In Transit through the Panama Canal

Panama Canal Transit

Sailing through the Panama Canal and back

By Patricia H–F Moore

After sailing Hope and Glory, our Island Packet 420, down the Central American Coast, we arrived at the Panama Canal Yacht Club in Colon on a dark night to await transit through the canal. We looked around in dismay to find the harbor crammed full of sailboats.

“Let me have a go,” John, an English crew member used to crowded English and Mediterranean coasts, said as he took the helm.

“There’s no space anywhere,” we chorused, but John sailed slowly ahead.

Read More

An Enduring Legacy

USPS Honors the 2015 Charles F. Chapman Award for Excellence in Teaching Winners

By Yvonne Hill

In February, at the 2016 Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, USPS honored five top volunteer instructors with the 2015 Charles F. Chapman Award for Excellence in Teaching.

These educators share several traits including a wealth of experience, a love of teaching, a dedication to their students and a desire to make the water a better place.

Each district can nominate one instructor for this award each year. A national committee selects the top five educators from this pool of nominees.

Each winner receives a plaque honoring the achievement, a four-year USPS-certified instructor card and a gold Chapman Award lapel pin. The winners’ squadrons receive a high-quality sextant in a presentation case engraved with the winner’s name and squadron. A permanent log of all winners and nominees resides in the USPS Memorial Library in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Please join us in congratulating these dedicated volunteer educators and honoring their service to USPS and boating education.

Read More

The Mission Continues

Rite of Passage

New boater plugs experience gap

By Michael G. D’Aversa

These days, most people know me as an avid touring motorcyclist. But long before I became a biker, I was a boater. Before I became a boater, I was just a guy who wanted a boat. All that changed on 4 July 1990 when I was thrust into the world of recreational boating by the makers of Royal Crown Cola.

It had been a typical Fourth of July in Bensenville, Illinois, where my wife and I lived at the time. While grilling outside, I’d been drinking copious amounts of Diet RC Cola. I’d been drinking Diet RC for weeks because of a contest the company had  been running. Specially marked cases proclaimed, “Win A Boat Instantly!”

While doing dishes in my kitchen, I drained another can of Diet RC and was about to toss it into the trash when I remembered the contest. I stopped mid-toss, brought the empty can to my right eye and peered inside. The winning code was printed across the bottom.

Read More

Ron Terciak

The Mission Continues

USPS member shares boating safety insights with fellow retirees

To some, a boat is just a hole in the water that you throw money into. They say their happiest days were when they bought it and when they sold (or sunk) it.

True boaters call these people landlubbers who never found their sea legs, felt the power of the tides or navigated to the call of a sailing wind. Imagine relaxing in the warm sun, ­being lulled into serenity by the motion of the waves, charting a course through waterways that display a panorama of nature’s beauty not seen from land or air, and savoring the briny scents and salty drops that spray up with each dip into the sea.

Whether sailing or motoring to lounge, fish, snorkel, or simply watch sea life and birds at sunrise or sunset, the Shell Point marina at Shell Point Retirement Community in Fort Myers, Florida, is home to some avid boaters who choose to cruise their way to tranquility each fine-weather day. Boating represents the freedom to discover new worlds.

Read More

Step-by-step fiberglass deck repair

By Chris Leavitt

Houston Sail & Power Squadron/21 member Richard Lipham solved a big problem for Sea Scout Ship 1996. The ship’s main training boat, a 1973 Santana 30, had developed a crack in the outer fiberglass skin under a deck stanchion. The core became soggy, and finally pressure on the stanchion broke a hole through the deck. Here’s a step-by-step look at the repair.

Cdr Chris Leavitt, JN, of Houston Sail & Power Squadron/21 has been a Boy Scout leader since 1993, a Sea Scout Leader since 2000 and teaches seamanship, sailing and navigation. He has two sons and a wonderful wife of 37 years.

Share this story

Chafing gear failure leaves catboat stranded

Chafing gear failure strands catboat

By Lee R. Johnson

How secure is your boat’s chafing gear? All it takes to find out is a good nor’easter—astronomically high tides, storm surge and rain—just days after the year’s biggest, closest and brightest super moon. Wave action chafed the mooring pendant securing Orleans Sea Scout Ship 72’s Herreshoff American 18 catboat in Town Cove at Orleans, Massachusetts.

On 1 Oct. 2015, Ol’ Gaffer broke free and drifted ashore at the Orleans Yacht Club, landing unscathed on sand and seaweed 10 feet from a rock revetment. It would take a week of determined labor to rescue the classic cat and keep it from breaking up on the rocks.

Read More

Racing to Bermuda

A navigator races to Bermuda

By Louis Hohenstein

Except for the starting fog, the 1976 Ocean race from Newport, Rhode Island, to Bermuda seemed more like a pleasure cruise than a gale-winds bash. As navigator, I sat in the stern of Ranger, a C&C 61-footer, with the Newport Harbor chart, plotter, pencils and a carefully pocketed pair of dividers. To my left, the skipper operated the intercom to the bow lookout and foredeck leader for fast headsail operations when we shifted to sail.

I had been visually piloting off the Rhode Island shoreline when the shore suddenly disappeared in a thick fog patch. Once we identified the Brenton Reef Tower horn from the other horns around us, we used depth soundings and dead reckoning to get there.

Read More

Recruiting new members with Junior Sailing

Recruiting new members with Junior Sailing

Part 2 of Becoming Sustainable

By Thomas Alley & others

In part one of this two-part series, we looked at how New York’s Seneca Sail & Power Squadron/6 began teaching America’s Boating Course for youth as a way to attract younger members and their families. In part two, we will
look at how the squadron plans to retain these members.

Seneca Sail & Power Squadron’s America’s Boating Course for youth has the potential to draw in family memberships and flatten out the age distribution of our membership, but how do we retain our new, younger members?

As we wrapped up our pilot class, we learned that a local high school senior wanted to organize a sailing club. His vision was to rescue abandoned sailboats, fix them up and make them available for club members to sign out and take sailing. Squadron members met the student when he started looking for people who could teach the members how to fix, equip and sail the boats.

Although this sounded like a neat idea on the surface, the squadron had to address several issues and challenges. We’ll cover two of the more significant ones.

Read More

Bareboating in the British Virgin Islands

Bareboating in the British Virgin Islands

[vc_row padding_top=”0px” padding_bottom=”0px” border=”none”][vc_column fade_animation_offset=”45px” width=”1/1″]By Greg Allen

From the moment I shut off the diesel on our chartered 39 Beneteau Oceanis and watched the sails fill with the fresh Caribbean trade wind, I was hooked. Taking the helm as captain of a bareboat charter in the British Virgin Islands was a dream come true.

My wife, Mary, and I had this trip on our to-do list for about 10 years when we finally teamed up with another couple (good friends of ours) to make the dream a reality. After months of careful planning, we sailed out of Road Town, Tortola, in the BVIs via Sunsail charters for a seven-day adventure in paradise.

Read More

Earn your boat operator certification

Earn your boat operator certification

[vc_row padding_top=”0px” padding_bottom=”0px” border=”none”][vc_column width=”1/1″]By Joellyn Jackson & Lloyd Richmond

What is BOC?


The Boat Operator Certification program allows you to demonstrate your proficiency and knowledge of a specific set of boating skills.

How many certification levels are there?


The four levels are Inland Navigator, Coastal Navigator, Advanced Coastal Navigator and Offshore Navigator. With IN, you can get endorsements for sail, inland waterways and paddle craft.

Why did USPS develop this program?


USPS responded to a United Nations resolution asking countries to develop boater certification programs that met specific requirements. USPS pioneered the program in the United States.

Read More

BUI laws carry tough penalties

BUI laws carry tough penalties

[vc_row padding_top=”0px” padding_bottom=”0px” border=”none”][vc_column width=”1/1″]By Tim Akpinar

As boaters look forward to summer, they will sometimes hear public service announcements about the risks of operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol. Most would rather think about plans for a weekend cruise than about the statutory blood alcohol levels that could lead to criminal prosecution.

But when it comes to drinking alcohol on the water, current laws can carry felony charges, prison sentences and stiff fines. A conviction can also mean higher insurance premiums, mandatory boating safety classes and damage to one’s driving record.

Read More

Boaters sail on historic SS Badger

Boaters sail on historic SS Badger

[vc_row padding_top=”0px” padding_bottom=”0px” border=”none”][vc_column width=”1/1″]By Jana Smith

One summer, my dive buddy and I took a trip across Lake Michigan on the SS Badger, the last and only coal-fired steamer in North America.

We took this trip for several reasons: to avoid driving through Chicago, which is especially difficult towing a trailered boat; for fun because I’ve never been on a cruise before; and because it might be our last chance to ride aboard a coal-fired Great Lakes steamer.

The night before, we went down to the pier to watch the ship come in. That’s really the only way to get pictures of the whole ship.

Read More