Joshua catches the wind in his sails

Joshua Lowther completed a successful voyage on the tall ship South Passage last month. Setting sail on January 14 from Manly, the Year 11 student from Brisbane Adventist College joined a crew of other young Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award candidates on an experience offered by The South Passage Foundation. The week-long adventure saw Joshua joining a 'watch' (team) and sailing the ship to Bulwer Moreton Island, Port Bundaberg, K'gari Fraser Island, Tangalooma, and back to Manly.

During the challenge, Joshua had no way of communicating with parents Shelley and Mark, or with his friends. Their only news sources were photos on South Passage's Facebook page and reading the ship’s log, posted on the website every 24 hours by the skipper (including one youth who takes on the Command role each day). To read how the journey unfolded, find the ship’s logs here: January 14, January 15, January 16, January 17, January 18, and January 20.

The stormy weather, followed by a long stretch of dead calm, tested the crew and opened space for a huge leap in skills development, resilience, and personal values. The South Passage Skipper says in his final log on January 20: "Command Day is an opportunity for the now battle-hardened crew to test their skills and show their development - from barely being able to stand on the ship to being competent and safe sailors. This challenge is not easy…. Thus, our journey… [has] been fraught with danger, hardships, and lack of wind."

His mum and dad say that Joshua has always enjoyed challenging himself although the purpose doesn’t have to be as tangible as achieving an award: "It can be the adventure itself, the fun of the activity, or for personal growth… We knew Joshua was up for this but would be stretched." Joshua is also a member of the Boy’s Brigade and has previously crewed on a much shorter (and calmer!) voyage on the South Passage.

"When Joshua is away, we always spend more time in prayer" Shelley Lowther says.

In his own words:

"The week I spent on the South Passage was unforgettable. The adventure was a truly unique experience. It not only provided an excellent opportunity to learn but, on the whole, was an awesome adventure. One of the most enjoyable parts of sailing is steering. Behind the wheel, you feel quite free and knowing that you are in control of the entire ship is exhilarating. As time passed and I became more accustomed to steering, my sense of freedom grew.

"Another highlight was probably the second last night when I was on a watch shift that lasted from midnight to 4am. It was while taking that shift that we found ourselves in the middle of the worst storm we had encountered on the entire voyage. The wind was strong enough that it blew the ship way off course and the heavy rain made it difficult to see the compass or track our course on the charts. To make matters worse, the swell was far rougher than usual, with waves often breaking over the side of the ship and drenching us all.

"To remedy this problem, we were forced to carry out a tack. Under adverse conditions, we changed the direction of the front sails so that they caught the wind more effectively and eased some ropes while, at the same time, hauling on others to correct our course. Fortunately, we were successful in this complex manoeuvre, and it turned out to be the most exciting experience of the trip!

"There were many other fun experiences that took place during the voyage; from our efforts to kiss the mermaid statue at the front of the ship to our game of footy on Rainbow Beach. I doubt I will ever forget the week I spent on the South Passage."

There is more in you than you know

Educator-philosopher Kurt Hahn, cofounder of the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme along with the Duke of Edinburgh, believed that each of us has more courage, more strength, and more compassion than we would ever have fathomed. His calling in life was to help young people recognise this through experiences that challenge them.

We are proud of Joshua’s growing courage, strength, compassion, and joie de vivre.