American oarsman, Victor Mooney, decided to row across the Atlantic Ocean to honor his brother who died of AIDS in 1983. The New Yorker tried to accomplish this goal three times previously but unfortunately failed at his mission. His trip was motivated by the desire to bring awareness to the huge need for volunteer HIV testing and to pay tribute to his departed sibling.
During Mooney’s first three attempts, one boat sank, the second one lost its freshwater system, and the third began leaking which caused him to resort to coasting on a life raft for close to two weeks. Although Mooney’s wife was supportive of his efforts, she told him that if he did not complete his journey this time then he would have to give up on striving to finish his expedition.
Mooney began his fourth and last journey on February 19 in a 24-foot-long boat, leaving the Canary Islands with high hopes. Victor Mooney then encountered large waves and turbulent currents which gave nearby boats around him a cause for concern. Mooney stated that a tanker radioed him asking if he was ok and whether he was in his right mind.
He then developed a routine of waking up at 4 am, rowing for almost an hour, and then taking 30 minute breaks until 7 at night. Unfortunately, the ocean waters were quite rough and often removed his progress. He ate food that was freeze-dried until he ran out and then resorted to fishing. The weather began improving and Mooney also received assistance from a meteorologist and an oceanographer along the way. Soon after, a shark mauled his boat and punctured it. He stated that the shark circled the boat, went underneath the boat, and then attacked.
As the oarsman neared the Dutch Caribbean island of St Maarten, he spoke with a tanker over the radio. The captain asked Mooney if he needed to be rescued and he replied, “I do not need a rescue. I want a burger.”
Victor Mooney rowed across the Atlantic to honor his brother, and finally completed the 4,800 km (roughly 2,983 miles) journey that he had been working so hard for. The entire trip lasted 128 days causing him to lose a whopping 80 pounds.
After Mooney recovers, he plans to paddle another 3,000 miles to the British Virgin Islands and then an additional 1,800 miles to New York to return home. He will eventually return to Queens, where he runs a South Africa arts organization that is nonprofit.
Mooney is not the first person to complete a solo trek using oars. Fyodor Konyukhov, a Russian priest and traveler, completed his journey across the Pacific in his rowboat named “Turgoyak” and finished his destination on the Australian coast. Konyukhov covered a total of 9,300 nautical miles in roughly 200 days.
Victor Mooney can finally state that he reached his goal of rowing across the Atlantic to honor his brother. Hopefully, news of his inspirational journey will inspire others to look into voluntary HIV testing further.
By Amy Nelson