Coastal Skipper

I did the Coastal Skipper course  as night classes back before Seth was born, so that must be about 13 years ago now. I had a great teacher, and I was the only girl in the class. I sat right up the front and answered all the questions first. I don’t think my classmates liked me very much… they thought I was a swotty nerd.

The Coastal Skipper course teaches you about traditional coastal navigation practices. It is so easy to just rely on GPS for all your navigation these days, however if you lose all your power, or if the GPS charts aren’t accurate – as in some Pacific Islands for example, then it is important to have some other navigational skills up your sleeve to use should the situation arise.

As well as Navigation, the course covers coastal weather and passage making. I am now studying for my Ocean Yachtmaster exam, and as part of that they can also ask any questions from the Coastal Skipper syllabus. So as part of my revision I am covering off all the topics in Coastal Skipper again too. Phew!

Here is what the course covers. The blue highlighted bits are links through to my study notes. You can click on these if you want to learn more. The Ocean Yachtmaster course includes everything you learned in Coastal Skipper. So I’m revising all this again as well. It is all good practice…

Module 1 – Coastal Navigation

  • The Chart – information on the chart, symbols, lights, chart corrections, measurement of position, distance, height and depths
  • Courses and Bearings – The relationship between compass, magnetic and true courses and bearings, and relative bearings
  • Water Track and Ground Track – Wind and tide effects on course, estimating position and course to steer
  • Fixing Position – Methods of fixing position, position lines, ranges, GPS and radar
  • Tides – Finding heights and times of tides, heights above water at a given time, meteorological effects on tides, use of the rule of twelfths
  • The Magnetic Compass – Magnetic compasses, steering compasses, fluxgate and lubber line compass, hand bearing compasses
  • Magnetism – Variation and Deviation, principles of magnetism, areas of magnetic abnomoly, heeling error
  • The Deviation Card – to establish the compass error and deviation from a known true bearing or transit bearing, to construct a table or curve of deviation
  • Marine Radar – Basic principles of Radar, the function and operation of radar controls, interpretation of the radar picture, the errors, limitations and precautions associated with marine radar navigation
  • Global Positioning System GPS – An appreciation of the basic principle of GPS, the setting up and modes of readout of GPS, the major errors of GPS, information provided by GPS, waypoint navigation and precautions.


Module 2 – Coastal Weather

  • Air masses and Fronts – Tropical maritime and polar maritime air masses over New Zealand, warm front, cold front, occluded fronts
  • Pressure Systems – Anticyclones and depressions, the isobaric patterns for high, low, trough and ridge, seasonal movements of the systems
  • The Weather Associated with: Fronts, occlusions, anti-cyclones, depressions, secondary depressions, tropical cyclones
  • Surface Wind – An understanding of pressure gradient and isobar spacing, effect of isobaric curvature, diurnal variation of wind speed
  • Fog – Radiation fog and advection fog
  • The Effect of Topography on Wind & Weather – Land and sea breezes, katabatic winds, effect of mountains and hills
  • Sea, Waves and Swell – Effects of wind and tide combined, relationship of wind and waves
  • Interpretation of Weather Maps – interpreting a simple weather map and series of maps
  • Weather Forecast Information – Types of forecasts, terminology used in marine forecasts, content of forecasts, modification of a forecast when given prevailing conditions and time.
  • Aids to Local Forecasting – typical weather cycles, use of the barometer, cloud interpretation, local knowledge


Module 3 – Coastal Passage Making


Lots to remember! Have you done the Coastal Skipper course or similar?

If you want to do the Coastal Skipper course, you can do it in a classroom or by home learning. Check out the Coastguard Boating Education website.

7 thoughts on “Coastal Skipper

  1. Sounds like a great course! I did a coastal navigation course a while ago which was a lot of fun – great practice! Our “final exam” was a race in which there were no buoys, but you had to round “marks” by taking bearings to make sure you were in the right place. Good fun!

    Great to have some Wifi and catch up on your blog – always enjoy your posts!


  2. Am I right in thinking the Coastal Skipper course doesn’t now exist in the same form, or it’s called something different? I remember doing Day Skipper theory at evening classes, about ten years ago, and loved it. I then did Yachtmaster theory classes, and loved that too, but I wasnt good enough to do the YM practical. My husband has sailed for over 50 years and has never done, and never would do, any recognised sailing courses or exams.


  3. Pingback: Ocean Yachtmaster | Astrolabe Sailing

  4. Pingback: Gift Ideas for Sailors | Astrolabe Sailing

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