Welcome & Introduction Ch 1 Navigation Ch 2 Tides Ch 3 Charts & Navigational Aids Ch 4 COLREGS Ch 5 Weather Ch 6 Astro Navigation and Ocean Sailing Back to Aztec Sailing Home





Website Upgrade

If you have bookmarked this page, you are still using the 'old' Aztec Sailing website. I have recently upgraded the website, and THE FULL CONTENT OF THIS THEORY CLASS is available on the new Site (still free-of-charge with a voluntary donation).

I would like existing users to start using the new site - and let me know how they get on with it. The new site is where you will find all future developments.

Click here to go to the new site.

You can email me: bill.johnson@aztecsailing.co.uk

For the time being I will leave the old site where it is - some people don't like change and I understand that! But it won't be here for ever, and it won't be 'maintained'.

Bill Johnson

Aztec Sailing's On-line Theory Class covers all the "theory" that you will need in order to become a fully qualified skipper.

In RYA terms, it covers the theory you need for:

• Day Skipper

• Coastal Skipper

• Yachtmaster Offshore


A particularly helpful source of "reminder" material for all the theory subjects is Cockpit Cards - have a look at www.cockpitcards.co.uk for info, and they are widely stocked in chandlery book departments  

What is "Theory"?

It's the stuff that is easier to learn on dry land, quietly and at your own speed, before you start to use the knowledge on a boat.

Theory topics are: Navigation, Tides, Charts, Navigational Aids, Rules of the Road (Collision Regulations) and Weather.

For each topic there are facts you have to know, and concepts you need to understand, before you can successfully learn the practical aspects of what you do as a skipper on a boat.

How does it fit into the RYA Training Scheme?

You can use the On-line Theory Class as a textbook for the RYA Shorebased Courses:

• Day Skipper Shorebased

• Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Offshore Shorebased

Alternatively you can study on your own, if you don't wish to attend the Shorebased courses.

You will need to have studied the theory before doing either of the RYA practical courses for skippers:

• Day Skipper Practical

• Coastal Skipper Practical

Do I need to go on a Shorebased Course?

That depends on you.

If you are new to all this, you will find a shorebased course with an instructor incredibly useful.

If you know some of the stuff already and feel you can study it on your own, the good news is that shorebased courses are not compulsory in the RYA scheme; the "exam" you take and the ticket you get at the end of the shorebased course are of little importance. You can get all the way to Yachtmaster, and skipper a boat perfectly safely, without a Shorebased Course Completion Certificate, either Day Skipper or Coastal Skipper & Yachtmaster.

What you need is the knowledge, and of course this will be assessed if and when you take the practical examination to obtain the Yachtmaster Offshore.

About the On-line Theory Class

The on-line theory class is aimed at people who want to learn or revise the theory side of sailing by studying it on their own, so it is intended to be fully intelligible and well explained. It will also help people who are doing the shorebased course, but are looking for an alternative clear explanation of the important bits.

We also offer help as part of the deal. Just contact Bill Johnson via bill.johnson@aztecsailing.co.uk if you find something you don't understand.

This site does not cover practical application of the theory, or skills that are taught and learned on the practical courses. Sailing and seamanship require practical skills that can only be properly learned once you are on a boat. The best way to learn about ropework, boat handling or how and when to use the different navigational techniques, is to do it for real. So you won't see any diagrams about how to tie a knot or park a boat here - you do that for real on the practical course!

A number of publications are aimed either at the Day Skipper syllabus or at the Yachtmaster syllabus, and there is a huge amount of overlap between them: a typical book on Yachtmaster theory contains nearly everything that was previously learned for Day Skipper theory.

On this site we cover the whole lot. There is a clear indication of what you need to know for Day Skipper: just stick to the black text, all the more advanced material is in blue. I suspect that many Day Skipper students will happily stray into the more "advanced" Yachtmaster theory (because it's interesting and not very difficult), and they will then have a single source of reference to come back to when they want to prepare for more advanced skippering.

Finally, let me commend all the books that provide greater detail and more definitive and authoritative information. There is no limit to what you can learn, but this site has to stop somewhere, so that we can all go sailing instead of writing and reading about it. Where possible I have given references to THE authoritative publications that every skipper should own, such as Chart 5011, Symbols and Abbreviations used on Admiralty Charts, and the RYA publication of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

How to use this site

This site is arranged like a book on theory, with chapters (navigated on the side of this box) and sections within the chapter (navigated by clicking the section names at the top).

If you want, you can download a printable version of each chapter. There is a small charge - £1.99 - for each download. There is no charge for downloading this chapter: click the button for a download if you like to try it out.


If you have any difficulty, contact me on bill.johnson@aztecsailing.co.uk.

Diagrams are all placed in the text to help the explanation. If you want, double-click the diagram to open it in its own window.

A Glossary of Terms is provided for each chapter. The first time a new technical term is introduced, it is in bold red. Because the best explanation of the term is right there in the text, we don't hyperlink to the Glossary - we do, however, hyperlink from the Glossary to the fuller explanation in the text. So if you come across a term somewhere else, look it up in the glossary- then if the explanation isn't adequate, double click the Glossary term to get to where it is explained.

As explained above, the text in black is for everybody; blue means Coastal Skipper/Yachtmaster Offshore theory.

If you have read and understood every chapter relevant to you - black text for Day Skipper and blue for Coastal/Yachtmaster, then you are ready for the Day Skipper (Tidal) Practical course, or Coastal Skipper (Tidal) Practical course. There is no need to do a theory exam. But if you want to test your knowledge, we intend to provide a test (hopefully, this will be ready quite soon) with answers given.

Honesty Box

In order to keep the e-commerce model as simple as possible, payment for access to this site is by Honesty Box! This has the great advantage that you can look at the material, and not pay if you don't like it. On the other hand, if you do find it useful, we've asked for a contribution of £4.99 (you can send more if you want!) so that we can feed the kids.

Good luck & good sailing!