Coastal Skipper / Yachtmaster Theory: Course content

What’s covered in my RYA Coastal Skipper / Yachtmaster Theory course?

This course is designed for those people who are going on to do the Coastal Skipper Course Completion Practical certificate for both sail and motor. The theory is the same standard as that required for the MCA Yachtmaster Coastal and Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence (CoC).

The contents of the RYA Coastal Skipper / Yachtmaster Theory course are listed in the RYA Yachtmaster Scheme Syllabus and Log Book (G158)

The course can be taken either in our classroom or on-line. Upon successful completion you will be awarded the RYA Coastal Skipper / Yachtmaster Shorebased Certificate and be ready to move on to the RYA Day Skipper Practical course.

The contents of the course includes:


  • Dead reckoning
  • Satellite Derived position
  • Use of waypoints to fix position
  • RADAR fixes
  • Techniques of visual fixing
  • Fixes using a mixture of position lines
  • Relative accuracy of different methods of position fixing
  • Areas of uncertainty

The Magnetic Compass

  • Allowance for variation
  • Change of variation with time and position
  • Causes of deviation
  • Compass checks for deviation, but not correction
  • Allowance for deviation
  • Different types of compass


  • Causes of tides - springs or neaps
  • Tide tables - sources
  • Tidal levels and datum
  • Standard and secondary ports
  • Tidal anomalies (Solent etc)

Tidal streams

  • Sources of tidal information
  • Tidal stream information in sailing directions and yachtsmen's almanacs
  • Tide rips, overfalls and races
  • Tidal observation buoys, beacons etc


  • IALA system buoyage in Regions A and B
  • Limitations of buoys as navigational aids


  • Harbour regulations and control signals
  • Methods of pre-planning
  • Clearing lines
  • Use of soundings
  • Transits and leading lines


  • Characteristics
  • Ranges - visual, luminous and nominal
  • Rising and dipping distances
  • Light lists

GNSS and Chart Plotters

  • Principles of operation and limitations of use
  • Raster and vector charts
  • Datum
  • The importance of secondary means of position fixing via an independent source and keeping a separate record of position
  • The importance of paper charts

Echo sounders

  • Principles of operation and limitations of use

Logs (speed and distance measuring)

  • Principles of operation and limitations of use

Deck log

  • The importance of the log as a yachts official document
  • Layout of log, hourly and occasional entries

Rules of the Road

  • A sound knowledge of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (IRPCS) except Annexes 1 & 3


  • Basic terms, the beaufort scale
  • Air masses
  • Cloud types
  • Weather patterns associated with pressure and frontal systems
  • Sources of weather forecasts
  • Ability to interpret a shipping forecast, weather fax, and weather satellite information
  • Land and sea breezes
  • Sea fog
  • Use of a barometer as a forecasting aid

Safety at sea

  • Personal safety, use of lifejackets, safety harnesses and lifelines
  • Fire prevention and fire fighting
  • Coastguard and boat safety scheme
  • Preparation for heavy weather
  • Life rafts and helicopter rescue
  • Understanding the cap[abilities of vessel and basic knowledge of stability

Navigation in restricted visibility

  • Precautions to be taken in fog
  • Limitations to safe navigation imposed by fog
  • Navigational strategy in poor visibility

Passage planning

  • Preparation of charts and notebook for route planning
  • Customs regulations as they apply to yachts
  • Routine for navigating in coastal waters
  • Strategy for course laying
  • Use of, and visual confirmation of, waypoints and routes
  • Use of weather forecast information for passage planning strategy
  • Sources of local and national regulations

Marine environment

  • The responsibility to minimise pollution and protect the marine environment

Details on more RYA courses

If you would like to view the contents of other courses please look at our RYA course contents page
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