ASA 104 Bareboat Cruising – What You’ll Learn

By: Books, Learn To Sail

We dropped the anchor in about 15 feet of crystal clear water. From the dolphin striker, I could see the anchor chain all the way to the hook in the white sand. Fish darted below the boat as if they were accustomed to getting fed by the new arrivals. The four of us, my family, stood on the trampoline of the 48-foot catamaran and took in the scenery. An isolated cove in the Caribbean and it was all ours. 

That was our first bareboat charter anchoring experience. It was life-changing. The dream trip to charter a boat and explore a few islands had commenced and this moment was exactly how we had all imagined it to be. Alone in paradise on a big sailboat with the confidence to safely sail to a new port every night.

That is what sailing does for you. That is what ASA 104 Bareboat Cruising can prepare you for.

What You’ll Learn in ASA 104 – Bareboat Cruising

Able to skipper a sloop-rigged, auxiliary powered keelboat of approximately 30 to 45 feet in length during a multi-day cruise upon inland or coastal waters in moderate to heavy winds (up to 30 knots) and sea conditions. 

You’ll expand your knowledge of: 

  • Cruise Planning
  • Systems
  • Emergencies
  • Seamanship
  • Navigation & Weather

You will build your skills:

  • While Under Power
  • While Under Sail
  • Navigation & Weather
  • Knots

Your knowledge of Cruise Planning will expound upon:

  • Preparing and planning for a one week cruise including appropriate clothing, personal gear, and provisioning.
  • Describing the required documents and procedures for customs and immigration when cruising to a foreign port of entry.
  • Describing the minimum daily water requirements for all personnel on board as well as methods to conserve freshwater.

Additional areas of study will focus upon first aid and preparation for seasickness and hypothermia as well as an understanding of fuel consumption for the purpose of planning successful sailing trips.

ASA 104, Bareboat Cruising curriculum will cover Boat Systems such as describing safe galley procedures to enhance safety and minimize inherent dangers such as fire and spillage. Other topics covered include marine toilet operation, fundamental systems of larine diesel engines, fresh water tank operations, and power consumption while anchored.

Dealing with Emergencies is part of ASA 104, Bareboat cruising. You will learn and understand USCG distress signals as well as be able to discuss actions to be taken under certain situations such as collisions and running aground.  Also discussed are emergency procedures while under power.

Knowledge of Seamanship is critical to the ASA 104 Bareboat Cruising certification.  You will describe the multiple-anchor mooring procedures and their purposes. You will be able to describe various methods for tying off to a dock under different conditions and locations.  The understanding of seamanship includes crew safety, an understanding of courtesies and customs and ability to understand and utilize rules found in the USGC Navigation Rules and Regulations Handbook.

You’ll expand on your knowledge of the terminology of Navigation and Weather and be able to explain and identify the following coastal navigation terms, using a chart or diagrams as appropriate:   Speed,  Time, Distance, Tidal Range, Tidal Current, Track, Course, Heading, Bearing, Fix, True, Magnetic, Variation, Deviation, Line of Position (LOP). You will also be able to describe actions to be taken in various weather conditions.


You will be build upon Skills in ASA 104 Bareboat Cruising that will prepare you to perform the duties of skipper and crew on a live-aboard coastal cruise of at least 48 hours.

Systems skills will include:

  • Visually inspect the auxiliary engine. Check for correct engine oil level and potential problems such as leaking fluids or frayed belts; demonstrate safe engine starting, operating and stopping procedures.
  • Inspect the raw water strainer for debris and ensure that the raw water intake seacock is in the proper position for engine operation.
  • Locate the emergency steering tiller and identify where it attaches to the rudder post.
  • Operate the electric and manual bilge pumps to ensure they are functional.
  • Demonstrate proper usage of the VHF radio, including hailing another station on Channel 16 and switching to a working channel.
  • Demonstrate proper operation of the galley stove including fuel supply, lighting, and shutting down; simulate the proper way to extinguish a galley fire.

Under Power you will be able to demonstrate docking and undocking procedures as well be able to maneuver the vessel in reverse and explain the effect of prop walk. You will maneuver the vessel in confined spaces and demonstrate various mooring procedures. You will also demonstrate an appropriate person in water (a.k.a. Man Overboard or MOB) recovery maneuver while under power and describe methods to bring the MOB safely back aboard.

Under Sail you will able to demonstrate:

  • Sail a steady compass course within +/- 10 degrees with sails trimmed properly.
  • Demonstrate the proper use of all available lines and sail controls (halyards, sheets, traveler, boom vang, outhaul, downhaul/cunningham, jib sheet fairleads, etc.) to obtain maximum performance and comfort.
  • Demonstrate the correct usage of a jibe preventer.
  • Demonstrate proper reefing procedures while under sail or hove-to.
  • Demonstrate two different MOB recovery maneuvers while under sail; starting from both close-hauled and a broad reach and selecting an appropriate maneuver for each initial point of sail.

The curriculum of ASA 104 Bareboat Cruising also covers skills for Navigation and Weather You will perform skills to aid in planning a coastal passage from origin to destination, plotting courses, distances, and waypoints.  This passage will be aided by interpreting marine information, weather forecasts, hand bearing compass fixes, and GPS plotting tools. 

ASA 104, Bareboat Cruising

ASA 104, Bareboat Cruising covers 55 skills that must be completed to earn certification. In addition to being able to skipper a sloop-rigged, auxiliary powered keelboat of approximately 30 to 45 feet in length during a multi-day cruise upon inland or coastal waters in moderate to heavy winds (up to 30 knots) and sea conditions you will have knowledge of provisioning, galley operations, boat systems, auxiliary engine operation, routine maintenance procedures, advanced sail trim, coastal navigation including basic chart plotting and GPS operation, multiple-anchor mooring, docking, health & safety, emergency operations, weather interpretation, and dinghy/tender operation. 

Take a look at all the skills that you will master in the ASA Certification page:

Find a school to earn your ASA 103, Basic Coastal Cruising Certification.:

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Sebastian E. Kuhn
Sebastian E. Kuhn

It sounds like a useful course to take. However, what stops me are the prerequisites: 101, 102, 103. A lot of time and money! There should be a way for someone like me (with 30 years sailing experience, including coastal overnight sailing and chartering) to jump right into 104.

Larry Kutner
Larry Kutner

There is. You can arrange with a local ASA school to “challenge” ASA-101 and 103 (there is no 102) by taking the written and on-the water exams. That will save you time and money if you already have the skills and experience.


There is no ASA 102, plus a lot of places can do 101/103 expedited for both certifications over a few days. But with 30 years experience, many places would rather see that on a resume than any very.

Ann Cameron
Ann Cameron

I think you can test out of the preliminary classes for one fifty each