Ocean Yachtmaster

Many of you will have seen my posts relating to the Ocean Yachtmaster course I am doing.

Coastguard Boating Education is the NZ equivalent to the British RYA courses. I have already done many of their courses and found them really useful and interesting.

About five years ago I purchased the Ocean Yachtmaster home study pack, and do you think I have completed it – no? Well this is the year people! I’ve set myself a New Year’s resolution to finally sit the exam and pass.

I have been posting my notes as individual blog posts, but here is a summary of what I need to learn before I sit the exam… (warning this blog is probably going to be a bit boring for my more social readers!) But if you are interested to learn about what is in an Ocean Yachtmaster syllabus, then read on!

The blue links will take you to the blog post I have written on the topic. If there is no link then that means I still have to study that particular topic.

I’ve still got a while to go yet!

The Earth & The Celestial Sphere

  • Definition of observers zenith and position of a heavenly body in GHA and declination.
  • Relationship between latitude, co-lat, declination and polar distance, tabulation of declination in the Nautical Almanac.
  • Relationship between GHA in the nautical almanac
  • Rate of increase of hour angle with time.

The PZX Triangle – a general understanding

  • The tabulated components of the triangle, LHA, co-lat and polar distance.
  • The calculable components – zenith distance and azimuth
  • Relationship between zenith distance and altitude
  • The tabular method of solution using Air Navigation Tables and tamplates
  • The use of calculators for the solution of the PZX triangle.

The Sextant

  • The use and care of a sextant at sea
  • Use a sextant to take altitudes and horizontal angles, read on and off the arc
  • Conversion of sextant altitude to true altitude.
  • Application of dip, index error and refraction.
  • Ascertain perpendicularity, side and index errors and knowledge of the adjustments needed.
  • Use horizon or celestial bodies to obtain index error
  • Limitations of plastic sextants.

Measurement of Time

  • Standard and local times, time keeping at sea
  • Understand and use GMT (UT)
  • Understand zone time and its relationship with longitude
  • Appreciate the reasons for using zone time as ship time
  • Calculate an ETAS using standard times provided in the almanac
  • Appreciate the importance of keeping accurate GMT on board
  • Methods of checking GMT at sea
  • Calculate GMT of sunrise, sunset and civil twilight from LMT and longitude.
  • Calculate ship time of sunrise, sunset and civil twilight from GMT and longitude.

Meridian Altitudes

  • Forecasting time of meridian passage
  • Sight reduction to find vessels latitude by meridian altitude of the sun
  • Understand and apply index error and use critical tables correctly
  • Understand and apply dip correction from height of eye
  • Understand the factors included in the main correction and apply it
  • Understand and use the LMT of meridian passage provided in the almanac
  • Understand and use the declination table and its correction
  • Obtain zenith distance from the observed altitude
  • Use zenith distance and declination to obtain the latitude
  • Plot the latitude on a supplied chart.

Sun sights

  • Reduction and plotting of sun sights using Air Navigation Tables or calculator

Star Sights

  • Planning morning and evening star sights, selecting suitable stars and calculation of approximate altitudes and azimuths of selected stars. A star identification device may be used.
  • Appreciate the time limitations when taking star sights
  • Know the order in which sights should be taken
  • Calculate approximate altitudes and azimuths
  • Appreciate the importance of altitude when selecting stars
  • Understand the need for angle of cut when selecting stars for position lines
  • Appreciate the effect of the moon, sails or clouds on star sights
  • Appreciate the relationship between nautical and civil twilight and sunrise/sunset

Moon and Planet sights

  • Awareness of the reduction methods for moon and planet sights

Position Lines and Plotting

  • From the observation of the sun or a star find the information to plot the position line.
  • Find the vessels position by the combination of two position lines with or without a run between, plotted on a given chart.
  • Calculate GHA and LHA of the sun or a star.
  • Find the declination of the sun or a star.
  • Appreciate the relationship between DR, GP, LHA and zenith distance within the PZX triangle.
  • Understand that the position line is at 90 degrees to the azimuth.
  • Understand the relationship between observed altitude, DR or Chosen position and the intercept
  • Plot the position line on a given chart
  • Obtain the vessels position from two position lines
  • Calculate the run between sights from the information given
  • The plotting of sun-run-sun and other composite plotting.
  • Estimated Position

Estimated Position

  • The use of any suitable method to obtain an estimated position given a series of courses steered and distances run with or without tide, current or leeway.
  • Appreciate the relationship between departure and difference of longitude
  • Determine the EP using calculator, plotting or tables

Compass Checking

  • Find the compass error or deviation by time azimuth of the sun or star or by amplitude of the sun
  • Understand the relationship between variation, deviation, and compass error.
  • Calculate the azimuth of the sun or star at a given GMT
  • Calculate the compass error from the azimuth and a compass bearing
  • Calculate the suns amplitude at sunrise or sunset
  • Appreciate the facts which determine the accuracy of amplitudes
  • Calculate the compass error from the amplitude and a compass bearing.

Magnetic Compass

  • The effect of change of the vessels position on compass error
  • Understand that directive force is derived from the earths magnetic field
  • Understand that the earths magnetic field dips and where this occurs
  • Understand how dip affects the directive force
  • Appreciate why changing directive force can alter the deviation
  • The influence on directive force of horizontal hard and soft iron and the effects each has on the compass
  • Appreciate the methods of compensation for hard and soft iron
  • A practical understanding of heeling error
  • Understand that heeling error is caused by objects above or below the compass
  • Understand the heeling error various with the angle of keel
  • Understand how heeling error varies with course
  • Appreciate the citations of correcting magnets below the compass
  • The procedure for having a yachts compass corrected before an ocean passage
  • Appreciate the need for a current deviation card.
  • Understand the need for using a compass adjustor especially on steel vessels
  • Knows how to check deviation
  • Understands the need to regularly monitor deviation
  • The use of and basic problems with fluxgate compasses
  • Appreciate that fluxgate compasses respond to there earths field electronically
  • Understand the advantages of fluxgate compasses
  • Appreciate the limitations and disadvantages of fluxgate compasses
  • Know that fluxgate compasses are subject to deviation and how this is corrected
  • Know how to recalibrate the fluxgate compass regularly on long voyages.

Electronic Navigation Systems

  • Setting up errors and modes of readout of GPS and chart plotters
  • Candidates are expected to be conversant with the syllabus for GPS  and Radar in Coastal Skipper and GPS operator courses.

Great Circle Sailing

  • Comparison and application of rhumb line, great circle and composite great circle tracks
  • Compilation of a series of rhumb lines approximating a great circle utilising Gnomic and Mercator projections.


  • A full understanding of tropical revolving storms is required and a general understanding of the remainder
  • General appreciating of the prevailing oceanic winds and currents
  • Be fully conversant with the Meteorology syllabus in Coastal Skipper
  • Knowledge of the worlds major winds and wind patterns
  • Knowledge of the worlds principal ocean currents
  • Awareness of the likely areas of fog
  • Awareness of seasons and areas of storms
  • Awareness that El Nino and La Nina may cause significant variations in weather patterns
  • Appreciation of squash zones and meteorological bombs
  • Understand the information provided by analysis and prognosis maps
  • Appreciate the lack of information on weather maps in tropical regions
  • Awareness of the use of 500hPa charts
  • tropical revolving storms locations, seasons and likely tracks
  • Areas where TRS activity is likely
  • Seasons when TRS activity is at a maximum
  • Appreciation of the difference between a TRS and a tropical depression
  • Know sources of TRS warnings
  • Understand the visual signs of TRS
  • Know the pressure changes associated with TRS
  • Awareness of the unpredictability of TRS behaviours
  • Awareness of sea temperatures associated with the formation and continuance of TRS
  • Knowledge of the sea state and wave heights likely at or near a TRS centre
  • Navigating near a TRS
  • Understand the importance of avoiding the centre of a TRS
  • Appreciate the dangers of TRS
  • Understand the difficulties of small vessels to make progress to windward in strong winds
  • Understand the dangerous quadrant
  • Understand the navigable quadrant and the safe semi-circle
  • Understand the requirements for preparing the vessel, stores, equipment and crew near a TRS
  • Know the importance of monitoring the progress of TRS

Passage Planning

  • Publications available – essential and useful
  • Knowledge of charts, BA, US and foreign, special small vessel charts, pilot and touting charts, chart atlases, appreciation of electronic charts
  • Chart correction
  • Sailing directions, pilots, cruising guides, tide tables, light lists, almanac, navigation tables, sources of publications in NZ and abroad
  • Route selection
  • Knowledge of seasons, wind and current patterns, times taken and busy shipping routes
  • Understanding suitable ports, ports of refuge
  • The use of charts
  • Understand the limitations of scale
  • Understand the significance of dates of survey, publication, printing, last correction
  • Using photocopied charts, limitations and cautions
  • Chart stowage systems
  • Knowledge of chart symbols
  • Understanding of mercator and gnomonic projections

Passage Making

  • Departing from New Zealand
  • Knowledge of all checks, crew briefings and departure prior to departure
  • Making landfall
  • Understand the importance of timing landfall with regards for shipping, weather and visibility, tides, coastal lights, traffic separation zones, shelter, anchoring and local regulations
  • Arrival and departure in a foreign port
  • The need for reporting, ascertaining local requirements, immigration and customs, appreciation of clean water supplies, food, fuel sources, understand the need for passports, ships papers and documentation
  • Understand the requirement for correct procedures when discharging or taking on crew
  • Know the requirement for correct clearing out procedure


  • Awareness of Inmarsat and email availability at sea
  • Conversant with the syllabus for MROC
  • Know the differences between 406 Mhz and 121.5 types
  • Awareness of the area of coverage
  • Know that 406 EPIRBS must be registered and provide the identity of the vessel
  • Understand the importance of stowing the EPIRB where it is really accessible in all emergencies.


  • Knowledge of the requirements of the Maritime Transport Act in respect to:
  • Customs clearance outward from NZ
  • NZ yachts require a Cat1 certificate
  • NZ Registration Certificate
  • Outward yacht report form
  • Cargo declaration
  • Bonded goods
  • Export certificate
  • Passports and departure cards
  • Restrictions after clearing
  • Arrival in NZ
  • Communications prior to arrival
  • Health requirements
  • Agriculture requirements regarding vegetables, fruit, animal products
  • CITES agreement
  • Inward yacht report form
  • Passports and visas
  • Immigration procedures
  • Vessel imports
  • Obligations in respect to vessels in distress, collision and dangers to navigation
  • Basic knowledge of salvage law as applied to small vessel


  • Understanding stability GZ curves applicable to varying types if yachts and power vessels
  • Awareness of the desirability for a yacht to return to upright even when inverted
  • Awareness of how instability is achieved by deck design in an inverted yacht
  • Awareness of the requirment for stability data for power vessels leaving NZ
  • Awareness that yachts leaving NZ are required to have positive stability
  • Awareness of the motion of a dismasted yacht and that it is more prone to capsize.,

Yacht Construction

  • The procedure for having a yacht inspected to offshore standards
  • Know the requirements for contacting a YNZ yacht inspector
  • Appreciate that the inspection includes the vessel hauled out and afloat, the equipment and the crew

The names and the principal components of vessel construction and rigging

The principles of sound construction in wood, FRP, steel and aluminium

  • The main areas of stress and approved methods of spreading the strain
  • Understanding stresses imposed by engine, mast, rig, tanks, ballast keel, rudder and steering
  • Awareness that modern materals and technological advances are altering traditional construction.
  • Appreciation that owners may be required to provide declarations regarding details from boatbuilders or designers to a yacht inspector

The prevention of corrosion and electrolysis

  • Appreciate that different metals in salt water cause galvanic action
  • Understand the significance of galvanic series table
  • Understand that sacrificial anodes, insulation, and impressed currents can control galvanic action
  • Appreciate that stray electrical currents may cause rapid electrolysis of metal
  • Awareness of signs of electrolysis, galvanic action and corrosion

The requirements in construction and layout of ocean going pleasure vessels to YNZ standard category 1

  • Knowledge of sail or power vessels including requirements for hatches, cockpits, windows, lifelines, wheelhouse doors, ventilation, stowage of life rafts, EPIRBS and emergency equipment.

The Collision Prevention Rules

  • A full knowledge of the content and application of the collision rules
  • An understanding of traffic separation schemes and the rules for avoiding collision using radar alone.


  • Depth finders and logs, use and maintenance
  • Know that depth transducers and impellers must be weed free, connections and wiring protected
  • Means of ascertaining depth and speed in case of failure
  • Means of taking relative bearings and compass bearings
  • Choice of timepiece
  • Selecting a suitable timepiece for use as a chronometer and checking its accuracy at sra
  • Read and interpret an aneroid barometer
  • Understand the importance of a compensated barometer
  • Know that it needs to be reset regularly
  • Basic knowledge of GPS and weather fax
  • Understand GPS position  and head held units
  • Appreciate the information provided by chart plotters and know the need for paper charts
  • Understand that weather fax is available from a fax receiver or by HF radio linked to a computer or printer
  • Understand that weather fax charts are transmitted at certain times and frequencies


Lifesaving and fire fighting equipment on a YNZ category 1 pleasure vessel

  • Know the requirements relating to life jackets, their certification and attachments
  • Know the requirements and details concerning safety harnesses and their securing points
  • Know the requirements and attachments for man overboard equipment
  • Know the requirements for a heaving line
  • Know the requirements for fire extinguishers and fire blanket
  • Understand the use and limitations of all equipment in section 4.1

Food and water supplies

  • Understand the need for adequate water and how much is needed
  • Understand the need to manage water supplies
  • Know the necessity for having separate tanks and containers and reserve supply
  • Appreciate the need for properly feeding the crew

Spare gear, its care and stowage

  • Understand the need to carry sufficient spares including engine parts, oil, sails, rope and rigging, pump, plumbing and other machinery spares.
  • Electrical spares
  • Tool kit
  • Know that all equipment must have an instruction manual where applicable

Prevention of wear on sails, rigging and other moving parts

  • Understand the means of preventing chafe on sails and running rigging by avoidance and protection
  • Know the methods of avoiding chafe on anchor cables, sea anchor ropes and tow lines

Emergency repairs at sea to essential equipment

  • Understand sail repairs using stick on material or sewing
  • Know the normal procedure for rig repair using wire grips or non=stretch synthetic line
  • Appreciate the difficulty of repairs aloft and precautions when using a bosuns chair
  • Understand that repairs to electrical, engine systems and other mechanical systems are likely.

Ship Handling

Manoeuvring in confined areas

  • Understand the use of wind, current and sails to assist manoeuvring
  • Appreciate the limitations of hanging a small vessel under power or sail
  • Know how handling can be assisted by the use of an anchor, outboard dinghy and lines

Berthing or leaving at a dock wharf or buoy

  • Understand the use of springs and stern and head ropes
  • Understand the reasons for transfers propeller thrust

Anchoring, selecting and approaching an anchorage

  • Appreciation of scope
  • Know the needs for mousing shackles and to tie off the bitter end with line
  • Understand the weight of anchor and chain necessary
  • Understand the requirement for at least two anchors and cables
  • Understand how different anchor types perform
  • Know how to deploy and retrieve a second anchor
  • Know a variety of methods to check whether anchor dragging occurs

Handing a vessel in heavy weather

  • Understand the dangers of broaching, knockdown, capsize and pitch-poling
  • Understand the means of reducing the likelihood of pitchpoling
  • Understand the need for securing all items aboard in heavy weather
  • Understand that wave height and shape is a complex situation that depends only in part on fetch, wind strength and time
  • Understand that sea conditions are far more dangerous than wind strength
  • Know how to deploy storm sails, use the motor or any other means to assist the safety of the vessel
  • Know the need to prevent water ingress and the means to achieve this
  • Know the importance of crew training and crew morale
  • Understand that severe weather can be very noisy, frightening and stressful
  • Knowledge of heaving to, lying ahull, running and sea anchors
  • Understand the limitations of each technique
  • Understand that a sea anchor is a parachute device and is streamed over the bow
  • Know that a sea anchor must prevent any significant sternward movement to avoid rudder damage
  • Understand that a drogue is a device to limit speed and help steering and is normally streamed astern
  • Know the need to practice with sea anchor or drogue proper to needing it at sea
  • Know the need to adjust the length of the sea anchor rode to suit conditions
  • Know that sea anchors or drogues need to be kept readily available
  • Heavy weather in port


Fire fighting, stranding, collision, damage, control of leaks

  • Know where fire extinguishers are stowed and how they are used
  • Know the need for crew training
  • Understand the dangers of smoke
  • Know that smoke is the predominant feature of a fire
  • Know the need for regular servicing of extinguishers
  • Know the various types of extinguishers available and their advantages and limitations
  • Know the need for checks on crew and vessel following stranding
  • Understand the means of re-floating including heeling a yacht
  • Know the importance of avoiding further hull damage
  • Know the need to keep the vessel end on to seas
  • Know to check for injury and damage following collision
  • Understand the requirement to assist the other vessel
  • Understand the requirement to swap information regarding the vessel and intention
  • Know different methods of damage repair in varying circumstances
  • Understand the need to carry equipment and tools to achieve repairs
  • Know the need for adequate pumps and spares and the importance of maintenance
  • Know the types of materials and tools suitable for leak control in different types of boat
  • Appreciate the importance of watertight compartments

Jury masts and rigging jury steering

  • Understand the steps to be taken following dismasting and the difficulty of cutting wire
  • Appreciate the difficulty of retrieving overboard spars
  • Understand the difficulty of rigging a jury mast due to the motion
  • know the steps to take when rigging a jury mast
  • Know the uses and properties of rope types: nylon, terylene/polyester, spectra, kevlar and vectran
  • Know that a directly attached tiller is a requirement
  • know that a system for steering is required in case of rudder loss
  • Appreciate the limitations of a pole rigged over the stern
  • Understand the system of a drogue and outriggers to provide steering.

Distress procedures, abandoning ship, life rafts, search and rescue

  • Know the distress signals suitable on small vessels, recognise all distress signals
  • Know the requirements regarding assistance to vessels in distress
  • Understand the need for crew to be able to use distress signals and in all circumstances e.g. darkness
  • Know the requirement to have a written abandon ship plan and crew training

Life Rafts

  • Understand the requirements for safe abandonment in to a life raft, helicopter or other craft
  • Know how a life raft should be stowed
  • Know the advantages and disadvantages of different types of pack
  • Know how a life raft is deployed
  • Know how a life raft is boarded by the crew
  • Know the contents and stowage plan in a life raft
  • Know that food and water has to be rationed and the need for additional supplies
  • Understand the requirement for life jackets and safety harness when in a life raft
  • Understand stability in a life raft
  • Appreciate how a life raft is righted and the principles of managing the crew in a life raft
  • Appreciate that a life raft should only be used when it is certain the vessel is about to sink
  • Understand that search and rescue beyond NZ may be the responsibility of another country
  • Appreciate that other countries may have a slower less well-organised response
  • Understand that only life will be rescued and the vessel and property is salvage
  • Understand the danger and difficulty of boarding a ship from a small vessel

Man overboard

  • Know the requirement to prevent man overboard incidents
  • Know the recommended procedures for man overboard
  • Understand that different situations require a different response
  • Know that crew training is required before a voyage
  • Know the stowage requirement and understand the use of life saving equipment
  • Appreciate that man overboard in the open ocean may well lead to a fatality

Towing and being towed

  • Understand the difficulties encountered on a lengthy tow, especially tow line chafe.
  • Appreciate the problems with large ships towing small vessels

Assisting a vessel in distress – rescuing crew of a disabled vessel

  • Know the legal requirement of seeking additional assistance
  • Understand the difficulties of going alongside
  • Know to ensure those in difficulty wear lifejackets and harness
  • Know the importance of using an inflatable boat or a line to effect rescue

Serious injury to a crew member and danger of exposure

  • Know that a first aid kit must include prescription drugs and pain relief
  • Know the importance of recording the use of prescription drugs
  • Understand the importance of training in the use of prescription medicines
  • Know the requirement for a comprehensive manual
  • Understand the need for correct diagnosis and treatment
  • Know to seek outside advice by radio

Sources of outside assistance

Responsibilities of a Master

Crew selection and management

  • Know the legal responsibility when taking on or discharging crew
  • Understand the leadership role of the master
  • Appreciate the difficulty of a novice skipper with experienced crew
  • Know that the master has responsibility for crew safety and discipline on board
  • Know the need for a range of skills
  • Understand the requirement for compatibility
  • Know the need for training and briefings
  • Know the importance of a reliable autopilot or self steering
  • Understand the limitations and legal requirements when using an autopilot

Crew watch bill and responsibilities

  • Know the need for having a watch system that provides adequate rest for all
  • Understand the need for fair allocation of duties
  • Know to ensure the crew understand their responsibilities to the vessel and each other
  • Know to ensure the crew take responsibility for their own safety and use the safety gear available.

33 thoughts on “Ocean Yachtmaster

  1. Wow wow wow wow! Such a lot to learn, your brain must be so full.
    Interesting to compare to the RYA course we have in the UK.
    Do you use buoyage system A or B where you are? I guess A as you are not in the States?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gee, just a bit there…. have you completed a Yachtmaster Coastal or Day Skipper prior to this study? I’m not clear if its a lineal process or if I can bite off this syllabus while I travel without having done earlier courses.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Holey moley, Viki! You’re already a top notch sailor, but after all that study, you’ll surely be ready for your ’round the world sail! Love reading all your teaching posts. I learn something every time for my future sailing days, thanks very much!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This makes my head spin ! I’ve got my French offshore license and a friend said that after his French license he completed the Ocean Yachtmaster Offshore through a 2 week programme. I’m sure it didn’t include all of the celestial navigation stuff. Strange if the requirements vary from country to country. Good on you !


  5. Piece of cake, or maybe not. How long do I have to learn all of that stuff? No need to answer. I’m going to allow myself plenty of time. Thank you for your posts. Keep up the good work.


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