Online boating courses can be a great tool to help you as a boater. You’ll need to get your safety certification but there are plenty of other online boating courses that can improve your knowledge base as well.

It can be daunting to track down all the potential licenses, certifications and general information you may want to know as a boater. For that reason, we have assembled some of the most requested and most important courses here.

Not all of these are required to be a boater and some you may have no interest in at all. Everything here can help you become a better boater and is worth at least considering.

Basic Boating Safety Certification Courses

These courses are to provide you with safety certification that is required in nearly every state if you wish to legally operate a boat. Even if you are in a place that does not require you to have this certification we strongly recommend it. 

Boating safety is essential and there are still too many boating accidents on the water every year. Knowing how to avoid accidents, how to operate a boat safely, and knowing what to do if an accident occurs is every boater’s responsibility.

Boat Ed

The safety course through Boat Ed is one of the best you can get. It’s recognized by both the US Coast Guard and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA)

Boat US

You can take a free course online from Boat US which makes this one a standout in the crowd. Choose your state and follow the directions on the website. 


NASBLA has an easy to navigate state-by-state database that archives all the courses available to you in your state so it’s easy to compare what is close by that has been approved by the group. 


The American Canoe Association offers courses that cover a variety of lessons tailor to canoers and kayakers including safety.

Coastal Navigation Courses

Coastal navigation courses can provide you with the basics of navigation for near coastal and inland waters.  This can include reading and plotting charts, understanding currents and tides and so on.


NauticED provides some of the most in-depth and useful material regarding coastal navigation.

US Sailing

The course through US Sailing offers a good range of information and instructs you in traditional navigation techniques as well as the use of modern technology.


The navigation course from BoatUS is presented in conjunction with the US Coast Guard Auxiliary and is very comprehensive. It has been thoroughly vetted by the Coast Guard and covers everything you need to know.

Celestial Navigation Courses

A more traditional approach to navigation, these courses offer a lot of insight into maritime and navigation history. They are also comprehensive and informative for those who wish to learn to navigate by the sun and stars.

US Sailing

This detailed course from US Sailing will ensure that you understand the proper use of tools like the sextant and a timepiece as well as chart plotting, course corrections and more. The course offers an easy to follow framework and thorough information.


The American Sailing Association offers a course in celestial navigation that comes in several parts. The first level is a solid primer for newcomers or refresher for those who have some limited experience or knowledge.


This introductory level celestial navigation course from NauticEd gives you the fundamentals to understand the concepts and put them into practice even with little to no background.

Boat Licensing Prep Courses

Few states require you to be fully licensed to operate a vessel. However, if you ever wish to do something like offering chartered trips, fishing trips for which you get paid and so on, you will need a license. In addition, getting licensed is also something many boaters who are serious about the hobby look to do as a means of expanding their skill and experience. 

Sea School

Sea School offers what are arguably some of the best courses to prepare for your maritime certification and licensing. These courses are very thorough, well-structured, and approved by the US Coast Guard. If you’re serious about getting your boating license, then Sea School should have what you’re looking for. 

Ace Boater

The courses offered by Ace Boater are broken down by state and NASBLA certified. The materials they offer are easy to follow and cover all the bases. The site also offers a “pay only if you pass” policy so if you are not able to obtain the certification you want, you don’t pay. Check over what they offer as there are several types of courses available.

Basic Sailing Courses

If your interest lies specifically in sailing rather than operating a vessel under power then there are a number of courses you can take. The ins and outs of sailing are obviously very different from operating a powered vessel so the breadth of materials to study is quite different.


The American Sailing Association covers a lot of ground for new and prospective sailors, as you can imagine. They offer many resources including a free online course as an introduction to basic sailing that can help newcomers get oriented. 


You can find a full suite of sailing courses at NauticED that range from how to trim sails to being a part of a yacht charter crew to a virtual reality sailing experience. The range of options and skill levels is a great opportunity for beginners up to intermediate sailors. All of their courses come very highly rated by past students. 

US Sailing

Over at US Sailing you will find one of the most comprehensive sailing courses online. This includes a variety of lessons from tackling your very first sail to much more in-depth skill sets you’ll need once you have built a foundation in sailing. They offer both online courses as well as the opportunity to find a location near you to engage in fully hands-on experiences that will test your knowledge in a practical, real world way on a boat.

Knot Tying Courses

Sheepshank Knot Step 7

Any boater is going to have to master at least a few knots. If you’re a sailor, you might need more than a few. If you’re looking to become an expert, then you’ll need to learn a lot. This may not be the most crucial skill a boater needs, but it’s always important and will be necessary before you know it.


With literally hundreds of knots you can learn, Outdoorcore is there to teach you not just how to tie them but which knots are going to be useful to you as a boater and when you might need them. The course is very comprehensive and is good for beginners as well as those who have forgotten a few essential knots and why you need them. 

Animated Knots

You can find a free breakdown of all the essential boating knots over at Animated Knots. The layout here is easy to follow and as the name suggests, the site offers an animated breakdown of how you can tie each knot. 

Docking Courses

Many new boaters are intimidated by docking. Much like parallel parking when you learn to drive a car, docking presents a challenge for those who are nervous about doing it wrong. For that reason there are a handful of docking and mooring courses that can cover the basics of ensuring you dock your boat safely.


You can kill two birds with one stone by taking NauticEd’s course on maneuvering under power and docking. You’ll learn the theory behind what you’re doing along with tips and advice to ensure things go smoothly and you’re able to dock without any nervousness.

Shearwater University

This course from Shearwater University covers all the essentials of docking and navigating around a marina. Learn how and when to use your fenders, how to control the lines, handling the task alone or with others and more. 

Carpe Diem Sailing

You can enroll in a video-based course from Carpe Diem Sail Training to help you get a grip on all the fine details of docking your boat. This is designed especially for boaters who have anxiety that they’re going to cause an accident or aren’t sure exactly what they’re doing when trying to dock their boat. 

Basic Radio Operation

The VHF radio can be the most important tool on a boat. If things go wrong, this is your main line of communication. New boaters are often unsure of how to properly use their VHF radio, what to say and when to say it. These courses help explain the essentials of how to use your marine radio.


The course from BoatUS starts with even before you have a radio, offering advice on choosing the best radio to meet your needs and what features you need to know about. From there it goes through how to operate it and what you need to know about using it in emergencies. 

National Maritime College

You can get courses from the National Maritime College that cover both Long Range Operator Certificate of Proficiency (LROCP)  and Short Range Operator Certificate of Proficiency (SROCP).

Basic Boat Maintenance

It’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the basics of boat maintenance if you plan to be a boat owner. Consider it on par with learning how to change a tire when you own a car. A basic maintenance understanding can save you a lot of time and money by allowing you to handle minor issues. At the same time, it gives you greater insight into how your boat works and what may be causing it to work poorly.

America’s Boating Club

The engine maintenance course from America’s Boating Club explains not just the ins and outs of your marine engine but also transmissions, props and more. It also helps you diagnose issues that, even if they are beyond your understanding, you can relay to a mechanic to ensure you get the repairs you need. 

Boater’s University

Marine diesel maintenance and troubleshooting is the course offered by Boater’s University. Electrical problems, fuel, cooling systems and more will be explored so you can troubleshoot them on your own and stay on the water longer and safely.

The School of Sailing and Seamanship

The course in marine maintenance from the School of Sailing and Seamanship covers a lot of ground. You’ll learn marine electrical systems, the fundamentals of outboard motors, electric motors for sailboats and even maintenance like basic repairs, paint, and varnish.

The Bottom Line

Most boaters will only finish their basic safety certification and it’s crucial to have that. If you enjoy boating and want to expand your knowledge base to improve your handling, navigation, maintenance and more, check out some of the courses and see which are right for you.