Keelboat Instructor Programs

Cruising Instructor

A three-day course for experienced Basic Cruising, Bareboat Cruising and Coastal Navigation Instructors to test and evaluate their teaching, sailing and navigational skills

The course evaluates candidates’ ability to handle challenging conditions and navigational situations during daytime and nighttime, as well as their interpersonal skills in a live-aboard environment. Candidates will live and sail aboard their assigned boats.


Current US Sailing Basic Keelboat Instructor Certification
Minimum 5,000 nm of coastal and offshore sailing experience (relevant to Basic Cruising and Bareboat Cruising) on an inboard auxiliary powered sailboat equipped with stove, head, and freshwater and electrical systems
Ability to perform the procedures necessary to be a Cruising Instructor
Current U.S. Coast Guard license (includes Auxiliary Sail Endorsement) or be in the process of obtaining one
Current US Sailing membership

SAFESPORT:  This program, developed by the US Olympic Committee, is required training for all Instructors. This requirement is also being put in place for other National Governing Bodies. This free online training course must be completed every 2 years. Instructor certification is not active unless SafeSport training has been completed.

  1. Go to: 
  2. Enter your US Sailing member number, if you need to find it click here:
  3. Complete all the modules

Prerequisites for Coastal Navigation Instructor Evaluation:
Be able to perform all commonly required Piloting Skills used in safely piloting a sailing yacht in all conditions of visibility, by day and by night, to a high degree of precision.
Be thoroughly informed on the contents and application of the US Sailing Certification Series student training book Coastal Navigation

Evaluation Length:

Three days


Demonstrate Cruising Instructor skill level and knowledge in the following areas in 23′ to 45′ auxiliary powered sailboats, including wheel steering, inboard, and outboard:

  • Boathandling in moderate to heavy conditions
  • Sail selection and trim
  • Operation and inspection of boat systems and equipment: engine, electrical, bilge pumps, head, fresh water, stoves, emergency and safety equipment, winches, anchors, harnesses, and jacklines
  • Docking – departure and arrival under sail and power, and adverse conditions
  • High level of seamanship skills
  • Reefing
  • Sailing under shortened sail
  • Anchoring during daytime or night, including 1 and 2 anchors, use of trip line
  • Picking up a mooring
  • Overboard rescue methods: quick-stop, quick-return, lifesling-type
  • Nighttime sailing
  • Limited visibility situations
  • Simulate procedures for engine failure recovery, sinking, fire, dismasting, grounding recovery
  • Use of VHF radio and emergency procedures: Mayday, Pan and Securite
  • Use of dinghy and outboard
  • Setting watches
  • Storm tactics

Navigation: use of charts, tide/current tables, light list, coastal pilot, and cruising guides; use of variation and deviation; taking bearings and fixes; plotting a DR course and position using time/speed/ distance calculations; application of set and drift; use of accepted plotting and labeling techniques; use of ship’s log; confirm chartwork with GPS.Sailing skills test – Practical*

  • Marlinspike Seamanship test – Practical*
  • Demonstrative and communication ability – Practical
  • Complete working knowledge of the US Sailing Keelboat structure and system – Practical
  • Professional attitude and conduct – Practical
  • Instructor Manual ( includes Navigation Rules, International-Inland, 1-38) test – Written
  • Basic Navigation test – Written and Practical
  • Instructor Trainers’ evaluation

*The marlinspike seamanship skills test will be given to Instructor Candidates by the Instructor Trainer (IT) at the course.

Candidates do not need to complete the CPR/First Aid Training in advance of the course, however, certification will NOT be valid unless accompanied by current First Aid and CPR.

Successful Completion of the Coastal Navigation Instructor Examination Includes passing the following:

  • Demonstrate to a markedly higher degree all of the navigational skills mentioned in the Cruising Instructor Course, plus an increased level of awareness and demonstrated the ability to pilot the vessel using practical “on deck” navigation skills as well as traditional plotting skills.
  • Be able to use the teaching methods and skills described in the US Sailing Coastal Navigation Instructor Manual in a competent and confident manner.
  • Complete the Coastal Navigation Instructor Written Test with an 80% or greater score, while using the US Sailing recommended plotting conventions described in the US Sailing Certification Series student training book Coastal Navigation.
  • Be recommended by both of the Instructor Trainers conducting the evaluation during the course.
  • Instructor Candidates will be provided with the review questions in advance. These questions can be used for open book studying prior to testing.
  • The actual tests will be closed book. If using a calculator for the Coastal Navigation test, all programmable memory has to be cleared prior to taking the test.

A passing grade for each test will require answering 80% of the questions correctly.Practical and written tests each stand on their own. Each test must be passed and each practical skill demonstrated in order to successfully complete this evaluation session. Absence from any part of the course will exclude the Instructor Candidate from evaluation. The Instructor Trainers determine whether the Instructor Candidate successfully completes the course.


Passing: The Instructor Candidate performed all teaching and practical skills to the Instructor Trainers’ satisfaction. The Instructor Candidate passed all written exams. Absence from any portion of the course excludes the Instructor Candidate from evaluation.

Plan of Improvement: The Instructor Candidate has not yet successfully completed what is required and has been given a specific Plan of Improvement to complete. This Plan of Improvement must be satisfied within 90 days from its date of issue.  The responsibility for arranging completion of a Plan of Improvement rests solely with the Instructor Candidate. The Instructor Candidate will get only one chance to pass their Plan of Improvement; should they be unsuccessful at this attempt, they will have failed the course. The fee to complete an “on the water” Plan of Improvement is $75.00. Written make-up exams, with the exception of the Coastal Navigation exams are administered at no charge. The Instructor Candidate is responsible for any additional expenses.

Failing: Any Instructor Candidate who does not successfully complete any written or practical testing will be failed. The Instructor Candidate, who fails an evaluative course and would still like to become certified US Sailing Instructor, may re-apply for a future course, at full cost, one year from the original course date.

Plan of Completion: US Sailing and US Sailing Instructor Trainers assume no responsibility for lack of wind or other acts of nature. If the Instructor Trainer’s were unable to complete the evaluation, Instructor Candidate’s are issued a Plan of Completion. Arrangements to fulfill the Plan of Completion must be done through the training department within 90 days from the date of its issue. There is no fee for completing a Plan of Completion. The Instructor Candidate is responsible for any additional expenses.

Course fees
Fees: $415.00 (course fee), $45.00 (provisioning fee – brought in cash to the course). Candidates whose registration and course payment are received 4 weeks before the course date receive a $50.00 discount. Those who sign up one week or less before the course pay an additional $50 to expedite course materials.
*Please note that a boat fee of $75-$100 may be charged in some circumstances. This course is underwritten by candidates’ fees and a major subsidy from US Sailing.

For more information about the instructor certification course, please contact us.

If you just want to become a Co-Nav Instructor, you may apply online.  You must already be a US Sailing Basic Keelboat Instructor to apply.  The fee is $100.00.

Basic Keelboat or Cruising Instructor