Blind rower’s journey across the Pacific stalled by Hurricane Lane

Fifty-six-year-old Steve Sparkes and his rowing partner Mick Dawson are on an epic journey. They’ve been making their way across the Pacific for the past three months and are now battling powerful winds and waves from Lane, which weakened Friday from a hurricane to a tropical storm. 

“The sea really turned and we experienced rough, rough weather, and we were getting bounced around. So yeah, it’s been quite thrilling but also exceptionally scary at times,” Sparkes told CBS News’ Carter Evans by phone. 

Especially because he can’t see. The former British marine lost most of his sight during a diving accident in his 20s.

“I was doing really well in my career and it call came to an abrupt end and I never had the chance to put myself on the map, reinvent myself,” Sparkes said. 

So he set out to become the first blind person to row across the Pacific, relying on his partner to describe what’s happening around them.

“And it was a whole new experience for me. And to experience it through description, the wildlife and the elements, what it can offer you the good and the bad,” Sparkes said.  

Now, just about 160 miles from the finish line, race officials insisted the team drop anchor and wait for the worst to pass. The boat is battered and they’ve lost three of their six oars. But Sparkes’ dry British sense of humor remains firmly intact. 

On Friday he texted: “Ok so far, mate, experiencing mild thrashing at present. Had worse but this will do.”
They’re hoping to land in Oahu by Tuesday or Wednesday.

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