U.S. resident Victor Mooney rowed across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and recovered Saturday in the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Maarten a day after he reached shore. The trip was fueled by Mooney’s desire to bring attention to HIV testing and to honor a brother, who died of AIDS in 1983.
In a telephone interview from the hospital, Mooney explained, “Not everyone has to row across the Atlantic. You can wear a red ribbon. We all have a responsibility to do something.”
The Queens resident tried three times before to make the trip across the Atlantic, but this year’s journey was the first to succeed, according to MSN News. The first time his boat sank, a second trip ended when his boat lost its freshwater system. A third attempt resulted in Mooney drifting on a life raft for weeks after his boat sprang a leak.
As he planned his fourth attempt, Mooney’s wife told him it would be the last. He recalled her telling him, “I’m going to give you all the support you need, but this is it. We have to close the book on this one.”
Victor Mooney left the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa on February 19 and ran into big waves and violent currents that tossed his 24-foot boat around. Mooney recalled that nearby boaters radioed him asking if he needed help. He paused and reminded himself to be still.
The weather improved and Mooney received help from a oceanographer and meteorologist. The African-American recalled that his journey took the same path of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
He stated, “I asked my ancestors also for help to push me along.”
Yahoo! News reports that Mooney’s routine began at 4 a.m. when he woke up and rowed for an hour at a time, taking 30-minute breaks until 7 pm. The ocean remained rough for most of his 128-day journey, sometimes completely erasing his progress.
When he ran out of freeze-dried food, Mooney relied on scooping fish up with nets or eating the ones that jumped into his boat. Then he was attacked by a shark, which punctured his boat. Victor Mooney recalled, “I can remember like it was yesterday. They circle your boat, They go around, they go under, they go around.”
He felt the shark hit the boat and scrambled to repair the damage while the shark chased fish going after the barnacles attached to his boat.
Now that his journey is over, Mooney plans to eat well and replenish his energy, and the 80 pounds he lost, with the help of doctors and supporters. Once he gains his strength, Victor Mooney plans to continue his journey by rowing to the British Virgin Islands and then another 1,800-plus miles to New York.