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Basic Cruising

This course requires Basic Keelboat

Our Basic Cruising certification package is intended for those with a US Sailing Basic Keelboat certification or equivalent skills. This course is designed specifically to prepare you to skipper a sailboat in the challenging conditions peculiar to San Francisco Bay. It is as challenging and rewarding a course as we offer.

As in Basic Keelboat, we limit the classes to three students and one instructor per boat, the smallest student to instructor ratio you'll find in any commercial sailing school. The curriculum consists of 34 hours of instruction (41 hours in the week-long option), including two, three-hour Navigation II and Seamanship II study halls.

Using a "tiller-steered" boat is important to your education

We choose to use tiller steered boats for both Basic Keelboat and Basic Cruising courses because it is the best way to become a well-rounded sailor. Our commitment is to teach sailing in the best way to assure our students develop the confidence to handle any yacht. Traditionally sailors have always started learning to steer with a tiller before moving on to learning wheel steering on larger boats. A tiller gives a sailor instant feedback with every movement of the rudder. Learning to feel and read the force at play on a boat as it moves through the water is much easier with a tiller due to instant feedback. Steering properly and keeping the boat in balance and trim becomes a natural instinct that once learned is never forgotten. Moving on to wheel steering boats is very easy, but the accomplished sailor will still feel comfortable aboard anything from a sailing dingy or a tender with an outboard engine to a large racing yacht with a tiller or a wheel.

Successful completion prepares you to:

  • Skipper boats under 30-feet in challenging locations such as San Francisco Bay.
  • Move into the Bareboat Cruising (BBC) level of US Sailing's certification system.

We recommend that before taking BBC, you gain as much experience as possible by chartering or sailing your own boat.

  • Advanced sailing theory

    Learn how to fully harness and control your yacht’s sails, keel, rudder and crew weight in the best that San Francisco Bay has to offfer.
  • Managing heel and weather helm

    The hydrodynamics behind heeling and weather helm – distinguishing good from bad.
  • Sail shape and rig control

    Properly controlling the mast and sail shapes enhances your boat control for fun and safety.
  • Sailing in close quarters

    One of the greater pleasures in sailing and a critical skill for independence and confidence afloat.
  • Heavy weather techniques

    Learn to handle San Francisco Bay’s famous sea breeze with confidence.
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  • Heaving to

    How to get your sailboat to tend herself out in the Bay while you attend to something or just relax.
  • Reefing underway

    Safely reducing sail when the wind comes up quickly while you are out sailing.
  • Person overboard recovery drills

    How to manage a recovery in stronger breezes and in different situations. This is the key safety skill for San Francisco Bay skippers.
  • Anchorages and anchoring

    Become confident to explore and use all the anchorages in the Bay Area when sailing on your own.
  • Handling emergencies

    The most common emergencies and how to manage them according to best practices learned over generations. These are invaluable problem-solving skills. You can applying basic principles to handle unusual emergencies.
  • Course plotting and fixes

    When you see the fog starting to roll in, it is reassuring to know you can determine your position and course to your destination even without visibility.
  • Steering by the compass

    Few sailors know how to steer a straight course by compass.
  • 4
    Four-day Option

    Two full weekends of your choice. 10am–5pm each day.

  • 5
    Five-Day Option

    Five weekdays (Monday – Friday) 10am–5pm each day

  • Personal attention

    You get more instruction and personal attention than in any other sailing program. You learn in a supportive environment with others of equal ability. We limit the classes to three students and one instructor per boat, the Our three-to-one student-to-instructor ratio provides you with smallest class size in the country and offers you an amazing opportunity to learn to sail the right way.

  • Textbook, binder, and manual

    Included with the class are a US Sailing Basic Cruising textbook, a Basic Cruising manual, and a binder to keep all your materials together.

  • Additional training in seamanship and navigation

    Basic Cruising also includes two study halls: Navigation II and Seamanship II. Each study hall is given alternately on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings. Each study hall is three hours and covers aspects of sailing vital safe boating. Subjects covered include topics such as reading a nautical chart, right-of-way rules, and more.

  • Free use of spray gear and flotation device

    OCSC is the only school in the Bay Area that provides you with waterproof gear to make sure you stay dry and comfortable while learning without having to add a few hundred dollars in gear to the expense of learning to sail. In any course you take here, we loan you waterproof pants and jacket along with a comfortable, Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device.

  • Guaranteed Certification

    The challenges of sailing in the Bay require a high level of competence, and not everyone learns at the same pace. Most students who take our Basic Cruising class need additional on-the-water training beyond the class to meet our standards. When you purchase OCSC'sBasic Cruising package, we will provide that training for you at no cost for 60 days from the start of the program.

  • In order to qualify for the guaranteed certification:
    1. You must be certified by OCSC in Basic Keelboat
    2. You must be a member.


    Experienced sailors can challenge the Basic Keelboat test. Sailors with prior experience who want to enter into OCSC's program at this level are strongly encouraged to discuss their plans with a club manager.

  • Learn on a J/24

    Learn on the best training boat in the world. J/24's are responsive and fast, yet quite stable and spacious. They are the perfect "feedback" machine to hone your skills.

Study Halls Included

This Course Prepares You For

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    Night Sailing

    Sailing after dark requires a different set of skills. Night Sailing introduces you to the challenges and rewards of sailing at night!

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    Seamanship Under Sail

    In Seamanship Under Sail, you leave the outboard motor behind and learn how to get out of a tight bind under sail power.

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    Bareboat Cruising

    The greatest pleasure in sailing comes from the ability to participate. Fundamental skills are all you need to move forward!