Bluewater Crew Class Syllabus

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This page will list items that sailors are expected to know to receive the Bluewater Crew endorsement.

Sailboat Operations

Winch Operation

  • Requires one person to safely operate using the self-tailers; two people working in tandem is faster, with one tailing and one grinding
  • How to properly hand over the winch handles to someone else (grab the body not the end)
  • Proper number of wraps for sail and wind conditions.
  • Safe technique for adding or removing wraps from winch
  • Proper tailing technique to prevent over-wraps

Raising and lowering the mainsail

Raising mainsail:

  • Remove sail cover
  • Remove sail ties
  • Shackle halyard to head of sail
  • Boat must be headed into the wind
  • Two people to operate winch at the mast; one jumping/grinding, one tailing
  • One person at the mast to guide the cars over the gate in the track
  • Apply enough tension to halyard to remove wrinkles from luff of sail.

Lowering mainsail:

  • Boat must be headed into the wind
  • Close companionway hatch for safety
  • One person on halyard to lower
  • Min. one person at the mast, one person at the aft end of the boom to flake the sail as it lowers
  • Apply sail ties
  • Apply sail cover
  • No lines should be dangling from boom

Unfurling and furling the foresail

Unfurling foresail.

  • One person on the furling line; untie from sampson post
  • Put one turn on the sampson post to control unfurling and to keep tension on the line
  • One person on sheet with wraps around a winch
  • Do not use a winch with furling line
  • When completely unfurled, trim foresail.

Furling foresail

  • One person on the furling line.
  • One person keeps light tension on sheet (not necessary in strong winds)
  • Do not use a winch with the furling line
  • In strong winds, one more person may need to assist with furling line
  • Furl to three wraps of the sheet around the foresail
  • Cleat furling line on sampson post
  • Pull both sheets tight by hand and cleat them

Basic mainsail and foresail trim


  • On a reach or close-hauled, leech tell-tales should be streaming aft (top most may occasionally stall)
  • Mainsail should not be luffing (except perhaps at the luff when close-hauled)


  • Use tell-tales to gauge foresail trim
  • Foresail sheets should be led inside of shrouds to track for the 100 jib, outside for anything larger
  • Foresail should never be pulled tight against spreaders or shrouds

Reefing the mainsail

  • Station one crew member at the main halyard
  • Station one crew member at the mast to affix the reefing hook (can be done by the reefing line crew member)
  • Station one crew member at the reefing winch/lines on the boom (with a winch handle)
  • Station one crew member at the aft end of the boom to put a sailtie through the clew
  • Station others along the boom with sailties to put through the reefing points along the sail


  • Uncleat reefing line and put two wraps of the reefing line around the boom winch
  • Ease the mainsheet to depower the mainsail (head the boat to wind if necessary)
  • Ease the main halyard, bring the mainsail luff down, and engage the reef cringle on the reefing hook
  • Using the winch on the boom, tighten the reefing line until the reef clew is brought down tight against the boom - cockpit crew calls this to the mast crew
  • Secure the clue with a sailtie. This sailtie should be doubled up through the kringle
  • Tighten the main halyard; one crew member at the mast helps with halyard, the other observes and calls to the halyard crew members when the luff tension is correct
  • Secure the reefing line on a cleat on the boom
  • Secure foot of sail with lines through reef points. . It is critical that these are not tight, they just keep the sail from falling below the boom
  • Trim the mainsail as desired
  • Shake out the reef by reversing the procedure

Tacking/jibing a large vessel


  • Five jobs are necessary for tacking the boat. (are there better names for these roles?). If short-handed, more than one job may need to be performed by a single crew member.
    • Helmsman - steers the boat
    • Jib Sheet Trimmer- manages jib sheet on winch, including easing working sheet, releasing sheet from winch during tacks, applying proper number of wraps on winch, and applying proper tension on sheet (i.e., tailing) while winch is being turned by Grinder.
    • Jib Sheet Grinder- cranks the winch as the jib sheet trimmer tails
    • Main Sheet Trimmer- Manages main sheet on winch, including easing the sheet, adjusting the traveler, and tailing the sheet when the main sheet grinder is turning the winch.
  • Tacking Procedure (assuming tacking from close hauled to close hauled)
    • Establish which crew will be performing which roles. A full complement of crew will consist of a jib sheet trimmer and grinder for each side (4 total) and a main sheet trimmer and grinder as well as a helmsman. A reduced crew complement would be a main sheet trimmer and a single jib sheet trimmer and jib sheet grinder.
    • Helmsman cries "Ready About"
    • Jib sheet trimmer on working sheet removes sheet from cleat while keeping tension to ensure that it does not slip on the winch.
    • Jib sheet trimmer on lazy sheet places two wraps of the sheet on the winch and takes up excess slack in lazy sheet line
    • Jib sheet grinder on lazy sheet stands ready with the winch handle (do not insert it in the winch yet)
    • Main sheet trimmer ensures that the traveler is ready to be moved to leeward
    • Crew assigned to roles respond "Ready" if/when they are ready
    • Helmsman looks to windward to ensure no traffic or obstacles
    • Helmsman cries "Helm to Lee" (or something similar) and begins to turn the boat to windward smoothly
    • Jib sheet trimmer on working sheet waits until foresail luffs, then quickly releases sheet from winch. Note that it is important to completely remove all wraps from the winch and ensure that the sheet runs smoothly through the turning blocks and does not become fouled on the foredeck.
    • Jib sheet trimmer on lazy sheet waits until the foresail luffs and then hauls in the sheet quickly as the boat comes through the wind. When the foresail begins to fill and the sheet can no longer be hauled by hand, the jib sheet trimmer quickly puts two additional wraps on the winch (for a total of 4 wraps) and calls to the grinder to "grind" and applies tension on the sheet while watching the foresail.
    • Jib sheet grinder puts winch handle into winch, ensuring that it is completely inserted and grinds the winch until the jib sheet trimmer tells them to stop
    • Helmsman steers the boat on the new tack
    • Winch handle is removed and sheet is locked into the self-tailer
    • For short handed operations, two people can handle the sheets. The sequence is that the jib sheet grinder releases the working sheet and the jib sheet trimmer hauls on the lazy sheet as the boat tacks. Once the working sheet is released, the jib sheet grinder can pick up the winch handle and grind on the new working sheet side.

Heaving to

  • Come up to close hauled
  • Tack the boat, but do not tack foresail.
  • Steer to windward to keep the boat pointed about 60 degrees off the wind
  • Adjust mainsail if necessary to keep heading
  • Lash the tiller

Mooring approach and departure

Approaching Mooring:

The exact technique will vary from person to person. The goal is to slow the boat down and make it stop when the bow of the boat is within a boathook's length of the mooring line.

It's usually easiest to furl sails and approach mooring under motor power, but an able helsman can do it under sail power as well.

  • Foredeck crew and helmsman should agree on commands, procedures, hand-signals, etc., before approaching the mooring.
  • Approach mooring ball either upwind or upcurrent (observe other boats to determine which is stronger)
  • Slow the boat down by reducing throttle and/or shifting to neutral as the boat approaches the mooring
  • A second person on the foredeck can be helpful for handling the mooring line and/or the boathook
  • Others should vacate the deck so as not to interfere with the helmsman's line of sight.

Leaving Mooring:

Don't run over the mooring line.

Assisting with docking

  • Proper technique for tying fenders
  • Preparing bow, stern, and spring lines
    • lines should be coiled and ready to heave
    • lines should be led under lifelines and through chocks if possible
    • forward-spring line leads from the boat forward to the dock
    • after-spring line leads from the boat aft to the dock
  • Safely stepping off boat at shrouds
  • Handling bow, stern and spring lines on dock
    • Wrap line around cleat to tend it
    • Don't haul in line unless instructed to do so
    • Follow commands from skipper:
      • hold line
      • haul in line
      • ease line
      • make fast (tie to cleat)
  • Leaving the dock

Proper use of the head

  • Operation of switches
  • All crew must be seated while using the head
  • Nothing goes in the head that didn't come out of your body

Dinghy driving

  • pump out water before use
  • pump up air pressure if pontoons are soft
  • Operation of electric motor
  • Use of the kill switch
  • prevent painter from being pulled under the boat
  • check for traffic in the channel before entering
  • Stow motor out of the water and locked in place when finished
  • Remove kill switch when not being used
  • Stow battery in the dock box and charge when needed


Coiling and heaving a line

  • For docking to heave a line to the pier or another boat
  • coil the line with medium-small coils (~2 feet in size) in one hand.
  • take about half the coils in the other hand.
  • throw half the coils with a sidearm motion, letting the rest of the coils pay out from the other hand.

Safety information

Working with new sailors

  • Use proper, unambiguous names for things ("ease the starboard jib sheet" is better than "let the sail out")
  • If unfamiliar with the sailor's knowledge and ability, stand by to assist

Radio procedure

Location and use of fire extinguishers on board

  • Locations:
    • Main cabin, inside aft-most port locker above the settee
    • Main cabin, inside aft-most starboard locker above the settee
    • Starboard cockpit locker, on forward bulkhead
  • Use (PASS)
    • Pull pin (P)
    • Aim at base of fire (A)
    • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly (S)
    • Sweep side to side (S)
    • Always keep a clear line of exit

Location and use of life jackets and inflatable PFDs

  • Life jackets (PFDs) are in forward starboard locker (just forward and across from the head) and in each of the cockpit lockers
  • One PFD must be available for every person on board.
  • Inflatable PFDs must be worn to count for the above requirement.
  • Throwable square PFDs located in each cockpit locker and under the lazarette hatch

Retrieving crew overboard

  • If you see a person go overboard, you MUST yell "MAN OVERBOARD" loud enough for everyone on the boat to hear
  • One person MUST point at the crew overboard (COB) and continue pointing until the person is back aboard
  • Any available flotation aids, such as a horseshoe bouy, square throwable PFDs or cockpit cushions MUST be thrown to the COB
  • Helmsman will perform a quick-stop by turning into the wind, then tacking and circling around the COB
  • Trim mainsail in tight
  • Furl the foresail
  • When downwind of the COB, head up to close hauled
  • Ease the main sheet if necessary to slow the boat down when approaching the COB
  • Throw lifesling to the COB and haul them close to the boat
  • If no boarding ladder is available, fasten a spinnaker halyard to the lifesling and hoist them on deck

Distress signals and location/use of signal flares

  • Distress signals are in an orange canister in the cabinet above the port settee
  • Hand-held flares:
    • Must be held downwind and over the side of the boat when ignited
    • Must only be used when in sight of a rescue boat or plane
    • Day or night use
  • Aerial flares:
    • Must only be used when in sight of a rescue boat or plane
    • Day or night use
  • Orange smoke
    • Day use only

Safe use of winches

  • Keep hands clear of wraps
  • Make sure wraps go on winch cleanly, always clockwise, and wrap from bottom to top.
  • Whenever possible, one crew tails while another grinds
  • At least two wraps on jib sheet winches, three in strong winds
  • When adding or subtracting wraps, lean over the winch to ensure proper tail tension at all times while keeping hands clear.

Safe Use of the Running Backs

  • The running backs are used when sailing upwind, with only the side that corresponds to the tack tightened at once (e.g. when on starboard tack, the starboard running back is tightened)
  • The running backs are swapped during the tack
  • Tightened means hand-tight; never use a winch handle to tighten the running backs
  • Be careful of crew positioning with the running backs as it is easy to get caught between them and the main sheet

Navigational skills

Familiarity with layout of Boston Harbor

Crew should be able to identify well-known landmarks by sight, such as:

  • Boston Light
  • Graves Light
  • Deer Island Light
  • Long Island Light
  • Long Island Bridge
  • Castle Island
  • Tobin Bridge
  • Deer Island Treatment Plant
  • Nixes Mate

The following navigational hazards are located within Boston Harbor. As a rated Bluewater Crew member, you should be able to easily and quickly identify these areas on the chart and be aware of them during sails within Boston Harbor. While these are considered the ‘major’ navigational hazards, there are countless additional hazards in this sailing area. Frequent chart work and studying on and off the water is the best way to familiarize yourself with all hazards. File:13270HAZARDS.pdf

  • 1. Castle Island Flats
  • 2. Lower Middle
  • 3. Sculpin Ledge
  • 4. Deer Island Light and Ledge
  • 5. Great Fawn
  • 6. Nixes Mate
  • 7. Ram Head
  • 8. Ram Head Flats
  • 9. Broad Sound South Channel (also Ram Head)
  • 10. Halftide Rock
  • 11. Roaring Bulls (and Graves Light)
  • 12. Great Brewster Spit
  • 13. Hospital Shoal
  • 14. Quarantine Rocks and Sunken Ledge

Crew should be able to quickly locate surface and water features on a chart, such as:

  • Long Wharf
  • Boston Inner Harbor
  • President Roads
  • Nantasket Roads
  • Lower Middle Channel
  • Boston North Channel
  • Boston South Channel
  • Mystic River
  • Charles River
  • Dorchester Bay
  • Quincy Bay
  • Logan Airport
  • Castle Island
  • Long Island
  • Deer Island
  • Spectacle Island
  • Thompson Island
  • Gallops Island
  • Lovell Island
  • Georges Island
  • Peddocks Island
  • The Brewster Islands
  • Brewster Spit
  • Boston Light
  • Graves Light
  • Deer Island Light
  • Long Island Bridge
  • Nixes Mate

Rules of the road

  • Crew should know the rules of the road including who has right of way and it what situations. The goal is for crew to be able to assist in navigating waterways, especially busy Boston Harbor, by understanding which vessels have right of way and which might need to be signaled to give way.

Coastal piloting using charts

Crew should be able to chart a course on a paper chart from point A to point B avoiding all navigational hazards, estimate the distance, and provide clear directions to the skipper to follow said course (e.g. course to steer, landmarks, and turning marks)

  • Crew must be familiar with:
    • symbols on charts for
      • bouys
      • lights
      • beacons
      • intertidal zones
      • depth contours
      • depth sounding
      • compass roses
    • types of bouys
    • light characteristics

Aids to navigation

Crew should be able to recognize all different aids to navigation on a chart and on the water. For more information see the U.S. Chart No. 1, especially Appendix 1 (note we are in IALA Region B).

  • Bouys
    • red
    • green
    • red/green
    • green/red
    • red/white
    • black
    • yellow
    • cans
    • nuns
    • bells
    • gongs
    • whistles
    • light characteristics
  • Beacons
    • red
    • green
    • other colors
  • Lights
    • characteristics
    • height above water
    • nominal range

Use of GPS Chartplotter

  • How to use the MOB button
  • How to determine Longitude and Latitude
  • How to plot a course
  • How to change from day to night mode
  • How to get out of panning mode
  • How to swap between North head up vs. not mode