Watchkeeper/Flotilla Skipper Syllabus

  • Learn to navigate
  • Learn the rules of the road
  • Take command of the yacht
  • Have fun and go night sailing

Overview-International Watchkeeper/Flotilla Skipper Certificate-IYT Modules 8-12

Our International Watchkeeper course increases students knowledge of passage planning, charts and navigation aids, docking, anchoring, boat handling, collision regulations and first aid at sea. These theory and practical modules are aimed at developing a student's nautical skills sufficiently to be a competent Watchkeeper on board a yacht or flotilla skipper in fair weather during daylight hours within sight of land.

The goal of the IYT Watchkeeper course is:

Be an active crew member and leader of a watch on board an auxiliary powered sailing Yacht up to a maximum length of 80 ft /24 meters), worldwide in all likely conditions at any time night or day and...

To be a responsible Watchkeeper/flotilla skipper on an auxiliary powered sailing vessel up to a maximum length of 50 ft /15 meters and its crew, with a flotilla leader, within sight of land, in fair weather and daylight hours.

Watchkeeper course Prerequisites

Candidates should have completed the IYT International Crew Certificate or show evidence of successful completion of prior similar training courses provided by an accepted and accredited body.

What will I learn?

The Gulf Charters Sailing School course assumes that you know how a sailing yacht works already. This course covers all the subjects that will enable you to be a useful Watchkeeper in command of a group of yacht crew by day and night and those skills required to be in command of a flotilla yacht sailing in company with others under the command of a competent flotilla leader. During the five days you will learn....

  • The responsibilities of the watch keeper and the delegated authority of the captain
  • How to plot a course and brief his crew members on the passage hazards and other details
  • A good knowledge of marine first aid
  • A good knowledge of the rules associated with collision avoidance
  • The commands and responses expected to be given to the crew

Watchkeeper course Syllabus


  • Importance of taking command of the watch
  • Brief your crew and answer questions
  • Ensure they are rested and fit for duty
  • Ensure they have adequate food and sleep
  • Be prepared to call the Captain if in doubt.

Nautical Knowledge

  • Naval Architecture
  • Centre of Effort
  • Centre of Lateral resistance
  • Lee Helm, Weather helm, Balance helm
  • Hydrodynamic lift

Ropes and Rope work

  • Types of ropes, qualities, advantages and uses
  • Learn to tie an know the use of the following knots:
  • - round turn and two half hitches, clove hitch, figure of eight stop knot and bowline.

Basic Rules of the Road

  • Study Rules 4-19
  • Collision avoidance, lights, shapes and sounds afloat
  • Identification of collision targets
  • Actions required by stand on and give way vessels

Introduction to Weather

  • Weather identification, squall recognition, line squalls
  • Visibility issues
  • Cold weather, hot weather
  • Lee shore


Students will plan all the details of an actual passage of a period to be carried out during the following practical session including:

  • Course consideration of hazards, tidal gates, daylight hours etc.
  • Waypoints located and plotted
  • Bearings calculated for each waypoint including allowance for variation
  • Distance between way points
  • Time to reach each waypoint at estimated average speed
  • Total journey time
  • Expected tidal currents during the passage
  • Expected wind during the passage
  • Calculate probable impact of current and wind direction on proposed course and journey time
  • Estimated position plotting

Charts and Compass

  • Chart symbols
  • Light identification
  • Leading lights
  • Plotting courses and position
  • True North - Magnetic North
  • Variation and Deviation errors
  • Course, Track, Bearing and Heading
  • Tides - Tide Tables, Currents, rip tides, tidal gates
  • Electronic aids to navigation.

Sails and Sail Handling

  • Reefing systems
  • Furling systems
  • Sail selection, battened mainsail, storm sails, spinnaker, Genoa, ghoster, screecher etc
  • Decision to reef or unreef
  • Balance the boat
  • Sail Trimming

Boat handling under sail/power

  • Effects of wind, tide and currents
  • Commands to crew for all basic maneuvers
  • Man overboard (MOB)
  • Anchors and Anchoring

First Aid

Substantial review of treatment for cuts, bleeding, broken bones, heart attack, stroke, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, bites, eye injuries, near drowning, choking.

Additional practical

On the practical section each student will take the role of Watchkeeper for a portion of an extended cruise.

Vessel safety checks

  • Hull and Rig Checks
  • Machinery and systems checks
  • Instrument checks
  • Safety equipment checks
  • Spare tools and equipment
  • Fuel and water - capacity and state
  • Provisions, menus, galley equipment
  • Course plan lodged with responsible person

Sails and sail handling

  • Slab Reefing, furling reefing - in mast reefing
  • Storms sails and their advantages
  • Spinnaker, MPS and poling out

Sailing Vessel Handling Skills

  • Helming
  • Tacking and gibing with crew
  • Coming alongside under power with crew
  • Pickling up a mooring with crew
  • Heave to
  • Anchoring and retrieving
  • Short handed sailing
  • Safe haven
  • Sea room
  • Leeward shoreline
  • Heavy weather issues
  • MOB, anchoring, pick up a mooring buoy

New course Structure for 2017

As of January 2017 the IYT course structure no longer includes the Watchkeeper course. Instead, the Crew and Bareboat Skipper courses have been expanded to include this content.

Ko Chang Flotilla
Sent to us by Jason, taken off Ko Mak during 2006 flotilla. "It makes those G&T's taste so much better".
Ko Chang Ao Salakpet
Big sky, from our base at Ko Chang, taken by Royal Siam View Photographer.
Ko Mak resort
Ko Mak Resort Bungalow, sometimes its nice to stay ashore, sent by "French John".
Ko Mak, things to do
Ko Mak Resort Restaurant, excellent fresh seafood, sent by "French John".
Ko Kham Resort, off Ko Mak
Ko Kham Resort, "I just did not want leave", said Dave Fosset, UK.
Ko Kham Resort, swing foreground
Ko Kham Resort, "... nor did my family, we all loved the Prout 39ft", said Dave Fosset, UK.