Cruisers University Courses

See below courses offered in the spring of 2017.

Check back for fall 2017 curriculum.

NEW LOCATION: Naval Academy Club at the United States Naval Academy.  

Photo ID required!

5 Step Plan to Successful Cruising

The 5 Step Plan is a guide to becoming happy cruisers by maximizing your Dream and minimizing the Drama. Jeff & Jean will guide you through The 5 Step Plan, from what you should learn ahead of time, to creating a budget, the boat selection, a detailed look at the buying process, and then how to learn your boat after purchase.

The buying process can sometimes be complex and has several opportunities for expensive pitfalls. Jeff & Jean show you where the “stepping stones” are that allow you to navigate from Landlubber to Cruiser without making potentially six figure mistakes.

Note:  To sign up, purchase the One, Two, Three, or Four Day Package; a link will be sent where you'll opt for this class for one of your days.

Presented by:  Jeff Grossman and Jean Levine of Two Can Sail

Anchoring & Docking: Tips & Tactics

Many stories, and even a few songs, have been written about the “entertainment” a couple can provide when doing docking and anchoring. With large doses of humor and humility, learn some tricks for working together on these maneuvers.   

Presented by:  Jeff Grossman and Jean Levine of Two Can Sail        

 A Round Trip Tour of the Abacos

Pam Wall will take you on a circumnavigation of the lovely Abaco Islands in the Northwestern Bahamas.  She will explain checking into a foreign port, what you need for cruising in a foreign country, her favorite anchorages and marinas, where to get your laundry cleaned, and the best restaurants!  Pam will take you on a cruise that she has made many times and will give you all the information you will need to have a Blast in the Bahamas!

Presented byPam Wall


 . . . Preparation for cruising the Abacos and other islands in the Bahamas

Pam Wall will tell you what she knows about getting all prepared for cruising the Abacos and other islands of the Bahamas.  She will tell you about equipping your boat, what you need to take with you to the Bahamas, crossing the Gulf Stream, weather to expect, and get you all excited about cruising these lovely islands so close to our Eastern Seaboard.

Presented byPam Wall 

Basic Diesel Maintenance

Captain John Martino, from the Annapolis School of Seamanship, will run through the basics of marine diesel engines and troubleshooting some common problems.

Presented byJohn Martino

Choosing a Cruising Catamaran

There are significant differences in design choices among the pride of large cruising Cats available today. These catamarans can literally be as different as a Corvette is from an RV. Explore the design & build tradeoffs, and walk through the different feature and layout choices, to help you to determine which will best match how you plan to go Catamaran cruising.

Presented by:  Jeff Grossman of Two Can Sail

Coastal Cruising – Chesapeake to the Caribbean

Follow along as Jeff & Jean chart the route a couple can take from the Chesapeake to the Caribbean with only day sailing (almost) and enjoying the sites along the way as well! The East Coast of the US has many splendid cruising grounds and gunkholes and the ICW is a unique resource offering protected passage. Learn where you can “jump out” and in safely. The Bahamas are one of the finest cruising grounds in the world stretching 800 miles with over 700 islands and can be day sailed almost their entire length to the Caribbean! 

Presented by:  Jeff Grossman and Jean Levine of Two Can Sail      

Collision Avoidance – Radar & AIS

This class goes into the use of Radar and its features for collision avoidance and restricted visibility. The course will cover proper use and tuning of radar, contact plotting, ARPA, VRM, and EBL as well as AIS to plot and identify other vessels and objects around your vessel.

Presented by:  Matt Benhoff

Communications for Cruisers

       "Tried, True, and Technically New"
From traditional methods to the most modern, get yourself comfortable with the many ways to communicate with the world from your boat.  This session discusses relative benefits of different tools on board from basic sat messengers, richer sat-fi systems and the standby HF radio. Understand differences based on coverage, technical requirements, and flexibility. Learn lots of practical information about how to get weather data, track ocean currents, communicate via social media/blogging, stay in touch via email, or talk to your family from anywhere in the world.
Presented by: Behan Gifford

Crossing the Gulf Stream in Comfort

        . . . to and from the Bahamas and Cuba

This seminar is meant to separate fact from folklore associated with this essential crossing for those planning to go to the Bahamas or further south. A detailed description of the Gulf Stream and its characteristics will be given.  Some historical perspective will be provided, but more importantly, preparation for crossing, when best to cross or not, weather analysis and relative surface conditions.  Points will be given on how to recognize great fishing opportunities along the way.  Solutions to common navigation challenges will be discussed along with different methods used to have a predictable and safe arrival.

Presented by: Bob Williams

Cruising the Florida Keys

This seminar provides an overview for approaches to the Florida Keys from both the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, along with anchoring techniques and bottom tackle appropriate for coral reef environments. 

The Florida Keys is encompassed by the second largest marine sanctuary in the US, hence various regulatory issues will be discussed along with fishing regulations and legal consequences of running aground.

Learn about the historical nature of this area and sites of interest to be visited ashore, along with wrecks and unique dive sites offshore.  Navigational concerns and techniques for reading bottom depth and composition will be shared as well.

Presented by:  Bob Williams

Cruising Together 24/7

Peter Trogdon, President/Owner of Weems and Plath, and his wife, Cathie, with tens of thousands of cruising miles taking them from the Bahamas to Alaska share tips and stories of how to stay happily married in close quarters for months at a time. They discuss the various roles onboard that require a different communication strategy to help keep couples happy and make the adventure enjoyable. 

Presented by: Peter and Cathie Trogdon

Cruising Women

The Cruising Women program provides two very unique days of education for, and by women.  Pam Wall and Behan Gifford have each traveled thousands of nautical miles in many areas of the world, and garnered a wealth of information about the cruising life.

Are you prepared to cruise? Pam and Behan will help answer that and many other questions as they fill in the gaps of your knowledge with patience and enthusiasm.  One half-day is spent aboard boats.

The topics include:

  • An introduction to cruising:  with a partner, alone, or with family
  • Developing a personal plan to go cruising
  • Skill sets – learn what you still need to acquire
  • Equipment overview     
  • Daily routines and safety
  • Understanding the jargon
  • What works, what doesn’t work
  • Heave lines, tie knots, and become familiar with the equipment above and below deck.

The Cruising Women program is part of the Master Series Package at Cruisers University.  In addition to two fabulous days in this program you get to choose from a wide variety of elective classes held on Saturday and Sunday.

Comments from women attending previous Cruising Women seminars:

  • There is no way to express my gratitude for how gracious you are! You truly made me feel like there is no stupid question.  
  • It reassured me that I am not foolish or crazy for pursuing this dream, this lifestyle. It also helped me believe that I can learn the skills needed to do this, even be good at it!
  • Thanks so much for all the sharing, information, humor, and encouragement. And so non-intimidating! 
  • The wide range of topics covered answered many questions I didn’t know I had. 

Presented by: Pam Wall and Behan Gifford
Cruising Women is part of the Master Cruisers Series, a 4-day Tuition Package. Students will choose electives for Saturday and Sunday

Diesel Maintenance

This 2-day class is designed to benefit both recreational boaters and professional mariners who operate vessels equipped with diesel engines. The course covers all types of diesel engines and is not brand specific. While no previous experience is necessary, we have had experienced gasoline engine and automotive mechanics take this class to learn the unique characteristics of marine diesel engines. Upon completion of this course, students will be able to understand, troubleshoot, and perform basic preventative maintenance and repairs to their diesel engine. Throughout this course, students receive both lecture and hands-on instruction utilizing both a working diesel engine and a cutaway diesel that offers visual access to its inner workings. The cutaway engine enables students to easily make the transition from a theoretical to practical understanding of a diesel engine, while the working engine allows each student to perform hands-on procedures in the classroom.

Although this course is not designed to turn boat owners into expert mechanics, graduates gain a working knowledge of marine diesels, and the confidence to know when an experienced mechanic is needed. They are also better equipped to communicate with industry professionals.

  • Principles of Operation
  • Anatomy of a Diesel Engine
  • Maintaining a Marine Diesel Engine
  • Basic Troubleshooting

Presented by  John MartinoScott Segal on Thursday & Friday
The Diesel Maintenance program is part of the Master Cruisers Series, a 4-day Tuition Package. Students will choose electives for the additional two days (Saturday and Sunday) 

Docking and Line Handling

Join Captain Matt Benhoff from Annapolis School of Seamanship as he talks about docking techniques and skills that can benefit every mariner.  This seminar will cover topics encountered by Captains and their crews while getting underway and when docking their vessels, making the next time you prepare to leave or come back to the dock less stressful. 

Topics Include:

Situational Awareness
Spring Lines
Line Handling

Presented by: Matt Benhoff

Exploring the Chesapeake

"You can cruise the Chesapeake your whole life and almost never have to visit the same place twice.” This is how John Stefancik begins his seminar about cruising the Bay. The Chesapeake has so much cruising area, and so many towns to visit, with such a diversity of scenery packed into a mid-sized region that boaters can literally get lost in between skyscrapers and rolling farmland in the very same day aboard.

Whether you are cruising in sail or power, for a week or a whole season, this seminar will take you on a tour of much of the Bay and give you the details needed for a successful cruise.

Presented byJohn Stefancik

Great Products You Need Now

Pam Wall worked for West Marine for over 20 years.  During that time she was able to cruise thousands of miles on her own 39 foot sloop.  She came to know, and use, many products that very few would ever know existed.  In this seminar Pam provides a list of products that she thinks are unusual yet so important to your cruising.  Pam will take you down the list, product by product, explain what it is, tell you what it is good for, and let you know how she uses it on her own boat KANDARIK!  This is a very informative seminar that will help you find incredibly useful products that you otherwise would never know were available.

Presented by: Pam Wall

How to Maintain your Cruising Boat

This three part course will cover all the basics of cruising boat maintenance, from bottom paints and blister prevention, to power train service and corrosion prevention, and much more.

Session 1 will focus on below the waterline issues and how to get the best out of your annual haul out.

Session 2 will explore modern composite construction with strategies for keeping moisture out of the deck/cabin structure and gelcoat maintenance.

Session 3 will cover misc annual maintenance tasks, and electrical system safety and maintenance. 

Course topics include:

·         Hauling

·         Bottom paints

·         Blister repairs

·         Inspecting and maintaining underwater hardware

·         Preventing damage to cored hulls and decks

·         Gelcoat maintenance

·         Installing and rebidding deck hardware

·         Coating options for exterior wood

·         Teak deck maintenance

·         Annual maintenance tasks

–     Electrical system safety and maintenance

Presented by:  Steve Zimmerman

Guide To Short-Handed Sailing

Going cruising as a couple requires a great deal of planning, coordination, communication and skill. Like yacht delivery crews, cruising couples also have to contend with sailing shorthanded for extended periods of tiime.  Join Captain John Martino for discussion on how to prepare for sailing shorthanded.

Presented by  John Martino

Keeping Cool – AC Simplified

AC/DC Airconditioning; this is a discussion on the types of technology available to climate control cruising boats. Including split and self-contained evaporator and chiller systems.  Examples of good and bad installation practices will be demonstrated along with methods to correct them.  Special focus is given on efficiencies and wattage requirements, including options for DC operation.  Finally, sustainable humidity control supported by solar PV.

Presented byBob Williams

Living Offshore with Wind & Solar 

Bob will give a technical discussion on different solar PV and wind turbine technologies that make sustainable cruising possible.  Consideration will be given to the range of efficiencies, cost and durability of each technology. Installation examples will be shown with considerations for both.  This will include mounting, maintenance, articulation and series and parallel wiring of arrays.  Wind generators (turbines) will be considered as an alternative or compliment to PV.  Considerations will be given to efficiency, noise, durability and cost.  Installation examples are used to highlight some of the important consideration to safety and service.  Proper charge regulation for both PV and wind will also be covered. 

Presented byBob Williams 

Marine Weather Forecasting

Learn a little meteorology and reduce some of the uncertainty of coastal and offshore cruising. Whether you are cruising the Chesapeake, the Caribbean, or the coastal waters of the Atlantic, an enhanced understanding of basic weather principles and a few simple forecasting skills can improve cruise planning and reduce the likelihood of being exposed to uncomfortable or hazardous weather conditions.

The Marine Weather Forecasting Seminar provides attendees with an understanding of basic meteorological principles and explores the conditions favoring the development of severe weather. Animated graphics and analysis of past weather events are used to delve into the interesting and unique weather forecasting challenges associated with coastal and offshore cruising. Attendees will develop a basic forecasting resource kit based upon readily available government and university websites.

Note:  To sign up, purchase the One, Two, Three, or Four Day Package; a link will be sent where you'll opt for this class for one of your days.

Presented byMark Thornton 

Medical Emergencies at Sea

Join sailor Dr. Steve Rakkar as he focuses on management of emergencies by the boat crew. The following topics are among those covered:

Recognizing emergencies

Which kind of emergencies can sailors deal with?

Practical applications, such as . . .

         Examining the ear

         Applying fiberglass splints 

Make up of a medical bag

Presented by: Steve Rakkar

Misery is Optional

 . . . . a Guide for Successful Passagemaking

This session walks through tried-and-true rules for routing with safety and comfort, from technical skills like route planning to practical guidelines for making good passage choices and avoiding common pitfalls that can turn a passage from a pleasant journey to an ordeal. Recommendations for sail trim, sail handling, and reefing along with softer skills for crew comfort to keep passages safe and enjoyable.

Presented by: Behan Gifford

Modern Coastal Navigation

This blended navigation course covers everything from paper charts and plotting to the modern marine electronics and tablets and how to pair them all together. Attendants will be able to bring everything together and navigate their routes on the school’s boat simulator in various conditions. 


  •  Nautical Charts & Publications 
  •  Plotting Tools & Techniques 
  •  Chart Plotters 
  •  RADAR & AIS 
  •  Tablet Navigation & Applications 

Presented by: Captain Matt Benhoff   Saturday and Sunday, all day
Modern Coastal Navigation is part of the Master Cruisers Series, a 4-day Tuition Package. Students will choose electives for Thursday and Friday.

Navigating the ICW

For legions of boaters, a trip down the ICW is the cruise of a lifetime. For others, it’s the first big step in a grand tour of the Islands. Whichever it is for you, "Navigating the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW)" will help you do it in style. We’ll talk about how to follow the famous magenta line south without getting lost. We’ll discuss some of the route’s hidden treasures, like Marineland, Fla., and McClellenville, S.C. And we’ll discuss the best ways to negotiate the ICW’s infamous shallow areas, like Hell Gate and Lockwood’s Folly. Join lifelong cruiser Jody Argo Schroath—cruising editor at Chesapeake Bay Magazine and author of the new Atlantic Coast ICW Planning Guide—for a discussion of all facets of negotiating the ICW, from cruise planning and the best navigation apps to finding the tastiest ghost shrimp in the Carolinas.

Presented byJody Schroath

Offshore Energy Management & Design

Bob Williams will demonstrate the design concepts of a balanced, energy management system between the primary components of energy consumption, storage and production.  

Part 1  will highlight some significant load considerations that can be designed for efficiency, most significant of these, refrigeration and desalination, which will be touched on briefly.   (Consider taking the more focused seminar on The Efficent Boat Fridge at 12:30 pm today).      

Part 2   will demonstrate energy storage through a discussion of battery technologies, battery bank capacity calculations, effective charge regulation and staged load management.

Part 3  will demonstrate the need for calculating balanced daily power production through the use of alternators and generators but emphasize the benefits of sustainable wind and solar power. (We recommend taking Living Offshore with Wind & Solar Saturday at 8:15 am for a more indepth focus on this subject).  

Presented byBob Williams

OMG, We Bought a Boat! Now What?

You may know how to sail, and perhaps you have chartered boats . . . but now that you own a boat you are finding that you didn’t know as much as you thought about systems and boat maintenance. Jeff & Jean explain how you can get familiar with your boat and her systems so that you can have Drama- free cruising. 

It's likely that your To Do list is overwhelming. We will help you understand how to prioritize what needs to be addressed immediately and how to choose a vendor to do the work properly and cost effectively.  With tips to create a budget so you don’t run out of money before the work is finished!

Presented by:  Jeff Grossman and Jean Levine of Two Can Sail

Proper Prior Planning

This two session course prevents problems aboard. Experienced cruisers usually rely on routines and checklists as they prepare for a passage or an approaching storm, docking in an unknown marina, haul-out, taking on crew or guests, or making landfall in a new port or country. Established routines also distinguish cruisers who make anchoring, sail handling, docking, and all sorts of other maneuvers look easy and controlled.

Pam Wall, experienced cruiser with many decades of offshore and coastal sailing experience, shares her routines and checklists. You will come from this seminar with an understanding of the most important areas where you need routines, plus a set of checklists that you can adapt for your own boat and crew.

Presented byPam Wall

Refitting the Seaworthy Bargain

       . . . a “looks like new” approach to restoration

In Session 1 (at 10 am today), Ralph Naranjo covers the selection process of obtaining a Seaworthy Bargain.  In this class, a detailed discussion of the next steps to take ensues – what is needed to get ready to go once you've acquired your vessel.

  • Prioritizing the work list (compiling the Boat Book)
  • Determine labor and material cost
  • Managing the refit
  • Tests and sea trials

Presented byRalph Naranjo

Safety at Sea

Help insure you, your boat, and your crew are safe while on the water.  Get advice on how best to be prepared.  Topics include:

1)  Personal Safety–pfd, plb, tethers, clipping points, jacklines,

2)  Boat Preparation–what we can learn from racers, scope of passage vs. boat, redundancy

3)  Crew Welfare – watch management, personal health, provisioning

4)  Crew Overboard Rescue Techniques

5)  Offshore Communication and First Aid

Presented by:  Jeff Jordan of JWorld

Sailboat Plumbing Demystified

Marine heads, gray water, black water, potable water, water makers, bilge pumps, macerator pumps, washdown pumps . . .

The world of sailboat plumbing has become a complex maze of pumps, tanks, and valves. Learn what options are available and how to use them in this new class!

Presented byJohn Martino

Sail Trim for Control

This presentation provides instruction on best practice sail trim for cruisers. The goal is to present the sailor with ways deal with common cruising concerns of heel, over-powered situations, best upwind performance and easy down-wind sailing. We examine all the components of sail shape and trim and how to use the controls on your boat to overcome these common concerns.

Presented byJeff Jordan of JWorld

The Efficient Boat Fridge

Bob Williams will examine the refrigeration design and technologies available to today’s cruising boater. Refrigeration typically represents the single biggest onboard power consumer, in many cases more than all other loads combined. For this reason the presentation will look at refrigeration as it pertains to energy management in addition to managing food storage temperatures. 

Examples of efficient box design and types of construction material will be covered, as well as possible improvements that could be made to existing boxes. AC, DC and engine driven condensers will be discussed, including the latest variable speed control compressors. A general explanation will be given of a typical refrigeration circuit as it pertains to troubleshooting and diagnostics.

If you have a refrigeration system on your boat, or want to install one, this course should provide you with the understanding to design, buy and service your refrigeration intelligently.

Presented byBob Williams

The Gourmet Galley

            Maximum Production from a Miniature Kitchen

Cruising doesn’t mean you have to eat like you are camping. If you are happy with canned beans and crackers you can skip this session. However, if you’d like an insight into how incredible meals can be served with limited supplies in a tiny space, then this session is for you! Along with her sailing skills, Jean has formal culinary training which she uses as a foundation for teaching cruisers how to create exceptional meals, easily, on a boat!

Presented by:  Jean Levine of Two Can Sail

The Seaworthy Bargain

  . . . Selecting the right pre-owned Cruiser

Purchasing a used boat can be a very cost effect way to go cruising. But if the wrong boat is chosen, the process becomes an ordeal that often leads to unanticipated expense and significant departure delays. The best way to avoid such consequences is to embrace knowledge, develop the art of informed decision making and turn vessel selection into a more analytical, rather than emotional experience.  Session 1 covers the selection process, and Session 2 (Refitting the Seaworthy Bargain at 12:30 today) details the refitting approach to restoration.

Session I-  The Selection Process

  • The right boat for a specific cruise
  • Defining what you’re looking for
  • A parametric analysis (picking examples of boats you like)
  • Purchasing a used boat

Presented byRalph Naranjo

Top 10 Cruising Destinations

Exotic locales for cruisers

Favorite places drawn from 8 years and 50,000 miles of sailing around the world include a mix of destinations to tempt the adventurous cruiser. From the classic island paradise (places that haven't been overrun yet), to locales that seem to have stood still in time, to those which are truly unique to the cruising community (and inaccessible to almost anyone else): these highlights of top destinations will inspire wanderlust and fill out your bucket list for cruising plans.

Presented by: Behan Gifford

Transitioning to the Cruising Life

The transition from land-based living to living aboard can sometimes be a stressful time for first-time cruisers. How does one handle all the chores that come with keeping a functioning home with the added challenge of a smaller space and unknown area? What are practical solutions for food storage, communication and waste management, while on the move? 

Presented by: Lee Cumberland and Rachel Miller


Weather in Motion: A Primer on Thunderstorms

In a variety of ways, thunderstorms can quickly ruin an outing. This presentation will examine the types of thunderstorms and the ingredients that lead to their formation. Reduce your chances of a hair-raising encounter by learning how to predict and monitor thunderstorms using readily available Internet resources.

Presented byMark Thornton 


Weather Makers: Low Pressure Understood

Cruising the Chesapeake, the Caribbean, or the Atlantic will place you in the path of low pressure systems, known as “cyclones” in the meteorological community. Cyclones come in two basic varieties – extratropical (mid-latitude low pressures systems) and tropical (tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes) – which form in very different environments from fundamentally different atmospheric dynamics.

Both types of cyclones are associated with bad weather. Their arrival often presents a significant risk to boaters in the form of strong, gusty, shifty winds, steep waves, dangerous lightning, damaging thunderstorms, and, in the case of land-falling tropical cyclones, storm surge and tornadoes. This presentation will investigate both types of cyclones in detail, and review a variety of resources for predicting the development, strength, and movement of these weather-makers.

Presented byMark Thornton


Weather Maps:  What's with all those Symbols?

 Weather forecast maps use a confusing collection of symbols, meteorological shorthand, timekeeping systems, and color schemes to display current and future weather patterns. The symbols identifying high and low pressure systems, frontal boundaries, troughs, ridges, tropical cyclones and other meteorological features will be introduced. Wind forecasting graphics such as wind barbs, streamlines, and wind vectors will also be examined. 

Presented byMark Thornton


Cruisers University

Annapolis, Maryland

April 27-30, 2017
October 9-12, 2017

Top-notch lecturers with outstanding reputation in the cruising community.