Rowe signed-on to the Titanic in Belfast as a lookout on 25 March 1912. When he signed-on again in Southampton on 6 April 1912, he gave his address as 63 Henry St, Gosport, Hants. On this occasion he was engaged as a quartermaster. As such he received monthly wages of £5.
On the evening of 14 April Rowe was stationed on the aft docking bridge, a raised structure on the stern of the ship. He passed the time by talking to passengers and paced up and down to keep warm.
Around 11.40 p.m. Rowe saw an iceberg glide past the docking bridge where he stood, he likened it to a 'windjammer' (a large sailing ship) with sails the colour of wet canvas. He thought little more about it as it did not appear to have made contact with the ship. However, he did notice that the engines had stopped.About 45 minutes later Rowe telephoned the bridge, Fourth Officer Boxhall replied. Rowe told him he had just seen a lifeboat (No.7) in the water. Boxhall was surprised as he had heard no order to lower boats. He instructed Rowe to bring some rockets to the bridge. Boxhall had seen the lights of a vessel in the distance and Captain Smith had given permission for rockets to be sent up as a signal of distress. Boxhall and Rowe sent up the first rocket at about 12.45 a.m., and then fired them at five or six minute intervals according to Captain Smith's instructions. Between firing rockets Rowe and Boxhall attempted to signal the vessel using a morse lamp.
Rowe later stated that he was convinced that it was a sailing vessel that he observed, two points off the port bow at a distance of about five miles. Gradually the light diminished and finally disappeared. As the Titanic was stationary the mystery vessel was clearly moving away.
According to his reckoning Rowe continued to fire rockets until 1.25 a.m. by which time Boxhall had left to take command of lifeboat 14.
A few minutes later Captain Smith instructed Rowe to take charge of Collapsible C. With no response to his repeated calls for women and children, Chief Officer Wilde gave the order to lower away. It was the last boat to be lowered from the starboard side at around 1.40 a.m. And as it began its descent two male first class passengers quietly stepped in.
Rowe told Senator Burton of the US Senate enquiry that there were thirty-nine people in the boat. Two male first class passengers, five crew (including himself), three firemen, a steward, and, near daybreak, they found four Chinese or Philipino stowaways who had come up between the seats. All the rest were women and children. One of the first class passengers was William Ernest Carter, the other was J. Bruce Ismay.