Editor’s note: This tribute first appeared in “Sailing Anarchy” and is reprinted here with permission.
If one was to walk the docks or stand at a yacht club bar or nearby pub at any of the global IOR regattas between the late 1960s to the early 1990’s, you may have run into Peter Bowker the famous navigator.
Peter could be found in places as far afield as Newport, Fort Lauderdale, Nassau, Bermuda, Cowes, Hawaii, Copenhagen, Oslo, Malta, Sardinia, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Sydney, Hobart, Auckland, and Rio De Janeiro.
He was equally at home discussing tactics with billionaire and millionaire boat owners, along with mentoring the constant throng of young Aussies, Kiwis, fellow Englishmen, South Africans, and Americans, the young guns who ground the winches, set and trimmed the sails, while Pete put the boat spot on the next mark, regardless of clear or cloudy weather when sun sights were unavailable.
He is the first navigator to win the big three of the early 600+ miler regattas. American Eagle – Sydney/ Hobart 1972; Scaramouche – Bermuda Race 1974; and the brutal Fastnet Race 1979 – Tenacious;
He even has the plaque to prove it.
Peter was in demand on the top boats over the years, such as Ticonderoga, Brigadoon, Escapade, Jubilation, Guinevere, Windward Passage, American Eagle, Scaramouche, Tenacious, Mistress Quickly, Bumblebee 3, Bumblebee 4, Nirvana, Congere, Formidable, Tonnerre, Sariyah and others.
Easy going, a friend to all, ready with a joke at a “Quiet Little Drink”, or the occasional tap dance with beer cans crushed under his Topsiders, Peter was also a great sea cook. I have seen him knock up a feed for the boys in 35 knots with the galley at an angle of 45 degrees. To quote yachtswoman and friend Pam Barlow “What a long and wonderful life Peter had. I will remember him as many will, as an exemplary shipmate, outstanding seaman, and a fun and witty friend who always surprised you with particularly pertinent quips”.
Peter, who to his sailing mates was seen as a confirmed bachelor, surprised the sailing community on February 29, 1988, when he married Josephine. He was blessed to have a wonderful wife who cared for him through the years until his passing on February 24, 2023.
I was fortunate to sail over 5,000 miles with Peter, both racing and deliveries. I know a lot of you reading this will have similar memories of your time at sea with Bowker. We are all better sailors for having known Peter Bowker. He lived a “Peter Pan” life where he never had to really grow up in the cumbersome life ashore routine. His mother asked him once what he would do when he grew up? His answer “That`s a difficult question mum”.
We all have our PB stories, too many to write here, but to be enjoyed when old mates get together to toast “One of the best”.
Sail on mate and thanks for the memories.