Blind Veteran Conquers Pacific – Seahaven Maritime Academy on BBC

By Steve Brand | August 29, 2018



Steve and Mick make landfall

They did it! Blind ex-Marine Steve Sparkes and his rowing partner, Mick Dawson, have finally made landfall in Hawaii, 82 days after they first set off from Monterey in California. Not hurricanes nor high seas could stop them. Many were supportive but possibly sceptical. Now nobody can doubt the courage, commitment and sheer determination of these two men in carrying on to the very end and completing the gruelling Great Pacific Race. Weather conditions and currents have meant that they had to row close to 3,000 miles to reach their destination.

All of us at Seahaven Maritime Academy, from the instructors to the admin staff, have been amazed at the commitment shown by these plucky competitors. Right from the start, from initial training to the finish line, they haven’t wavered once in the face of such a daunting challenge. News of the pair training locally at Newhaven Port reached the BBC and we were delighted to be approached for some background on the numerous dangers and obstacles that Steve and Mick have faced on their long and potentially perilous voyage across The Pacific.

Director and maritime training expert, Mike Clift, who played a key part in the teams training programme, gave an interview to the BBC when they called at our academy in Newhaven. He made the following statement:-

“Of course, if something happened to Mick then he [Steve] would be on his own. So he was trained to launch the life raft on his own, and get into it; and do the necessary drills to enable him to, hopefully, save himself and Mick as well, if he had to.”

You can watch the full BBC South Today TV bulletin in the video panel below.

We feel that Mike Clift made a very profound point about the potential for Steve to end up alone in attempting to save himself, or even the pair of them. Quite a chilling prospect when one considers the often unforgiving and hostile ocean environment they bravely entered in order to compete in the race. The fact that Steve was washed overboard at one point during the Hurricane induced sea state and that he and Mick were forced to shelter, cramped and in considerable discomfort, for well over an entire day in the tiny cabin really brings home just how much inner steel is required to undertake such a voyage and carry on functioning in very difficult circumstances in such a small craft.

We think they are both amazing individuals and are extremely proud to have had a hand in their training and also to have been approached by the BBC to provide some detailed background on their training schedule. We made it clear to the reporter and camera crew just how brave these men really are and what an amazing, historic achievement has been made here, now due to be entered into the record books. The first severely visually impaired man to row The Pacific. We all think that what they did is literally “off the scale”. 

After 82 days at sea in a row boat, having travelled across the world’s largest body of water, our two intrepid heroes finished what they set out to do. They have chalked up so many great achievements in just one awe inspiring voyage. This has been a hugely impressive, record breaking adventure which brings honour upon both men, their ex-Marine brotherhood and their country. It also stands as an inspiration to anybody struggling with a disability.

Steve and Mick have shown there is nothing that you cannot overcome, nothing that can stop you going out into the world and ending up a winner and a record breaker. We salute them both and look forward to seeing them again soon to hear more of their recent adventure. Steve and Mick, well done !!!

Please donate

All money raised will go to “Blind Veterans UK” and “The Royal Marines Charity”, two amazing charities who support current and former members of the armed forces.

To donate to these charities and support Mick and Sparky please visit:-

The Cockleshell Pacific Fundraising Page.

Thank you in advance for anything you can contribute to these two very worthy causes in recognition of Sparky and Mick’s inspiring record breaking attempt.

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About The Author

Steve Brand
Managing Director

Steve is a highly experienced instructor with a long and impressive track record in safety-critical working environments. Training is much more than a job for him, it is a vocation and his dedication and care for his valued students is second to none.


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