Learning the theory of boating is an excellent basis for getting the most out of the sport, be it as a hobby or holiday and is of course essential for pursuing a career in the boating industry and the RYA (Royal Yachting Association) has a structured programme of courses you can pursue as far as you need or want to go....

RYA Theory courses can be taken with any accredited training centre, which can include an RYA sailing school where you can combine it with an RYA Practical course, and is most likely to be an intensive course over a few weekends or a number of consecutive days. Navigation courses or shore based courses as they are sometimes called, can also be undertaken with an accredited college of further education where it is most likely to be run on a weekly basis over a school year.

Another option is to study a RYA Navigation course online, using the RYA Interactive e-learning centre, but you still need to contact an RYA Training centre as the RYA do not offer training direct, but instead use a network of accredited sailing schools to provide these courses.

Course fees can vary between RYA accredited schools and you should check what is included with each course provider.

RYA Essential Navigation and Seamanship

By its very name this RYA Navigation course is the first step on the ladder to understanding the essentials of sailing theory. The RYA describes this course as suitable for new, inexperienced or rusty crew and skippers.

Syllabus Topics

•    Charts and publications
•    Safety
•    Engine Checks
•    Rules of the road
•    Weather forecasts
•    Tidal awareness
•    Passage planning
•    Anchoring
•    Pilotage, buoyage and electronic and visual navigation.

Course Duration

In the classroom the course typically takes 16 hours, which can be undertaken in 2 full days or a number of shorter sessions.

RYA Day Skipper Navigation

The RYA describe this course as “a comprehensive introduction to cruising for inexperienced skippers”.
Within this syllabus there is also in introduction to night sailing – covering a basic knowledge of light and there are northern and southern hemisphere versions of the training materials so no matter where you are based the navigation course can be tailored for you

Syllabus Topics

•    the basics of seamanship
•    the essentials of coastal navigation and pilotage
•    chartwork
•    electronic charts
•    position fixing
•    plotting a course to steer
•    weather forecasting and meteorology
•    tides
•    collision regulations
•    construction, parts and equipment of a cruising boat
•    emergency and safety procedures including distress calls, use of flares, safety harnesses, lifejackets and liferaft

Course Duration

The course typically takes 40 hours of study and has two exam papers.

RYA Coastal Skipper / Yachtmaster Offshore

The RYA state this navigation course is “advanced training for more experienced skippers building on the Day Skipper course”. By the end of the course you should feel equipped to navigate safely on coastal and offshore passages.

Syllabus Topics

•    course shaping and plotting
•    tidal knowledge
•    use of almanacs and admiralty publications
•    position fixing and electronic position finding equipment
•    plotting weather systems and interpreting weather forecasts
•    weather predictions using a barometer and by observation
•    collision regulations
•    customs and excise regulations for cruising abroad

Course Duration

The course is taught over 40 hours with three exam papers.

RYA Yachtmaster Ocean

This is an advanced course building on the RYA Yachtmaster offshore course to prepare a yachtsman for their first ocean passage

Syllabus Topics

•    Ocean passage planning
•    Practical guide to use and care of sextant at sea
•    Sun, star and other sights
•    Meridian altitudes
•    The earth and the celestial sphere

Course Duration

The course is taught over 40 hours and has one exam paper