Training & Education

Knowledge is Power

It's time to upskill your boating knowledge

The North Star Flotilla provides boaters and personal watercraft operators with several low cost boating, sailing, safety, and marine navigation courses throughout the year.  

Boating Skills & Seamanship


The U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary’s Boating Skills and Seamanship (BS&S) course is a comprehensive course designed for both the experienced and the novice boater. The course, now in its 12th edition published in 2002, consists of 6 core required two- to four-hour lessons 2 added optional lessons that are normally included in the core course, plus five elective lessons, providing up-to-date knowledge for handling boats in all conditions.


  • Which Boat Is For You? – Boater’s language; types of boats; outboard motors and sterndrives; hull design; uses of boats; other power plants; materials for constructing boats; your intended use; the Coast Guard Customer Infoline; marine surveyors; buying a boat.
  • Equipment For Your Boat – Requirements for your boat; your boat’s equipment; legal considerations; substance abuse; boating accident reports; Courtesy Marine Examinations.
  • Trailering Your Boat – Legal considerations; practical considerations; the towing vehicle; balancing the load; handling your trailer; pre-departure checks; preparing to launch; launching; retrieving; storing your boat and trailer; theft prevention; Zebra mussels; float plan.
  • Handling Your Boat – Leave with a full tank; fueling your boat; your boat’s propellor; cars and boats; twin screws; jet drives; loading your boat; getting started; leaving a pier; “man” overboard; docking; mooring to a permanent anchor; anchoring; towing a skier; heavy weather; small boat safety.
  • Your “Highway” Signs – Protection of ATONs; buoyage systems; waterway marks; how waterways are marked; light characteristics; chart symbols; light structures; lights on bridges; electronic aids to navigation; a word to the wise; navigation publications.
  • The Rules You Must Follow – Two sets of rules; to whom do the rules apply; what is a vessel; the general responsibility rule; general considerations; conduct in narrow channels; traffic separation schemes; vessel traffic services; 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 signals; 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)
  • The Rest Of Our Story – Small boat safety; personal watercraft; hypothermia; motorboats and sailboats; carbon monoxide poisoning; float plan; U.S. Coast Guard District Offices; instructions for using a course plotter; metric conversion system.
  • Introduction To Navigation – Piloting tools; maps and charts; chart features; your chart’s general information block; other charted information; your magnetic compass; position on the earth’s surface; locating a point on a 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; practice your art.
  • Powering Your Boat – Types of marine engines; marine engines; selecting a propeller; induction systems; ignition systems; flame arresters; cooling systems; gasoline considerations; batteries; maintenance; winterizing your boat; spring fitting-out; troubleshooting.
  • Lines & Knots For Your Boat – Line or rope; rope materials; kinds of rope; measuring rope; selecting your ropes; care of rope; making up line; knots, bends, and hitches; splices; securing lines; dipping the eye.
  • Weather & Boating – Sources of weather information; wind and boating; wind and waves; understanding weather; 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 the rules; calling another station; procedure words; phonetic alphabet; routine radio check; distress, urgency, and safety calls; crew training.

Many insurance companies will offer discounts on boat insurance to individuals who successfully complete this course.  Individuals who successfully complete the course and exam are awarded certificates and cards.


BS&S and LGS

ALL of the topics covered above in the BS&S course are included in this course.  Also included are the sailing topics below:


Let’s Go SailingLet’s Go Sailing (LGS) is a fun course for beginning sailors. The course is designed for the person who wants to begin sailing in a small boat, learning each step the right way, and in the process build the skills and confidence that will serve as the foundation for a lifetime of enjoyment.

It uses a short, well illustrated text published by the American Sailing Association to introduce fledgling sailors to the equipment, nomenclature and safe operation of small sailboats. Each of the text’s four chapters has review questions and there is an extensive glossary and index. The course has it’s own exam and certificate of accomplishment.

By itself, Let’s Go Sailing is NOT approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) as a boating safety course. Only when taught in conjunction with NASBLA approved courses such as America’s Boating Course or Boating Skills and Seamanship, can a state boating safety certificate be issued.


  • Beginning To Sail – The sailboat and the wind, the sailor’s language, parts of a boat, sails and control terms, sailing terms, points of sail, how a sail works, tacking vs. jibing, heading up, heading down, in irons, sail care and folding.
  • Let’s Go Sailing – Rigging, launching, getting going, your first sail, close hauled sailing, coming about/tacking, running-sailing, downwind, steering, jibing, safety considerations.
  • Safe Sailing – Capsizing, righting, scoop recovery method, rescuing, heavy air sailing, upwind and close reaching, downwind, man overboard, what to wear, cold and hypothermia, dealing with the sun.

Advanced Topics

  •  Crewing, centerboards, planning your sail, wind and weather, tides and currents, sailing in a confined area, steering and sailing rules, docking/mooring/beaching, knots and lines.

Many insurance companies will offer discounts on boat insurance to individuals who successfully complete this course.  Individuals who successfully complete the combined BS&S and LGS course and exam are awarded certificates and cards.