Helmsman Course Syllabus

Aim: To teach boat handling & safety within a defined area 

A: Theory Session 

Types of craft

  • Sportsboat, motor cruisers planing/displacement 
  • Types of hull, seakeeping, wash and considerations 

Engines and drives 

  • Advantages and disadvantages
  • Petrol / diesel 
  • Single / twin screw 
  • Shafts / outdrives, outboard, waterjets 

Engine operation and maintenance 

  • Pre-start checks inboard / outboards 
  • Engine checks while running 
  • Routine maintenance checks 
  • Fuel consumption range, reserve, and location of fuel cut-offs 
  • Basic fault diagnosis  

Safety and seamanship 

  • Personal safety equipment - lifejackets, buoyancy aids, flares, first aid kit 
  • Anchoring - types, stowage, depth of water, preparation, check holding, weighing

Rule of the road 

  • Has a working knowledge of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 

B: Practical Session 

Boat preparation 

  • Local boating conditions and regulations 
  • Preparation of boat, lines, fenders 
  • Safety equipment, lifejackets, dangers, number in boat 
  • CE marks, loading, effect on handling and performance 
  • Use of kill cords If trailer - number of people for launching / recovery, slipway condition, steep / slippery, wind 
  • Can tie & knows use of: bowline, round turn & two half hitches, clove hitch, single & double sheetbend 

Boat handling 

  • Steering, controls, windage 
  • Starting and stopping 
  • Low speed, steering a straight course 
  • Turning in a confined area 
  • Effect of wind on bow 
  • High speed / full power, planning, trim tabs and power trim 
  • S turns, U turns, stopping from speed 
  • Displacement craft: handling ahead and astern 
  • Carrying way 

Securing to a buoy 

  • Preparation of mooring warp and boat hook 
  • Method of approach in various conditions 
  • Crew communication 
  • Making fast 


  • Preparation and use of lines, springs, fenders, attachment to boat, stowage underway, securing to cleats 
  • Method of approach in various wind and tide conditions 
  • Making fast - importance of 'taking a turn' 
  • Use of springs to leave a berth 

Man overboard 

  • Immediate reaction Proper observation of man overboard 
  • Correct return 
  • Awareness of propellers 
  • Final approach and recovery of man overboard
Back to main page