By Cheree Bowdidge - aboard "Inflight" the family yacht
(Cheree is the daughter of Mark Bowdidge)

... A Kid's Point of view

Part 2  (be sure to read part 1)

Leaving Australia going to Indonesia I had never seen so many dolphins!!!! There were so many! The most amazing part about ocean sailing is the nights. The passing squalls would stir up the phosphorus, lighting the water up like a Christmas tree. It was as the whole ocean lit up a green-yellow glow. The dolphins at night were like torpedoes in the water, racing at the hulls of our yacht, and seconds before they hit, they’d leap out of the water like glowing sparkles from the phosphorus. With the boat on autopilot, we all sat on the bows and tramps, trying to reach out to touch them. With clear skies and the moon above, surrounded by dolphins, it was so bright and magic! In the day, the ocean was bluer than any kind of blue I could imagine and going on forever! I mean, I’ve lived on a yacht nearly my whole life and yet, still never seen anything quite like this. Everyday and night the dolphins would sing together and when we whistled, they’d sing back. Nights were the best. I remember the amount of stars were more than I had ever thought was possible! Every 2 minutes it seemed, a meteor would streak the sky. It was so clear, we could even see the pieces that broke off and burnt up in the atmosphere! It was as if there were more stars in the sky than grains of sand on a beach! I never knew there were so many until we got completely away from the city lights and further off shore.

Indonesian fishing boat

The best thing I liked about Indonesia was the smell of spices and smoke from wood fires, and the incense that burned on shore. We could smell the smoke burning miles away from shore, and when we pulled in for anchorage, we could hear the Indonesians singing and hear their bells from their temples. It was so amazing! The reefs in Indonesia were really something to see when we went snorkelling, but surprisingly we saw hardly any fish, starfish or shells compared to Australian reefs. Sailing through Indonesian waters, we couldn’t understand why all the fishing boats kept trying to cut across our bows, even to the point where one fishing boat was desperately trying to cut across our yacht under crank power alone. Obviously, his motor had stopped working. It wasn’t until we were halfway through Indonesia that we were told the Indonesian fisherman believe bad luck is caused by evil spirits and, to rid their boat of evil spirits, they  cut across the bow of another boat in order to dump the evil spirits onto the other boat.

Malaysian Markets

I remember thinking it was strange how the Indonesians got so excited when they saw us. It was when we passed them on their boats, they’d run out on deck and wave and scream hellos, jumping up down from excitement as if they had never seen a white person before. Going ashore though, was even funnier; every time we went ashore, EVERYONE in the village would follow us! Every step of the way! But the most interesting and fun part about Indonesia, is the markets. Fruit, veggies, unfortunately  plucked live chickens and FISH, the smell of fish was so overpowering! Everywhere we went, they would follow us around trying to sell what they had.

Indonesian Transport boat

I had my shifts at the wheel too. I drove the boat, took fixes on the chart and filled in the log.  Dad slept in the cockpit close to me so if I needed him, he’d be there. I’d spend nights watching the compass and stars, but one time I remember, it was about sunset and it was my shift at the wheel. The seas were pretty average, and there were coconuts floating on the surface of the water going past us. I never use to avoid them, but Dad came out and told me to steer around them from now on. About half an hour after he told me that, I saw what looked like a large palm trunk ahead, so doing what dad told me, I steered a little around it. When we got closer, I saw it wasn’t a palm trunk, but a large steel ball with pointed spikes coming out of it. I got a closer look at it from the edge of the hull as we drove past. I wasn’t quite sure what it was but after watching enough 007 movies, I knew it must have been a sea mine! There’s nothing else that matched the description. I called Dad, and after seeing it, Dad called Singapore radio and gave the position of which we saw. About 12 hours later a navy ship passed us heading towards it. From that point on, I knew to steer around anything I saw in the water!

Entering the Singapore Straits

When we were going past Singapore, I expected it to be almost exactly like Indonesia, but I was very wrong. Indonesia seemed to me like a country built on superstition and tradition, Malaysia and Singapore however, was more industrialised. I mean, our first day in Singapore and my 15-year-old sister was taking the wheel and steering our yacht through a channel filled with hundreds of huge ships going everywhere. We felt like a bug amongst a flock of birds ready to be squashed! We dodged in front and behind these massive ships and navy destroyers, it was really exciting!

The joys of antifouling

It was unlike anything I ever expected. The smog was so thick we could barely see in front of the boat, we had to literally maze our way through manmade islands, old rusted ships, and houses of sticks built on the water. I still remember the smells of Singapore! The manmade ‘islands’ had huge smoke towers going so far up into the sky, there was about 5 towers per ‘island’ with so much black smoke everywhere!!! Our first night in Singapore I remember we had to find our way through the night with a spotlight, because the channel was filled with houses built out on the water. One night we got so close to one particular house built on the water that my Dad had a conversation with him as we passed!

One thing I miss, it’s the sounds of the Muslim prayers sung through loudspeakers over Johor Bahru. The sounds, the smells, the people, the amazing electrical storms, this adventure is truly one thing that will stick with me forever!

Leaving Indonesian Waters

When it was time to come back from Malaysia and Singapore, I was excited about coming home. I was looking forward to trying life on shore. I guess back then, as exciting as life on a yacht was, I was too young to remember life on land, and I felt like maybe I was missing out on something. However, now living back on shore, I’ll always reminisce and miss my old life! Coming home to Australia on our boat was also half of the adventure in itself. There were so many good times. One particular time we went ashore on an Indonesian Island to see the Komodo dragons! We searched and searched and then finally, as we walked around the spit of the island, we came face to face with a huge Komodo dragon hiding behind an enormous boulder. It was so unexpected that everyone screamed, including the Dragon, and we all ran in different directions!

On the way to see the Komoto Dragons. Indonesia.

One night when I took the wheel for my 2-hour shift, I was so excited.  There was a storm raging around us and I loved sailing through storms and squalls…as scary as they can be! I remember the lighting would seem to strike only a few feet from the side of the hull, so close it was almost as if I could reach out and touch it! The thunder would literally shake the boat! Out of all our years living on our yacht, we were never struck by lighting. When the storms approached, huge waterspouts would appear. I actually thought they were tornadoes until my parents explained it to me! I remembered sitting on the deck and watching three huge waterspouts surrounding us, it was scary considering all I could think about was one hitting us or sailing into one. The flying fish would leap out of the water and hit the deck in the night squalls, and we would have around 20 or more fish per day on our deck! Then the squalls would blow over, and the skies would clear revealing nothing but the stars and the moon above us.

South China Sea

It’s funny you know, but some might think it’s lonely at night , the  dim glow of the compass light,  the stars above, the ocean horizon reaching forever, while the family sleeps. Nothing but the icy night, and only you awake to steer the yacht, But I never felt alone, in fact, it was like a world of its own. I was only 12 going onto 13 years old and to me it was so beautiful and peaceful. I’d love to go back and maybe one day I will.

Crossing the Indain Ocean

The best part about coming home to Australian waters was the way it happened. I remember it was my shift, around 5 am, and everyone was asleep. I had decided that since we were so close that maybe I could pick up reception on the radio. So, when I put on my disk-man and searched for a radio station, the first song I picked up was “This is Australia” by Mark Callaghan. I remembered it was so beautiful because just when the song came on, the sun started to rise, I remember the sky seemed so 3D. The clouds were streaked with pink and yellow, it was magic. After all the sunrises I’d seen my whole life whilst living on the boat, that one looked more incredible than anything I had ever seen.

One of our favorite spots at the Zowie Bay fresh water falls

Although it’s unknown where the future will lead me, like the sea, it’s ever changing. But the future is like the sea, has endless horizons, many adventures, for you never know what the wind and tide will bring in. But there’s one thing I know for sure, I’d love to go back to the sea,… to “A life on the ocean wave”

Be sure to read Part 1 of "Life on the Ocean Wave"


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