Continuing Education: USPS University
By Darrell Allison
The United States Power Squadrons has had a long and
distinguished history in the field of boating education — a
history that has seen a transition from preparing sailors for war
to safety instruction involving recreational boating. Today, USPS
is embarking on a grand plan for expanding that educational base
through an outreach program known as USPS University.
To meet this challenge, the United States Power Squadrons has
developed and made available, a program of continuing education
that has the flexibility of change and is provided in a recognized
format: The USPS University and a United States Power Squadrons
Boater Certification Program.
Today’s Boating and Boats
Today’s on-the-water technology is more advanced; equipment is
hotter and more complex. There is a definite continuing need to
have an in-depth knowledge of many facets of boating — in the
water and on the boat — that go into the mix making boating fun
Up-to-date information is important and necessary. New boats
have space-age electronics bolted into the boat or packaged in a
completely portable carry-on arrangement. Materials and finishes
of new hulls, decks, topside and interiors, have names and
chemistry that didn’t exist a few years ago and require something
different for maintenance — other than the usual can of paint or
Construction and fabrication methods of the 21st
century dictate that boat owners are faced with unique conditions
for navigation, operation, and care of the craft. Technical
advances support unique and different computer-based operation,
navigation, and information systems.
These products are available from many suppliers off the
Internet or imbedded into electronic chips in the equipment and
often, available for purchase with the boat. New examples of such
technology are nautical charts completely downloadable to a laptop
computer with the latest updated information, affordable to
boaters and available at the click of a mouse. The laptop is fast
becoming a critical part of the control station on almost any size
Different Water – Different Needs
The educational needs of fishing or water skiing on Lake Mead
or boating on a local lake or river are vastly different than the
challenges facing a boating family putting out for several days
and many miles of coastal cruising to the shores off Lake
Michigan, off Puget Sound, off Miami or off-shore from San Diego.
Throw into the mix the information needed to be successful in
sail racing, offshore cruising, cruiser navigation, various paddle
sports or perhaps trailering a boat to new and different shores.
The conditions vary, and the need to know is intensified with each
on-the-water activity. We no longer can assume that a
"one-size-fits-all" boating class will do the educational job of
the recreational boating enthusiast.
It is clear that a comprehensive and custom-tailored boating
instruction program is needed for today’s often-complex hi-tech
and high energy on the water environment. Until now, there was no
complete, updateable certifiable continuing education program for
What Was Available In Support Of Recreational Boating
The programs recognized or provided by many states often
provide very short programs requiring but a few hours to review.
Also available are many self-directed courses designed to
emphasize the safety needs, some rules of the road and a heavy
dose of the state rules and laws and occasionally some very
limited navigation instruction.
A quick and short course only provides the very bare bones
information with a target of reducing boating accidents on the
water. From that standpoint, the short course concept has had
The numbers issued by the US Coast Guard and the various State
Boating Law Administrators indicate a reduction of reported
accidents and deaths that is often attributed to the required or
recommended learning programs in place. This is good, but better
is now attainable!
Welcome To The 21st Century Of Recreational Boating
USPS recognizes there is a need to find out what is right and
more importantly, know what is wrong. USPS has continually taught
basic and advanced recreational boating programs since 1914 and
has a special interest in the education of people who find joy in
"simply messing around in boats" and believes that the best way to
approach the information challenge is to provide a comprehensive
program that is user-based, selective in content and has the look
and feel of a substantial educational program.
The USPS University And USPS Boater Certification Program
Chief Commander Ernie Marshburn describes the program, "The
Boater Certification Program, a result of the new boating
education structure that will be called USPS University,
identifies, provides and instructs the courses that will enhance
specific on-the-water experiences and provide the correct and
necessary need-to- know information."
How Do USPS University And USPS Boater Certification Program (BCP)
The Boater Certification Program identifies, provides, and
instructs the courses that will enhance specific on-the-water
experiences and provide the correct and necessary need-to-know
In the USPS BCP, a series of core courses are clustered with an
assortment of seminars made available by the member squadrons.
This boater certification will include proficiency- and
skill-building activities plus instruction and examination,
covering elements of recognition for close-to-shore operations and
Instruction for the offshore sailor and cruiser as well as
advanced coastal navigation covers coastal boating with curriculum
and instruction targeted to offshore and extended boating
At the successful completion of the various levels of the
program, a certificate is awarded as well as a wallet card for
USPS ensures that the instructors are technically the very
best. USPS has developed a comprehensive, national Instructor
Certification program to ensure that the material delivered in the
USPS public education programs and seminars is state-of-the-art
and professionally presented by the squadron instructors.
National Education Officer Dick Kyle noted that, "Thousands of
USPS instructors have completed this new instructor-certification
program. Every day the number increases as the USPS instructors
complete the certification program and obtain their USPS teaching
"The quality of our instructional staff is critical to the
acceptance by the boating public and ultimately the success of the
new USPS University program."
Reflecting on these exciting new educational programs, Chief
Commander Ernie Marshburn notes, "In its simplest form, USPS
University is designed to mimic the breadth and scope of a modern
education system by significantly and immediately expanding the
range of courses on topics of interest to USPS members and to the
general recreational boating public.
"USPS courses will span the range from traditional to modern
navigation techniques, from sextants to GPS, from VHF to Ham
Radio, and beyond. The goal is to offer a full featured and
diversified curriculum in boating education that is tailored to
meet the needs of the basic boater while building advanced skill
levels for experienced boaters."
The USPS University courses are envisioned and modeled on a
principle similar to the US Coast Guard Captains License, as for
credit courses and enhanced with mini-courses, and short seminars.
Completion of the programs will lead to boat-operator
certification in four increasingly complex levels of competency:
Inland, Coastal, Advanced Coastal, and Offshore Navigation.
Coupled with recognition of our recreational-boating partners,
the program will provide certification that is nationally
recognized with the fun and satisfaction of educational and
A curriculum is being established to (1) map current USPS
courses to certification levels, (2) add seminars and mini
courses, and (3) add skill demonstrations.
In addition, USPS is seeking partners in other organizations
and companies to assist and sponsor some of these programs,
rapidly bringing relevant and modern boating education to the
Current plans are for an initial roll out of the USPS
University concept in summer 2006 and the full program to be
launched by January 2007. For existing USPS members, the new
program will permit broader selection and flexibility in designing
an educational curriculum allowing members to select those
electives in which they are most interested.
Kicking off phase one of the program, are six new fun and
interesting USPS seminar courses. Seminar discussions and skill
building activities are targeted to GPS, VHF and GMDS Radio
Systems; Knots, Bends, and Hitches; Boat Handling, Weather, and
How to Read a Chart.
With expanded curriculum, the reason for the label "USPS
University" is apparent with broader and more flexible choices of
educational topics and a number of certificate options.
The best way to get this grounding (pun intended) is to be able
to continue the search for comprehensive and complete knowledge
about boating. Boating information is like the tide — always
moving — always changing. "Continue the education;
continue the adventure."
For additional information about the United States Power
Squadrons University, other educational programs, membership or
activities, click onto
or telephone USPS Headquarters at 1 888 FOR USPS ( 888-367-8777).
Other contacts are USPS National Education Officer Richard
Kyle at (860) 434-9301 or Seadream72w@sbcglobal.net and USPS
Marketing and Public Relations Darrell Allison at (714)
893-4455 or Dallison@pacbell.net.