Course Overview - RYA Day Skipper Shorebased                                  Skysail Home page

The RYA Day Skipper Shore Based course covers all the theory skills you need to navigate a boat by day in favourable weather. Although the course is for beginners, the content covers all you need to go to sea in safety. It does not cover practical sailing skills or boat handling, for which you will need to take a Competent Crew, Watch Leader or Day Skipper course, ideally after some experience in crewing.  Knowing the Day Skipper theory will help a lot in your practical work.

The course is 40 hours of classroom teaching including two assessments in general seamanship and chartwork, but you will need to spend a further 40 hours in homework, concentrating on chartwork, collision regulations, safety and weather.

The course completion certificate depends on all three being achiever satisfactorily: > 70% attendance; assessments; and homework.
The assessments will not cover everything you need to go to sea in safety.

Below are the main elements of the course, as what you need to know on a passage:  more detail down the page


Day Skipper Shorebased Syllabus


Nautical terms

Parts of a boat and hull
General nautical terminology



Knowledge of the properties of synthetic ropes in common use.
Ability to make and knowledge of: Figure of 8, bowline, clove hitch, reef knot, single and double sheet bend, rolling hitch, round turn and 2 half hitches.



Characteristics of different types of anchor
Considerations to be taken into account when anchoring.
Securing to cleats, use of winches and general rope handling.



Knowledge of the safety equipment to be carried, its stowage and use (RYA booklet C8)
Fire precautions and fire fighting
Use of personal safety equipment, harnesses and lifejackets
Ability to send a distress signal by VHF radiotelephone
Basic knowledge of rescue procedures including helicopter rescue


International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Steering and sailing rules (5,7,8,9,10 and 12-19)
General rules (all other rules)


Definition of position, course and speed

Latitude and longitude
Knowledge of standard navigational terms
True bearings and courses
The knot


Navigational charts and publications

Information shown on charts, chart symbols and representation of direction and distance
Navigational publications in common use
Chart correction


Navigational drawing instruments

Use of parallel rulers, dividers and the Portland Plotter



Application of variation.
Use of transits and comparison to check deviation.
Importance of swinging compass.
Siting of steering compass
Use of hand bearing compass



Tidal streams. Dead reckoning.  Working up estimated position from course steered, distance run and estimate of leeway and tidal set.
Plotting fixes.
Working out course to steer to allow for leeway and tide.


Position fixing

Sources of position lines.
Potential accuracy of fixing methods.
GPS and Electronic Chart plotters


Tides and tidal streams

Tidal definitions, levels and datum
Tide tables, standard and secondary ports
Use of Admiralty method of determining tidal height at standard port. Use of tidal diamond and tidal stream atlases for chartwork


Visual aids to navigation

Lighthouses and beacons, light characteristics



Sources of broadcast meteorological information
Knowledge of terms used in shipping forecasts, including the Beaufort scale and their significance to small craft
Basic knowledge of highs, lows and fronts


Passage planning

Preparation of navigational plan for short coastal passages
Meteorological considerations in planning short coastal passages
Use of waypoints on passage
Importance of confirmation of position by an independent source
Keeping a navigational record (Log book)


Electronic Charts Use of the RYA/UKHO plotting software


Navigation in restricted visibility

Precautions to be taken and limitations imposed by fog



Use of transits, leading lines and clearing lines
IALA system of buoyage for region A
Use of sailing directions
Pilotage plans and harbour entry

Responsibility for avoiding pollution and protecting the marine environment

Day Skipper/Watch Leader Practical Syllabus Tidal

Aim: the Day Skipper course is conducted on board a cruising yacht (7-13m LOA), to teach pilotage, navigation, seamanship and boat handling up to the standard required to skipper a small cruising yacht safely by day in tidal waters with which the student is familiar.

The Watch leader course is conducted on board a large yacht or sail training vessel, to teach navigation, seamanship and boat handling up to the standard required to take charge of a watch on deck, at sea or in harbour. The Watch leader syllabus can be conducted in tidal or non-tidal waters.


1. Preparation for sea

Is able to prepare a yacht for sea, including engine checks, selection of sails, securing and stowage of all gear on deck and below.

2. Deck Work
Can reef, shake out reefs and change sails to suit prevailing conditions. Can prepare an anchor, mooring warps and take charge on deck when mooring alongside, coming to a buoy, anchoring, weighing anchor and slipping from a buoy or an alongside berth.

3. Navigation
Is proficient in chart work and routine navigational duties on passage including:
Taking and plotting visual fixes
Working up DR and EP
Estimating tidal heights and tidal streams
Working out course to steer to allow for tidal stream, leeway and drift
Knowledge of IALA buoyage (Region A)
Maintenance of navigational records
Use of echo sounder and lead line
Use of GPS

4. Pilotage
Can prepare and execute a pilotage plan for entry into or departure from harbour.
Understands the use of leading and clearing lines.
Use of transits and soundings as aids to pilotage.

5. Meteorology
Knows sources of forecast information, can interpret shipping forecasts and use a barometer as a forecasting aid.

6. Rule of Road
Has a working knowledge of the application of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

7. Maintenance and repair work
Understands and is able to carry out maintenance tasks. Knows the properties and uses of common synthetic fibre ropes.

8. Engines
Knows how to change fuel and water filters, pump impeller and bleed fuel system

9. Victualling
Understands how to victual a yacht.

10. Emergency Situation
Is able to take correct action as skipper for recovery of man overboard. Understands distress flares and how to use a liferaft. Can operate a radiotelephone in an emergency and send a distress message. Understands how to secure a tow.
Understands rescue procedures including helicopter rescue.


11. General organisation
Understands the organisation of watchkeeping and is fully competent to take charge of a watch at sea and in harbour.


12. Yacht handling under power
Can bring a boat safely to and from an alongside berth, mooring buoy and anchor under various conditions of wind and tide.

13. Yacht handling under sail
Can bring a boat safely to and from a mooring buoy and anchor under various conditions of wind and tide. Can steer and trim sails effectively on all points of sailing.

14. Passage Planning
Can plan and make a coastal passage, taking account of relevant navigational hazards and limitations imposed by the type of boat and the strength of the crew.

Day skipper syllabus rya bucks, berks, oxon, high wycombe, maidenhead, marlow, slough, thame, chinnor, amersham, beaconsfield, gerrards cross, henley, windsor

Posted Thursday 18th December 2009