Small-Boat Sailing

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Resources include the Small-Boat Sailing merit badge worksheet in PDF format Adobe Acrobat PDF and Word format Microsoft Word DOC document, links, and cross-references to related badges and awards.
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Small-Boat Sailing merit badge
Status: Elective
Created: 1964
Replaced: Seamanship
BSA Advancement ID: 105
Requirements revision: 2017
Latest pamphlet revision: 2016


Sailing is one of the most enjoyable pastimes on the open water. The quiet and peacefulness of the water can provide a pleasant break from everyday life. However, smooth sailing requires paying careful attention to safety.

Small-Boat Sailing merit badge requirements

  1. Do the following:
    a. Explain to your counselor the most likely hazards you may encounter while participating in small-boat activities, and what you should do to anticipate, help prevent, mitigate, and respond to these hazards.
    b. Review prevention, symptoms, and first-aid treatment for the following injuries or illnesses that can occur while sailing: blisters, cold-water shock and hypothermia, dehydration, heat-related illnesses, sunburn, sprains, and strains.
    c. Discuss the BSA Safety Afloat policy. Tell how it applies to small-boat activities.
  2. Before doing requirements 3 through 9, successfully complete the BSA swimmer test: Jump feetfirst into water over the head in depth. Level off and swim 75 yards in a strong manner using one or more of the following strokes: sidestroke, breaststroke, trudgen, or crawl; then swim 25 yards using an easy resting backstroke. The 100 yards must be completed in one swim without stops and must include at least one sharp turn. After completing the swim, rest by floating.
  3. Describe the boat you will be using for the sailing requirement, naming all of the major parts and the function of those parts.*
  4. Before going afloat, do the following:
    a. Discuss the nine points of the BSA Safety Afloat plan.
    b. Explain the rules of the road in general and any specific rules or laws that apply to your area or state.
    c. Explain how water conditions, the hazards of weather, and heavy winds can affect both- safety and performance in sailing.
    d. Discuss the warning signs of inclement weather and what to do should heavy winds develop or a storm approach.
    e. Prepare a typical float plan.
    f. Discuss the proper clothing, footwear, and personal gear required for small-boat sailing in warm weather and in cool weather. Explain how choosing the proper clothing, footwear, and personal gear will help keep you comfortable and safe while sailing.
  5. Discuss with your counselor how to identify the wind direction and wind indicators. Explain the importance of this task before setting sail.
  6. Following the BSA Safety Afloat plan, show that you and a buddy can sail a boat properly. Do the following:
    a. Prepare a boat for sailing, including a safety inspection.
    b. Get underway from a dock,. mooring, or beach.
    c. Properly set sails for a round-trip course approved by your counselor that will include running, beating, and reaching-the basic points of sail. While sailing, demonstrate good helmsmanship skills.
    d. Change direction by tacking; change direction by jibing.
    e. Demonstrate getting out of irons.
    f. Demonstrate the safety position.
    g. Demonstrate capsize procedures and. the rescue of a person overboard.
    h. Demonstrate the procedure to take after running aground.
    i. Upon returning to the dock, mooring, or beach, properly secure all equipment, furl or stow sails, and prepare the craft for unattended docking or beaching overnight or longer.
  7. Demonstrate a working knowledge of marlinespike seamanship. Do the following:
    a. Show how to tie a square (reef) knot, clove hitch, two half hitches, bowline, cleat hitch, and figure-eight knot. Demonstrate the use of each.
    b. Show how to heave a line, coil a line, and fake down a line.
    c. Discuss the kinds of lines used on sailboats and the types of fibers used in their manufacture. Explain the advantages and disadvantages of each.
  8. Describe how you would care for and maintain a sailboat and its gear throughout the year.
  9. With your counselor, review sailing terminology and the points of sail. Discuss various types of sailboats in use today and explain their differences.
* The skill demonstrated on any boat available to the Scout; sailboards are not acceptable. While no specific sail plan is recommended, it is suggested that the craft be smaller than 20 feet. The boat must be capsizable and have the capability of sailing to windward.
† Capsize procedures should be conducted under the close supervision of the counselor. A rescue boat should be standing by to assist, if necessary, and to tow the capsized craft to shore. Self-bailing boats are acceptable for this requirement. Extreme care should be taken to avoid personal injury and damage to the boat or equipment.

The official source for the information shown in this is:
Boy Scout Requirements, 2018 Edition (BSA Supply SKU #641568)

View the change list (history) of these requirements. The text of these requirements may be locked. In that case, they can only be edited
by an administrator.
Please note any errors found in the above requirements on this article's Talk Page.


Worksheet A FREE workbook for Small-Boat Sailing is available here! (PDF or Word) with the maps, charts, links, diagrams, and checklists you need! Or click here to print just the Small-Boat Sailing requirements. has PDF and Word versions of workbooks for Scouts BSA ranks and merit badges, Cub Scouting ranks and adventures, and STEM Nova awards.

Small-Boat Sailing merit badge is an option for the National Outdoor Badge for Aquatics.
Small-Boat Sailing merit badge requires prior counselor and/or parent approval for requirement(s) #6c.
The Small-Boat Sailing merit badge is an option for the Start Your Engines! STEM Nova Award.
  1. The Small-Boat Sailing merit badge was one of the original 57 merit badges issued by the Boy Scouts of America in 1911.
  2. The Seaman Badge was one of the Original Merit Badges from the 1910 BSA Handbook. It was relabeled as the Seamanship Merit Badge in 1911, and retitled as Small-Boat Sailing in 1964.

Requirement resources

First Aid
1a. Hypothermia  •  Dehydration  •  Heat Reactions  •  Motion Sickness  •  Cuts  •  Scratches  •  Abrasions  •  Contusions  •  Puncture Wounds  •  Blisters
1b. CPR
2. BSA Swim Test: Diving also has the feetfirst jump in  •  Sidestroke  •  Breaststroke  •  Trudgen Crawl  •  Backstroke  •  Swimming Turns  •  Floating
3. Sailing Basics  •  Parts of a Sailboat  •  Nautical Terms
4. The BSA Safety Afloat policy you need is in the Small-Boat Sailing Worksheet.
5. Weather Merit Badge has resource links
6. How to Sail Video Lessons  •  Steering  •  Rigging  •  Knots  •  Much more…
7. Knots

Related awards

Aquatic-related awards
Sports-related awards

See also

Scouts BSA portal
Venturing portal
Sea Scout portal
General Merit Badge information

External links

Personal tools