RYA Yachtmaster Theory Course

This is an Advanced Navigation Course. The official RYA title of the Yachtmaster Theory course is the Coastal Skipper / Yachtmaster Offshore Shorebased course. Courses are held in classrooms in London or Southampton or on Zoom.

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The Yachtmaster Theory course is a shorebased course in more advanced navigation techniques. It is assumed you will have done the Day Skipper theory course. The course teaches you about navigating safely on coastal and offshore passages.

If you have done an RYA Day Skipper Theory Course or owned a boat for a while and have already done a reasonable amount of navigating this shorebased Yachtmaster Theory course is the next step for you. Offering more advanced instruction in navigation and meteorology.

We have a variety of ways to take the Yachtmaster Theory course. Which format suits you?

  • Classroom Courses in Southampton or in London. 8 evening classes often and a weekend OR over 2 and 1/2 weekends.
  • On Zoom. Instructor led, these are very popular and allow you take the course from the comfort of your own home.
  • Online. This version of the Yachtmaster Shorebased course is purely online and allows you to dip in and out of the course as and when it suits you.

Looking for a practical Course? Coastal Skipper Practical course, Yachtmaster Coastal or Yachtmaster Offshore practical exams.

If you enjoyed the Day Skipper theory course or have plans to progress to Coastal Skipper practical, Yachtmaster Coastal or Yachtmaster Offshore then you should be taking this course.

The Yachtmaster Theory course is the next course on from the Day Skipper theory course. It goes into a lot more detail that which is covered in the Day Skipper theory course.

The course is an advanced course in navigation techniques. The syllabus makes some provision for the revision of subjects covered on the Day Skipper Course but those who have not acquired the knowledge set out in the Day Skipper Course are unlikely to be able to assimilate all the subjects covered in this advanced course in the time available.

Minimum Pre Course Experience: Day Skipper Shorebased Course. Although some time is devoted to revision of the basic principles, you will probably have difficulty keeping up if you haven't already mastered the subjects covered in the Day Skipper syllabus. If you have owned a boat for a while and have done some of your own navigation but have not had any formal training then you may well be able to go straight to this course without doing the Day Skipper Shorebased course.

Ability after the Course: Background knowledge to skipper a yacht on coastal passages by day and night.

Course Content: Offshore and Coastal navigation, pilotage coastal and offshore passages.

There are different ways that you can take the Yachmaster/Coastakl Skipper Shorebased course.

  • Classroom Courses. These generally run over 8 weeks (1 evenign a week) and a weekend OR over 2 and 1/2 weekends. We run these in Limehouse and at other locations in London, and in our classrooms in Southampton. If you have a suitable space we can come to your office and run one for your colleagues. This is something we have specialised in for over 20 years.
  • On Zoom. This format came about as a result of the pandemic. It was very popular during the pandemic and the fact that you choose where you want to be when you Zoom in for each session has meant it remains very popular. Courses usually run over 8 evening sessions and a weekend. The course may run over 8 weeks or sometime is condensed and more than 1 session is run a week. There is a real live instructor and fellow students to interact with.
  • Online. This version is purely online and allows you to dip in and out of the course as annd when it suits you. There is support on the phone and email from an instructor if need be.

If you have space we can also run a course in your office and have specialised in doing this for 20+ years. If this might interest you have a look here and do get in touch.

All formats of the Yachtmaster Theory course come with an extensive set of materials to assist you with the course including:

  • an RYA work pack of charts, tide tables, port information and practice questions,
  • a Cockpit Companion (classrom and Zoom courses only)
  • A student website with copies of the course slides available on line - very useful if you miss a lesson or would like to see what is coming up in the next lesson or wish to refresh your memory.

What if I have to miss a lesson?

It is not a problem if you have to miss a lesson providing you are prepared to put some effort into catching up. We provide a comprehensive set of notes including a memory stick with the slides the instructor shows. There is a bit of homework each week and providing you do this you know you will have caught up sufficiently. Also the instructor is there half an hour before the start of each class and can often stay behind afterwards if required.

  • The first session will be a quick revision session of the Day Skipper shorebased course.
  • Fun.
  • You'll learn a lot.
  • You'll meet like minded individuals.
  • You'll get as much or as little help from your instructor as you need.
  • An instructor who loves teaching you.
  • An excellent selection of course materials.

Start Times

Courses are run over 40 hours plus time for exams. Zoom class timings vary and you should check the timings of the specific course dates that you are interested in. The link below will take you to the different dates.

An advanced course in the theory of navigation and meteorology for sailors with some previous navigational experience, the course builds on basic navigation skills, developing a comprehensive depth of knowledge and understanding of navigation theories, techniques and practices. The Yachtmaster/Coastal Skipper Theory Course covers all the background knowledge needed to progress to the practical examinations for the RYA Coastal Skipper or RYA Yachtmaster Coastal/Offshore Certificates of Competence.

The course includes position fixing, magnetic compass, tides, tidal streams, buoyage, lights, pilotage, and introduction to GPS and plotters, meteorology, collision prevention regulations, safety, navigation and passage planning.


The magnetic compass


Tidal streams




GPS and chart plotters

Echo sounders

Logs (speed and distance measuring)

Deck log


Rules of the road

Safety at sea

Navigation in restricted visibility

Passage planning

Marine environment

  • Dead reckoning and estimated position
  • Satellite-derived position
  • Use of waypoints
  • Radar fixes
  • Techniques of visual fixing
  • Fixes using a mixture of position lines
  • Relative accuracy of different methods of position fixing
  • Areas of uncertainty
  • Allowance for variation
  • Change of variation with tie and position
  • Causes of deviation
  • Swing for deviation (but not correction)
  • Allowance for deviation
  • Different types of compass
  • Causes of tides - Springs and Neaps
  • Tide tables - sources
  • Tidal levels and datum
  • Standard and secondary ports
  • Tidal anomalies
  • Sources of tidal information
  • Tidal stream information in sailing directions and Yachtsmen’s Almanacs
  • Allowance for tidal streams in computing a course to steer
  • Tide rips, overfalls and races
  • Tidal observation buoys, beacons etc
  • IALA system buoyage in Region A
  • Limitations of buoys as navigational aids
  • Characteristics
  • Ranges - visual, luminous and nominal
  • Rising and dipping distances
  • Light lists
  • Harbour regulations and control signals
  • Methods of pre-planning
  • Clearing lines
  • Use of soundings
  • Transits and leading lines
  • Principles of operation and limitations of use
  • Raster and vector charts
  • Datum
  • Importance of confirmation of position by an independent source and keeping a seperate record of position
  • Importance of paper charts
  • Principles of operation and limitations of use
  • Principles of operation and limitations of use
  • Importance of log as yachts official document
  • Layout of log, hourly and occasional entries
  • Basic terms, the Beaufort scale
  • Air masses
  • Cloud types
  • Weather patterns associated with pressure and frontal systems
  • Ability to interpret a shipping forecast, weatherfax and weather satellite information
  • Land and sea breezes
  • Sea fog
  • Use of barometer as a forecasting aid
  • A sound knowledge of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea
  • Personal safety, use of lifejackets, safety harnesses and lifelines
  • Fire prevention and fire fighting
  • Distress signals
  • Coastguard and Boat Safety Scheme
  • Preparation for heavy weather
  • Liferafts and helicopter rescue
  • Understanding of capabilities of vessel and basic knowledge of stability
  • Precautions to be taken in fog
  • Limitations to safe navigation imposed by fog
  • Navigation strategy in poor visibility
  • Preparation of charts and notebook for route planning and making, and use at sea
  • Custom regulations as they apply to yachts
  • Routine navigating in coastal waters
  • Strategy for course laying
  • Use of waypoints and routes
  • Use of weather forecast information for passage planning strategy
  • Sources of local and national regulations
  • Responsibility to minimise pollution and protect the marine environment

You need for the course a set of plotters and dividers. [Picture]. We can provide them for £20 and you can pick them up at the first class. Alternatively you can buy them from most chandleries but they will probably be more expensive. You will be asked if you want us to supply you with this item when you book a course.

If you haven't already got a logbook you should buy one. They are £7.49. The Logbook [picture] is a place to record your miles and keep your certificates. It outlines the whole RYA Cruising Scheme giving the course content for each course.

We advise bringing a briefcase or bag to transport the course materials away on the first night.

"What did you like most about about your course? Well-defined and beautifully balanced act between people, didactics and technology. Combo is rarely achieved successfully but it hits the bull's eye! How would you rate the support you received during your course on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being very poor and 5 being excellent? 5 no doubt. From the first feedback onwards it's guaranteed you are not alone! I like the way anecdotes and facts are sprinkled occasionally alongside the syllabus, like recent ship wrecks in the Channel, etc. This certainly makes reading more interesting as text books tend to be somewhat drier. Please use any occasion to exploit that approach. That enriches the reader immensely as it is first-hand knowledge in its purest form, and that is certainly difficult to obtain anywhere else. Well done. "


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