Blind veteran rowing from California to Hawaii prepares to ride out hurricane

Posted at 11:01 PM, Aug 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-24 01:01:47-04

Stroke by stroke, it’s a grueling, 2,400 mile race from Monterey, California, to Hawaii. It’s a challenge for anyone, but imagine doing it without being able to see.

“A sighted person can see the rolling waves coming at you so you can predict the rolling of the boat, I can’t,” said Steve Sparkes, who is legally blind.

CBS News spoke to him via satellite phone. He’s about 100 miles from Oahu after 78 days at sea with his rowing partner, Mick Dawson.

“We experienced some rough, rough weather. The next thing I know… I’m on the side and I’m in the water being dragged,” Sparkes said.

“If it wasn’t for the fact that I was tethered I’d be gone,” Sparkes said.

The 57-year-old former Royal Marine lost his sight after a diving accident in his 20s. Sparkes is confident they can make it to the finish line, even through rough seas from Hurricane Lane.

“The waves have become much much larger,” Sparkes said.

“I was doing really well in my career and it call came to an abrupt end and I never really had a chance to put myself on the map,” Sparkes said. “We’re going to deploy the sea anchor… and hold on.”

The two men plan to ride out the storm inside the seven-by-three-foot cabin.

“One definitely can tell the grandchildren about,” Sparkes said.

Even with danger on the horizon, Sparkes still has determination in his heart.