Capes, points, and headlands are difficult challenges for mariners. If you have been certified at the BKB level, perhaps you have already encountered a problem returning to Potrero Reach from Keller Cove, the open area between Point Richmond (the old ferry dock) and the Chevron Pier. Sailing upwind against an adverse current, you may have found it frustrating to try to turn the corner past the pilings, each tack seemingly depositing you right back where you started. This is the same issue, on a somewhat grander scale, that makes rounding Cape Horn, or any other cape, nearly impossible in the wrong conditions. In 1905 a full rigged ship named “Susanna” took 99 days to make it around Cape Horn, the longest rounding in history.
Conquering such an obstacle, so that land is now between your present position and your previous one, is called “doubling” a cape or point. This term, one of the oldest in the literature of the sea, is first found in that grandfather of all sailing yarns, Homer’s Odyssey. In book IX Odysseus reports that “…just as I doubled Malea’s cape, a tide rip and the North Wind drove me way off course,” and that is when his famous troubles began. Every sailor knows the anxiety of such roundings, and 3200 years later the Sailing Directions warn the mariner to approach this cape on the southern tip of the Peloponnesian peninsula with prudence, for the exact reasons Homer describes.
Those with BCC certification may attempt to double Point Campbell on the NW corner of Angel Island or Bluff Point on the SE tip of Tiburon, sometimes tacking against the current on the way into Raccoon Strait. After BBC, your sailing area expands beyond the line between Peninsula Point at the tip of Belvedere and Point Stuart on Angel Island. You may fight a fickle breeze and a contrary current when attempting to get past either one. After ACC, you’ll be rounding Point Bonita. Who knows what distant capes and headlands you may one day double.
One of the wonders of our sport is that through the traditional terms, the ancient skills, and the timeless wind, sea, and geography that we share with the legendary sailors of olden days, we can relive some of the most stirring adventures in history–even if all we set out to do is to double Point Richmond.