On a journey from Africa to New York City, transatlantic rower,
Victor Mooney makes a stop in Tortola
Story by Claudia Colli
It's not every day that someone rows across the Atlantic, but on February 19, 2014 Victor Mooney, on a mission to promote HIV prevention and voluntary testing, set out in a small custom-built rowing craft from the Canary Islands off the Coast of Africa and headed to Tortola. At the end of June, dehydrated and exhausted by his transatlantic journey, he stopped in St. Martin where he spent a little over a month for rest, rehabilitation and much needed boat repairs. At the end of August he once again set off for Tortola – his next port of call on a perilous journey that would ultimately take him to his homeport of New York City.
"Arriving in the BVI was like a dream," says Victor, who spent his first few nights at the resort at Scrub Island before moving to Nanny Cay Hotel on Tortola. "The water was so clear and blue I thought I was in a pool. I was blown away. Coming to the BVI was like a vitamin – the beauty, the fresh air. I was revitalized. There is a genuine concern for the environment here."
Victor's six-month journey across the Atlantic took him through storms and shark attacks, days of loneliness and times of hunger. His faith and belief in his cause (he lost one brother to AIDS in 1983 and has another brother who is HIV positive) kept him going, he explains. When a shark put a hole into the side of his boat, he repaired it with some wood and caulking that he had on board. Amazingly, using satellite communication, he had intermittent Internet and phone service and was able to keep in touch with his wife and support crew even in the middle of the Atlantic. The weather on the trip westward was always a concern and meteorologists based in Maryland in the US kept him apprised of sea and weather conditions. He caught fish along the way, a large dorado lasted two weeks, but even so he ran low on food and had lost 80 pounds when he arrived in St. Martin.
Freshly provisioned and after having conducted further repairs to his Brazilian-made boat (made of mahogany and painted the colors of the Brazilian flag), Victor set off from Tortola for the remainder of his journey in early September with a send-off from BVI Governor John Duncan. From Tortola, he rowed the 50 odd miles to Fajardo on the eastern shore of Puerto Rico and then made brief stops in San Juan on the north coast, and onto Aguadilla, a surfing mecca on the island's western tip. The next legs of the journey were to include the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and the east coast of the US – final destination New York City. A trip of magnitude and endurance – and all for a cause.