interactive classroom environment.

What's Included?

  • Radio history, frequencies, and VHF communications

  • Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS)

  • FCC rules and radio licenses

  • Radiotelephone operating procedures

  • Long-range radio communications

  • Radio maintenance

  • Other marine communications systems

This course is usually completed in seven two-hour sessions, followed by an exam.

Marine (Electronic) Navigation Systems

Overwhelmed by all those functions on your GPS or chart plotter?  Want to use your tablet or smartphone to help you navigate on your boat?  Interested in using a desktop computer program to plan your cruise and then copy that information to your GPS? This course covers the topics you need and want to know.

What's Included?

  • Navigating by establishing waypoints and routes

  • Running the planned courses

  • Electronic charting software for the desktop computer

  • Tablet and smartphone apps that provide the electronic navigation function at the helm

  • Hands-on exercises on a PC that simulates GPS functions

  • Using charting software and a chart plotter emulator

  • Overview of the Automatic Identification System (AIS)

This course is usually completed in eight two-hour sessions, followed by an exam.

Cruising And Cruise Planning

Want to take a "road trip" on the water?  Gain the confidence and practical skills needed to explore ports and coves for a weekend or weeks at a time.  Take Cruising and Cruise Planning and join your fellow boaters for raft-ups and rendezvous up the river, down the bay, and along the coast.

What's Included?


  • 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 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.


For boaters, knowing the forecast isn't enough; you need to understand its impact on you and your boat.  Gain the knowledge and confidence to venture out on the water.  Be a responsible skipper, protect your friends and family and take this course today.

What's Included?

  • How weather systems form, behave, and move

  • Where to get weather reports and forecasts on the Internet

  • Using full color photographs and drawings to understand weather in the United States

  • Using Daily Weather Maps - learning aids with a compete explanation of map symbols designed to develop weather map reading and analysis skills

  • Understanding NOAA’s Sky Watcher Chart - a reference to assist in identifying cloud types


The Weather Course is designed to be conducted over ten two-hour sessions including time for review and the multiple choice closed book exam.


Learn about basic sailboat designs and nomenclature, rigging, and safety from experienced USPS sailors.  Then tackle the physical aspects of sailing forces and techniques, sail applications, marlinespike, helmsmanship, and handling of difficult sailing conditions.  This course will benefit non-sailors as well as novice and experienced sailors.

What's Included?


  • Types of sailboat rigs and hull shapes, including sail configurations and standing rigging

  • Wind and water forces affecting sailboat stability and balance

  • Sail shape and tuning the standing rig

  • Steering and helmsmanship

  • Sailing upwind, downwind and spinnaker handling   

  • Heavy weather sailing and storm conditions

  • Boat operations including docking, anchoring and safety issues

Course completion is usually accomplished in nine two-hour sessions, followed by a closed book exam.



Instructor Development

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.

Engine Maintenance
Marine Communication Systems
Marine Navigation Systems
Cruise Planning
Instructor Development
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