Blind venteran from Exmouth reaches halfway point of cross Pacific rowing challenge

PUBLISHED: 17:00 04 August 2018

Steve Sparkes (right) with rowing partner Mick Dawson. Picture contributed.

Steve Sparkes (right) with rowing partner Mick Dawson. Picture contributed.


A Falklands War veteran from Exmouth is half way to becoming the first blind person ever to row the Pacific Ocean in a bid to help injured servicemen and women.

Former Royal Marines Steve Sparkes and Mick Dawson crossed the halfway point of their 2,400 mile row across the Pacific Ocean at the weekend.

Steve and Mick’s team of two – named ‘Cockleshell Endeavour’ – is attempting to row manually from Monterey, California, to Honolulu in Hawaii.

When they set off they were competing against six other teams from around the world but due to the treacherous conditions, Mick and Steve is now the only two-man team remaining.

In a recent update via satellite phone from their boat Bojangles Steve and Mick said the pair are ‘cold, wet and flat-out fighting to get west since leaving’.

They added: “We’ve lost three oars so far – Sparky the oar slayer is killing them.

“We’re on the last set of oars now, which is our shortest set so the slowest – it’s like racing to Hawaii in third gear.”

They also said that it’s ‘really tough but it would be no fun if it was easy.”

Steve lost his sight in 1984 after a diving incident while serving in the Royal Marines, resulting in a medical discharge.

The initial ‘devastation’ of losing his sight and his career hit Steve hard and it was not until a decade later that he received proper support from Blind Veterans UK.

The charity, formerly known as St Dunstans, tracked Steve down 
to where he was living in Malta and arranged to fly him back to the UK.

He has since worked consistently with the organisation, helping other veterans come to terms with loss of sight.

Mick was part of the first 
team to ever row the Pacific between Japan and San Francisco in 2009 and he has also previously rowed the Atlantic twice and kayaked around the Falkland Islands.

Steve and Mick have raised £6,300 towards a £10,000 fundraising target, to be split between Blind Veterans UK and the Royal Marines Charity.

To find out more and follow their progress, visit

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