Basic Cruising

Location of course: English Bay
Cost: $795. Includes course fee, workbook and certification fee. (Deposit: $265.50)


To be able to cruise safely in familiar waters as both skipper and crew of a sloop rigged keelboat of 6 to 10 meters with an outboard or inboard motor in moderate wind and sea conditions by day.



Ashore Knowledge

Section I: Terms and Definitions

The candidate must be able to:

  1. Identify and describe the following:
    Hull and keel
    Bow, beam and stern
    Deck, cabin and companion way
    Rudder and tiller/wheel
    Cockpit and self-bailing cockpit
    Gudgeons and pintles
    Mast and boom
    Shrouds and stays
    Tangs and turnbuckles
    Running rigging
    Roller and jiffy/slab reefing
    Spring and breast lines
    Boomvang and topping lift
    Shackles and fairleads
    Cleats and winches
    Pulpit and pushpit
    Stanchions and lifelines
    Main, jib and storm jib
    Genoa and spinnaker
    Head, tack and clew
    Luff, foot and leech
    Battens, hanks and slides
    Cringles and reef points
    Standing rigging
    Sheets and halyards
    Outhaul and cunningham
    Roller furling
  2. Describe the following with the aid of diagrams:
    Ahead, abeam and astern, forward and aft;
  3. Define and be able to identify these terms from a diagram:
    Port tack
    Starboard tack
    Reaching (Close, beam and broad)
    No way
    In irons
    Sailing by the lee
    Hauled On a tack
    Luffing (of sail)
    Heading up
    Bearing away

Section II: Gear and Equipment
The candidate must be able to:

  1. List from memory:
    1. Transport Canada (TC) required items for the candidate’s boat (Safe Boating Guide),
    2. The rules for care of PFDs and life jackets,
    3. The recommended method of testing for buoyancy in a PFD;
  2. Describe:
    1. The reasons for keeping gear and equipment stowed in assigned places in a cruising boat,
    2. The frequency of maintenance of a recreational boat and its equipment so that it is capable of functioning at all times,
    3. The minimum items recommended for a waterproof emergency kit.

Section III: Safety
The candidate must be able to:

    1. Describe the purpose of a safety harness and dangers of improper attachment in a cruising boat,
    2. State the purpose of pulpits and lifelines;
  1. Identify the required navigation lights for:
    1. A vessel under sail, under power, and at anchor and describe the angles of each,
    2. An unpowered vessel less than 6 meters in length;
  2. Define what hypothermia is including:
    1. The signs and symptoms and the major areas of heat loss to the body,
    2. Steps for prevention,
    3. Treatment for mild and severe hypothermia,
    4. The actions to be taken by one or more individuals in cold water to increase survival time;
  3. Define what cold shock is including:
    1. The signs and symptoms,
    2. Steps for prevention,
    3. Treatment for;
  4. Define what carbon monoxide poisoning is including:
    1. The signs and symptoms,
    2. Steps for prevention,
    3. Treatment for;
  5. Describe the precautions taken to prevent undue magnetic influences to the vessel’s compass;
  6. Describe the common sources of fire and explosion and list the methods for preventing such occurrences and actions to be taken in the event of an onboard fire;
  7. Describe safe refueling procedures;
  8. Identify the two scuba diving flags;
  9. Describe/list:
    1. The danger involved in re-charging batteries,
    2. How to safely launch flares,
    3. The types of signals used to indicate distress,
    4. The actions to be taken in case of a capsize;
  10. Describe the uses, capabilities and limitations of a yacht radar reflector;
  11. State the dangers of overhead power lines;
  12. Describe:
    1. Reasons for filing a float plan and who the plan should be filed with,
    2. Items of important information which should be included in a float plan,
    3. Reasons for completing a pre-departure checklist.

Section IV: Rules of the Road and Canadian Regulations
The candidate must be able to:

  1. Apply Rules 12 to 17 of the Collision Regulations by means of diagrams;
  2. Identify and describe the following:
    Pleasure craft
    Sailing vessel
    Compliance notice / Capacity plate
    Power driven vessel
    Recommended gross load capacity
    Recommended safe limit of engine power
  3. Identify:
    1. Four considerations in determining the safe speed to operate a vessel,
    2. The actions and precautions to be taken in reduced visibility,
    3. Responsibilities when operating in a commercial traffic lane;
  4. Demonstrate knowledge of regulations applying to boaters as follows:
    1. Identify the minimum required publications for operating a 10 meter pleasure vessel in unfamiliar waters,
    2. Describe the guidelines for licensing and how a license number must be marked on a vessel,
    3. Identify the principal acts and regulations that a pleasure craft operator should be knowledgeable about and the areas covered by each including:
      Canada Shipping Act (2001)
      Contraventions Act
      Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations
      Competency of Operators of Pleasure Craft Regulations
      Small Vessel Regulations
      The Criminal Code of Canada
      Collision Regulations

Section V: Weather
The candidate must be able to:

  1. State three sources of marine weather information;
  2. Interpret the marine weather forecast applicable to the area of operation, and describe how to apply the information as follows:
    1. Determine whether it is safe to set sail in the candidate’s boat,
    2. Decide what changes are forecast for the next six hours and what expect these should have on the day’s planned activities,
    3. Identify the wind speeds associated with:
      Light winds
      Strong wind warning
      Moderate winds
      Gale warning
      Strong winds
      Storm warning
  3. Describe local weather hazards, how they can be identified, the normal warning time available, and the actions to be taken to reduce/avoid effects.

Section VI: Duties of the Skipper and Crew
The candidate must be able to:

  1. List the main responsibilities of the skipper and crew as listed below:

    1. Safety of crew and boat,
    2. Briefing on location and operation of lifesaving and other safety equipment prior to getting underway,
    3. Assigning duties,
    4. Instruction in the safe use of the boat’s equipment while underway,
    5. Obligations on observing an accident or vessel in distress,
    6. Actions to demonstrate respect for other boaters and other’s property,


    1. Obey skipper,
    2. Assist skipper.

Section VII: Seamanship
The candidate must be able to:

  1. Describe the sequence of sail reduction as wind speed increases;
  2. Describe the danger of a lee shore;
  3. Understand the use of a Canadian Hydrographic chart of the local area as follows:

    1. A chart,
    2. Aids to Navigation,


    1. Depth of water,
    2. Distance scale,
    3. Buoys and their significance,
    4. Types of bottom (sand, rock, mud and clay),
    5. Under water/surface hazards: kelp, cable, rock, shoals, cribs, wrecks, currents,
    6. Light symbols,
    7. Beacons;
  4. Use of Tide and Current Tables to find:
    1. Times and heights of tides at reference ports,
    2. Direction and rate of current at reference stations;
  5. Describe:
    1. The features of a secure anchorage,
    2. The holding characteristics of commonly used anchors,
    3. Suitable rode makeup and handling,
    4. Scope requirements when anchoring for lunch, overnight and rough weather;
  6. Describe the immediate action to be take for the following circumstances:
    1. Springing a leak,
    2. Steering fails,
    3. Grounding at anchor,
    4. Fouled propeller,
    5. Standing rigging fails,
    1. Dragging anchor,
    2. Running aground,
    3. Broken halyard,
    4. Fire;
  7. Describe the one commonly accepted use for each of the following knots, bends and hitches:
    1. Figure Eight,
    2. Reef Knot,
    3. Double Sheet Bend,
    1. Bowline,
    2. Clove Hitch,
    3. Round Turn & Two Half Hitches;
  8. Describe the use of the VHF radio for receiving weather reports and making emergency calls.

Afloat Skills

(18 hours minimum) Recommended vessel should be a 6 – 10 metre, sloop rigged keelboat with an outboard or inboard engine.

Section VIII: Preliminaries
The candidate must be able to:

  1. Demonstrate on land the correct method of putting on a personal flotation device in the water;
  2. Demonstrate the correct use of a heaving line;
  3. Carry out a check of the vessel’s gear and equipment in accordance with the CYA Cruising Boat Checklist, and demonstrate use and care of onboard equipment;
  4. Select, bend on, check and stow sails;
  5. Coil a line and secure (sea coil);
  6. Properly stow lines and fenders;
  7. Demonstrate how to belay to a cleat;
  8. Demonstrate safe winch techniques with particular emphasis on:
    1. Possible high strain on sheet/halyard,
    2. How to avoid riding turns (and how to clear),
    3. Position of hands/fingers,
    4. Fitting and removal of winch handles.

Section IX: Manoeuvring Under Power
The candidate must be able to:

  1. Start auxiliary engine on vessel and as skipper and crew depart from dock observing commonly accepted safety practices ;
  2. Come to a full stop with stem (bow) one half boat length away from a buoy using reverse. (The objective of this manoeuvre is to know how much distance is required to bring a vessel to a full stop. Vessel is to be kept on a straight course while the manoeurve is being carried out);
  3. Manoeuvre and stop a vessel under power to a position alongside and parallel to a dock, portside-to and starboardside-to, not more than two feet off without the aid of lines, without the stern passing a given mark at any time during the manoeuvre;
  4. Apply Rules 5 through 18 of the Collision Regulations as applied to a vessel under power;
  5. Set an anchor under power in water more than three meters in depth, so as not to drag when tested under engine power at half-throttle astern;
  6. Raise anchor with boat ready and get under way;

Section X: Handling Under Sail
The candidate must be able to:

  1. Hoist the basic sails while under power, at anchor, or mooring (head to wind, hoist mainsail first), set appropriate luff tensions, and flake halyards;
  2. Apply Rules 5 through 18 of the Collision Regulations as applied to a vessel under sail;
  3. Act as skipper and crew while demonstrating the proper techniques of beating, reaching and running; tacking and gybing; heading up, bearing away, luffing and heaving to; using the following commands and responses:
    “Head Up”
    “Bear Away”
    “Ease Sheets”
    “Harden Sheets”
    “Ready About”
    “Ready to Gybe”




  4. Demonstrate, as skipper and crew, the management of the sail plan for different wind conditions while keeping the vessel under control, either at the helm or controlling the sails by:
    1. Reefing and shaking out the reef in the mainsail,
    2. Reefing and shaking out the reef, or changing the headsail.
  5. Demonstrate the skipper and crew action/commands from the time a member of the crew falls overboard without warning, until the crew is safely recovered. Consider the crew overboard is wearing a PFD and able to assist him/herself. Include the following minimum actions:
    1. Sound alarm “Crew Overboard!”,
    2. Deploy marker and buoyant object(s),
    3. Appoint and maintain a look out,
    4. Triangle method of return (under sail),
    5. Describe at least two methods of getting a person out of the water and back aboard;
  6. In response to a Crew Overboard situation , and unassisted, bring the vessel into irons. Start the engine, lower sails ensuring on-board control of all lines, and manoeuvre the vessel under power for a successful Crew Overboard recovery;
    Note: Both Performance Objectives (PO’s) 19 and 20 above must be completed in reasonable time without losing sight of the victim or marker in the water. For these manoeuvres the crew can consist of three or more, but the student is to describe the actions to be taken if one member of a two person crew falls overboard also, with the vessel under sail.
  7. Lower sail while under power or at anchor or a mooring.

Section XI: Making Fast and Snugging Down
The candidate must be able to:

  1. Secure a vessel to a dock using appropriate dock lines to prevent excessive movement and set out fenders correctly.
  2. Tie the following knots, bends and hitches within 30 seconds each:
    1. Figure Eight,
    2. Reef Knot,
    3. Double Sheet Bend,
    1. Bowline,
    2. Clove Hitch,
    3. Round Turn & Two Half Hitches;

Resource Material

Sail Canada Basic Cruising Skills by Gillian West
source: copyright Sail Canada.