Retired Royal Marine Becomes First Blind Person to Row the Pacific Ocean

Playing 57-Year-Old Marine Veteran Becomes First Blind Man to Row Across Pacific Ocean

Steve Sparkes faced down a hurricane, a near-capsizing and 82 days of torture to become the first blind person to row the Pacific Ocean.

The 57-year-old retired British Royal Marine spanned 2,400 miles in a glorified canoe, setting out from Monterey, California, and making shore in Honolulu.

He finished the Great Pacific Race Tuesday, saying he was "elated" but "exhausted."

The Falkland War veteran received a medical discharge from the military after a diving accident damaged his eyesight and decided he would row the Pacific to prove to other veterans that liabilities don't have to limit your life.

"We got hit by some serious storms, including Hurricane Lane, and our boat semi-capsized," Sparkes told reporters in Hawaii. "We also lost two sets of oars, so we finished with short oars, which cost us time," he said. 

"I think this shows if you put your mind to it, you can do anything." Sparkes said.

He was helped on the journey by fellow veteran Mick Dawson, 54, an avid ocean rower who set a 2009 record by rowing across the North Pacific, from Japan to San Francisco. 

"This has been phenomenal for me," Sparkes said, "and I wouldn't have done it without Mick."

During 12 weeks at sea, there was a month of virtually no sunshine. Bad thunderstorms and giant waves plagued their journey, and then, just miles from the finish, Hurricane Lane blew through the Hawaiian Islands. 

The men deployed a parachute anchor to keep the vessel away from the hurricane and waited out the mammoth storm system before picking up their oars again.

They came in third out of five finishers in the Great Pacific Race. 

RELATED STORIES

Woman Survives 10 Hours at Sea After Falling off Cruise Ship

Burst Pipe Floods Carnival Cruise Ship in a Scene Right Out of 'Titanic'

New Details Released About 2 Ancient Shipwrecks Found During Search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370