NPSC Cruising Program


The NPSC Cruising Program exists to:

  • Enhance sailing safety by the presence of companion boats and, for new sailors, more experienced sailors.
  • Enable new sailors to acquire skills and confidence through close association with more experienced sailors.
  • Extend sailing enjoyment through the sharing of ideas and experiences with others members in seeking out new destinations and dealing with unexpected situations.
  • Promote sailing within the Patuxent River NAS community by encouraging and supporting family and group cruising.
  • Provide opportunities to make new friends and to maintain old friendships.

Cruising Defined

A cruise is a trip by one or more sailboats to an area outside of the immediate area of the West Basin for the purpose of sailing. It is not defined by time or distance, rather by the purpose of the trip. Boats may travel together, or separately and meet at the destination. The point of cruising is to enjoy sailing and people with like interests, and just how a cruise is defined is up to the Cruise Leader and participants.


Cruise Coordinator

The Cruise Coordinator will establish cruising guidelines and procedures for the Club, insure that cruising activities are organized and scheduled on a regular basis, and provide assistance and guidance to Cruise Leaders. The Cruise Coordinator is appointed by the Commodore and serves for a year.

Cruise Leader

Each cruise consisting of more than 1 boat should have a Cruise Leader assigned. This person will publish a schedule including destinations, insure participating boats and crews understand the NPSC cruising guidelines, and be the focal point for cruise information. Any member can be a Cruise Leader simply by announcing and organizing a cruise.

A Cruise Leader is expected to:

  • Obtain background and current navigational information on the destinations. The Cruise Leader may change listed destinations if it appears a safer or more enjoyable cruise will result.
  • If unable to take leadership of a cruise, inform the Cruise Coordinator and try to arrange for one of the known participants to take over.
  • Establish radio communication, or cell phone communication, with other boats on the cruise. Set up specific times or marks at which communication checks are to be made if the 1000 and 1400 times are not practical.
  • Carry out the responsibilities of Raft Master, as listed below, or designate a qualified alternate to do so.
  • Be alert to weather conditions. Act promptly to change or cancel a destination if weather is threatening.
  • Consider providing a follow-up article to be published on the web site, along with pictures, to further promote our cruising program. List the boats and members who participated.


On each participating boat, the Skipper is responsible for the safety of that boat and for insuring that all Federal, State, and NPSC rules and regulations are followed. While companion boats and a Cruise Leader may assist and advise, the Skipper has the ultimate authority and responsibility for the operation of his or her boat.


The Cruise Coordinator or Cruise Leader will publish a schedule of cruising on the NPSC web site. It is the responsibility of the Cruise Leader to insure the information published is accurate and timely. Members planning to participate on the cruise are responsible for contacting the Cruise Leader and staying informed.


Each skipper should attempt to contact the Cruise Leader by marine VHF radio upon getting underway, and at other times requested by the Cruise Leader. If no other times are specified, NPSC boats should check in with the Cruise Leader at 1000 and 1400 daily. Channel 16 should be monitored at check-in times, shifting channels to follow flotilla traffic. The Cruise Leader may specify a working channel as a first choice for communications on a given cruise, keeping in mind that all boats may not have all channels. Cell phones may be used as an alternative, especially on the intermediate boats without VHF radios.


Destinations for cruises must be within the area specified in the NPSC bylaws. (For intermediate and large boats, the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.) A Cruise Leader may change the destination of a cruise, particularly with the prospect of unfavorable weather. The Cruise Leader should keep in mind that late starting boats may be trying to intercept the cruise at an advance destination.


The NPSC raft tradition is one of the most pleasant social features of a cruise. A happy raft, however, must be a safe one, and responsibility falls on all concerned. The Cruise Leader is normally the Raft Master and as such directs the formation, maintenance, and break-up of the raft. Specific responsibilities are as follows:

  • Arrive early, or request one of the larger boats to arrive early, and select the anchorage. A large anchor should be set with plenty of scope, as the raft will impose more than normal loading.
  • Direct arriving boats to the raft, alternating sides to keep the raft in balance.
  • Oversee the mooring of new arrivals to insure that spreaders of outboard boats are located slightly aft of those of the adjacent inboard boats so as to preclude mutual damage if the boats roll excessively. Ensure that spring lines are rigged to prevent fore and aft relative movement of boats, and ensure that adequate fenders are placed between boats. Wakes can cause violent movement.
  • Initiate action to set additional anchors or start new rafts if the initial raft becomes too large. Additional anchors should be used only in well protected anchorage and in mild weather conditions. When a raft cannot swing readily with the wind and current, potentially damaging stresses can build up, and multiple anchor rodes may foul when conditions force raft rotation. If separate rafts are established, each should have a designated Raft Master.
  • Ensure that a watch is kept for anchor dragging, the raft swinging aground or into other boats, and the approach of bad weather.
  • Direct break-up of the raft at nightfall or on the approach of bad weather. In general, it is not prudent for more than two or three boats to remain rafted in strong winds or when retiring.

Individual skippers should conform to a few simple rules to ensure happy, safe participation in a raft.

  • Follow the instructions of the Raft Master, normally the Cruise Leader, when approaching, mooring, or departing the raft.
  • Have sufficient lines to secure bow and stern, and to place spring lines, to the inboard yacht. Mooring lines should be strong enough (generally 3/8" or larger, preferably nylon) to secure the boat and those that may moor outboard of it.
  • Have sufficient fenders, in size and number, to prevent damaging contact between boats. The receiving boat may be expected to put out at least one fender as an indication of readiness to receive another boat alongside, but the approaching boat has primary responsibility to provide fending gear.
  • Assist the next boat by receiving lines. Help the arriving boat in securing, adjusting relative position, placing fenders, etc.
  • Have some light snacks to share during the social hour. Drinks and food should be handled on other boats with special care and consideration.
  • If leaving the raft before general break-up, notify the boats on either side and verify that they are ready to handle lines before backing out. Lines from outboard boats should be passed across forward as the departing boat withdraws.