Course Descriptions

We offer Michigan Boater’s Safety Certificate courses, advanced boating education, and several elective courses.

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Boating Safety Classes – Public Welcome

Presented by the Grand Rapids Power Squadron, our Boating Safety course meets all Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) requirements to secure a Michigan Boat Safety Certificate. It provides a good base for building further boating knowledge. The enthusiastic instructors have many years of boating experience and are certified boating instructors by the United States Power Squadrons and Michigan DNR. Boating Safety is a course for all boaters (the personal watercraft operator; the hunter or fisherman operating an outboard utility boat; the skipper of a family cruiser; paddlers; the sailing enthusiast). All boaters must follow the same nautical rules, regulations and courtesies of the sea. All are subject to the same forces of nature while boating. Boating Safety consists of topics in seamanship, boat terms and types, boat handling, fueling, docking, anchoring, required safety equipment, PFD’s, navigation lights, fire extinguishers, USCG standards, law enforcement, aids to navigation, rules of navigation, use of radiotelephone, operation under hazardous conditions, and much more.

Advanced Grades – Membership Required

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  • Seamanship (S)
    Building on the basics of recreational boating presented in the public boating courses, Seamanship adds foundational information for continuing boater education. The course contents should facilitate knowledge development for increased safe operation of recreational boats and provide the basis for completion of USCG licensing examination. Emphasis within the course has been placed on higher level boating skills, rules of the road, and marlinspike.
  • Piloting (P)
    The Piloting course is the first in the sequence of USPS courses on navigation, covering the basics of coastal and inland navigation. This all-new 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. 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)
    This all-new course 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. 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
  • 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
  • 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. The course covers:

    • Additional sight-reduction techniques
    • Honing skills in sight taking and positioning
    • Orderly methods for the navigator’s day’s work at sea
    • Navigating with minimal resources, as in a lifeboat

Elective Courses – Membership Required

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  • Cruise Planning (CP)
    Whether your interest is primarily in shorter, weekend trips or extended, long range voyages, the Cruise Planning course is designed to accommodate your type of cruising. Intended equally for the sailor and power boaters, the course examines cruising in the protected waterways of rivers and lakes, and making Open Ocean passages with both small and large boats. The course material explores in depth, questions of crew selection, provisioning, food storage and clothing. Consideration is given to what tools to have on hand. Information is provided on charts and publications, navigation, weather, communication systems, entering foreign ports, as well as anchors and anchoring techniques. Through the eyes of experienced boaters, you will learn about handling emergencies afloat including abandoning ship procedures, security and medical problems.
  • Engine Maintenance (EM)
    The Engine Maintenance course is designed to familiarize you with the general construction, operating principles, maintenance and repair of marine gasoline and diesel engines, including both inboard and outboard engines. The class material includes an analysis of mechanical, electrical, cooling, fuel and lubricating systems. Information is also presented on the associated propulsion components: clutches, shafts and propellers. A considerable emphasis is placed on your ability to diagnosis engine problems and make temporary repairs to your engine. Completing this course will not qualify you as a trained mechanic, but you will be a safer and more self-reliant operator of a marine engine.
  • Instructor Development (IQ)
    This course is intended not only for those who wish to become instructors of USPS classes, but also for anyone who wants to develop or improve their communication and public speaking skills. The material applies to teaching, public speaking and conducting meetings. You will gain experience in making effective presentations, preparing lessons and lectures, using teaching aids such as overhead projectors and audio/video devices. The course work includes opportunities to sharpen your public speaking skills with an audience of understanding fellow students. A section covering current research on brain function and how the mind learns both short and long-term memory is included both as enrichment and as vital information for those who wish to teach classes.
  • Marine Electrical Systems (MES)
    The Marine Electrical Systems course 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)
    The Marine Communication Systems course covers 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.
  • Sail (SA)
    The Sail course is intended for both sail and power boaters who wish to expand their knowledge and understanding of boating. The course begins with an examination of sailboat rigs and sail plans and the various types and designs, concentrating on the popular models available today. A study of rigging completes the groundwork for investigating the forces that drive a sailboat through the water. Next come sailing techniques including points of sail, helmsmanship, heavy weather sailing, docking, anchoring, and of course, marlinespike seamanship. The course concludes with sections covering safety and emergency procedures and rules of the road.
  • Weather (W)
    The Weather course is one of the most enriching and useful courses offered by USPS. The study of weather, a complex and detailed subject, is presented in a unique and satisfying manner To accommodate those whose appetite is merely whetted by the standard subject matter, the course text is composed of both core and enrichment material. The core material fulfills the requirements of the course, while the enrichment material is provided for those who wish to explore the subject more deeply. The course begins with a study of the atmosphere, its composition and structure, and how temperature, heat, pressure and moisture affect it. Next, the conditions that contribute to condensation, precipitation, clouds, thunderstorms and fog are described. Winds are examined in detail, leading up to a study of the formation of pressure systems and fronts. An entire section is devoted to violent weather, including hurricanes, tornadoes and waterspouts. The final section introduces weather forecasting involving the analysis of weather maps and regional weather.

Questions about our classes? Email our Squadron Education Officer (SEO).
Additional Information: United States Power Squadrons Educational Department