Even as a “strait-laced and un-demonstrative” Brit, there are some things that leave you utterly amazed. Some might use that hackneyed word “awesome”- but a better expression might be that the achievement of ex-Royal Marine Steve Sparks, together with Mick Dawson is decidedly awe-inspiring and worthy of great praise.
Steve’s sight was dramatically reduced as a result of a diving accident which deprived him of oxygen. He can make out the sea and sky but not “minor details” such as waves – a somewhat critical aspect of navigating the Atlantic in a 21ft boat. His travails on the water included being swept overboard – though he was wearing a harness so was reasonably safe. As anyone who has sailed will know, the ability to anticipate swell and waves sweeping down on, or under, a boat is a major part of reducing the strain of working on a boat at sea, so Steve must have developed an acute sense of awareness of what was going on around him by the end of the voyage.
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Steve’s rowing partner was a valuable man to have on board. Mick Dawson, also a former Royal Marine, is a veteran of long-distance sea-crossings, having been part of the first team to have rowed across the Pacific between Japan and San Fransisco in 2009, crossed the Atlantic twice, and having kayaked around the Falkland’s Islands.
Mick was in no doubt about the scope of Steve’s achievement:
“I sat on the boat, on a number of occasions at night, rowing, and just closed my eyes for a minute – I could barely do it, it was so terrifying.”
The challenge was undertaken to raise money for two charities close to their hearts – Blind Veterans UK and The Royal Marines Charity. If you would like to support them, their JustGiving site is at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/cockleshell-pacific
Photos: Ellen Hoke/SWNS