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Sailing Skills & Seamanship

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary's Sailing Skills and Seamanship Course (SS&S) is a comprehensive course designed for both experienced and novice sailboat operators. The course, now in its 6th edition that was published in 2008, is divided into 15 parts:

There are 15 lessons that will enhance the skills required for a safe voyage in all conditions. This course is 18 hours in length.


  • About Sailboats – Language of the sea; components of a sailboat; standing and running rigging; sails; types of sailboats; boat building materials; guidance on selecting and purchasing a boat.
  • How A Boat Sails – Reading the wind; points of sailing, running, close hauled, reaching, sail shape; sail adjustments; when the wind picks up.
  • Basic Sailboat Maneuvering – Tacking; jibbing; sailing a course; stability and angle of heel; knowing your boat.
  • Rigging And Boat Handling – Stepping the mast; making sail; hoisting the sails; leaving the dock; mooring; controlling the sails; anchoring; weighing anchor.
  • Equipment For Your Boat – Requirements for your boat; your boat’s equipment; legal considerations.
  • Trailering Your Sailboat – Legal considerations; practical considerations; selecting your trailer; the towing vehicle; handling your trailer; pre-departure checks; launching; retrieving; raising the mast; storing your boat and trailer; theft prevention; aquatic nuisance species; float plan.
  • Your Highway Signs – Protection of ATON; buoyage systems; waterway marks; how waterways are marked; light characteristics; chart symbols; light structures; lights on bridges; electronic aids to navigation; navigation publications.
  • The Rules Of The Nautical Road - Two sets of rules; to whom do the rules apply; the general responsibility rule; general considerations; conduct in narrow channels; traffic separation schemes; vessel traffic serves; stand-on or give-way; rules for special vessels; risk of collision; bend signals; restricted visibility; vessel lights and shapes; vessels at anchor; diving operations; distress signal; drawbridge signals; penalties.
  • Inland Boating – Types of inland waters; inland navigation; inland seamanship; river currents; maintaining inland waterways; dams; locks; river charts; commercial traffic; before you go (This lesson typically will not be taught in coastal courses).
  • Sailing Safety – Small boat safety; man overboard; cold water immersion; sharing the water with other boats; fueling; carbon monoxide poisoning; sources of weather information.
  • More On Sail Trim And Boat Handling – Tuning sailboat rigging; lee and weather helm; headsails and headsail trimming; handling in heavy weather, reefing sails, knock down, or a capsize; disabled rudder.
  • Introduction To Navigation – Piloting tools; maps and charts; chart features, chart information block; other charted information; your magnetic compass; position on earth’s surface; locating a point on the chart; distance on the earth’s surface; measuring distance; course plotting; sources of compass error; correcting a compass reading; positioning; speed-time-distance; dead reckoning; practicing your art. * Engines For Sailboats – Outboard engines, two and four cycle; trouble shooting and maintenance; inboard auxiliary engines; diesel engine maintenance and trouble shooting; batteries; propellers; galvanic action; basic tool kit.
  • Lines And Knots For Your Boat – Line or rope; rope materials; kinds of rope; measuring rope; selecting your ropes; care of ropes; making up line; knots, bends and hitches; splices; securing lines; dipping the eye.
  • Weather And Sailing – Sources of weather information; wind and boating; wind and waves; weather and heat; fog; non-frontal weather.
  • Your Boat’s Radio – Radios used on boats; functions of radios; licenses; selecting your VHF-FM radio; installation; operating your VHF-FM; maintain a radio watch; channels have special purposes; some “no no’s”; copies of rules; calling another station; procedure words; phonetic alphabet; routine radio check; distress, urgency, and safety calls; crew training.
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Last modified: 10/01/17  EGMA