Scouting/BSA/Small-Boat Sailing Merit Badge

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The requirements to this merit badge are copyrighted by the Boy Scouts of America. They are reproduced in part here under fair use as a resource for Scouts and Scouters to use in the earning and teaching of merit badges. The requirements published by the Boy Scouts of America should always be used over the list here. If in doubt about the accuracy of a requirement, consult your Merit Badge Counselor.
Reading this page does not satisfy any requirement for any merit badge. Per National regulations, the only person who may sign off on requirements is a Merit Badge Counselor, duly registered and authorized by the local Council. To obtain a list of registered Merit Badge Counselors, or to begin a Merit Badge, please contact your Scoutmaster or Council Service Center.

Requirement 1[edit]

Do the following:

  • a. Explain first aid for injuries or illnesses that could occur while small-boat sailing, including hypothermia, dehydration, heat reactions, motion sickness, cuts, scratches, abrasions, contusions, puncture wounds, and blisters.
  • b. Identify the conditions that must exist before performing CPR on a person, and explain how to recognize such conditions. Demonstrate proper technique for performing CPR using a training device approved by your counselor.

Requirement 2[edit]

Before doing the following requirements, successfully complete the BSA swimmer test.

Review at:

Requirement 3[edit]

Parts of sailboat.jpg
Parts of sailboat

Describe the boat you will be using for the sailing requirement, naming all of the major parts and the function of those parts.*

Review at:

Requirement 4[edit]

Before going afloat, do the following:

  • a. Discuss the nine points of the BSA Safety Afloat plan.

Review at:

  • 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.

Requirement 5[edit]

The points of sail. A. In Irons (into the wind) B. Close Hauled C. Beam Reach D. Broad Reach E. Running (not shown: Close Reach, between Close Haul and Beam Reach)

Discuss with your counselor how to identify the wind direction and wind indicators. Explain the importance of this task before setting sail.

Wind is reported as the direction from which it originates using the cardinal directions (North, South, East and West) or compass degrees. In other words, a northerly wind means wind which is originating in the north and blowing south, and a southwest wind is coming from the southwest and blowing towards the northeast. Wind direction is easily determined on a sailboat by looking at your sails. If the sail is rippled and flapping (in irons), then your sails are pointed directly into the wind, usually meaning the wind is coming from the bow of the boat. Flags, wind vanes, and small plastic strips on the rigging and sails are also good wind direction indicators on a boat. Licking your finger and holding it up in the air to determine wind direction is often difficult to read, but you can generally tell the wind direction by turning your body until you feel the wind blowing straight at you. You can estimate wind speed and direction by looking at the ripples on the water. Whitecaps generally begin to form on the water at 12 knots of wind speed or greater. A wind speed measuring instrument commonly seen on larger sailboats is an anemometer, which comes in many different designs including a small propeller with tail fin, or several cups rotating around a center pole.

Requirement 6[edit]

Following the BSA Safety Afloat plan, show that you and a buddy can sail a boat properly. Do the following:

File:Beating an upwind course.svg
Using a series of close-hauled legs to beat a course upwind.
  • 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.

Requirement 7[edit]

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.

Requirement 8[edit]

Describe how you would care for and maintain a sailboat and its gear throughout the year.

Requirement 9[edit]

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.