During the Covid pandemic, Don Victor Mooney used his isolation to write about the Goree Challenge, with the hope it will encourage others to never give up. The first draft of the manuscript is now completed.
On a 4th try, after failing on three previous attempts to row across the Atlantic in memory of his brother who died of AIDS and to encourage HIV testing, Mooney set off from the Canary Islands on Feb. 19, 2014, and landed at the Brooklyn Bridge on November 28, 2015. Mooney faced enormous challenges in the twelve years it took for him to live a dream.
On World AIDS Day 2021, Mooney had a full circle moment. He was joined with his family as he presented Pope Francis a rowing uniformed used on a first attempt to row from Africa to Brooklyn at the end of his general audience. The historic meeting marked the seventeen-year anniversary since Pope John Paul II gave Mooney a blessing on December 1, 2004, at the Vatican.
While crossing the Atlantic Ocean was far on his radar, Mooney spent years paddling around New York waterways to bring attention towards the AIDS pandemic. Mooney's first venture in rowing didn't start on the water, but at Freeport Recreation Center where his father worked. In his early years, Mooney's joined siblings in Adirondacks where he first learned to paddle.
It wasn't until his last circumvention of Long Island and Manhattan when a New York City Harbor Patrol officer said, 'Mooney, if you get a bigger boat, you can go a lot faster and longer." That off the cuff remark turned on the lights. After some research, Mooney saw people successfully rowing across the Atlantic Ocean. His quest to see this dream began.
In 2006, Don Victor Mooney was determined to live a dream of rowing across the Atlantic Ocean to bring attention to the AIDS crisis. With sponsors hard to find, he was tasked to build a homemade rowboat. The rowboat, christened John Paul the Great made it to Senegal, but it sank shortly after departure.
Well-intentioned voyage ends at beginning
Solo Row Across Atlantic is Thwarted By Leaky Boat
A Slow, Solo Crossing of the Atlantic Is One Man's Response to the AIDS Crisis
In 2009, three years later after his first attempt at crossing the Atlantic Ocean, Mooney left the shores of Goree Island, Senegal. Luckily for him, he got out of the boat building business and had one professional built. The odds just weren't in his favor. After his water systems failed after nearly four-teen days at sea, a Spanish fishing trawler rescued him near Guinea-Bissau.
For Queens Man, Second Try at Rowing the Atlantic for AIDS Awareness
Second shot at solo row
The old cliche, third time is a charm didn't live up to the tradition. Mooney hoped to beat the odds by departing with a more favorable ocean current from São Vicente, Cape Verde in 2011.
Don Victor Mooney was dubbed the “Castaway” after he survived 14 days adrift in life raft, after his rowboat "Never Give Up" took on water and sank. Mooney’s miracle at sea joined the queue to advance the path of sainthood for Pope John Paul II.
NYC rower tries for third time to cross Atlantic
Atlantic rower rescued by Amver ship
João Paulo 2º me salvou´, diz náufrago que passou 14 dias à deriva no Oceano Atlântico
Juan Pablo II me cuidó 14 días de naufragio, dice sobreviviente
Getting close to losing his dream of crossing the Atlantic, Mooney found an unlikely donor: The President of Equatorial Guinea. Mooney would return to Brazil and purchased a professional built rowboat christened Spirit of Malabo. Departing from Maspalomas, Gran Canaria after 129 days at sea, Mooney landed in St. Martin (FWI). He survived a shark attack and 80-pound weight loss.
Sunk, but undefeated, NYC man faces Atlantic again
U.S. man rowing across Atlantic reaches Caribbean
On November 27, 2015, after twenty-one months, Mooney finally realize his dream of rowing from Africa to Brooklyn, but with more challenges. Heading to the U.S., he was highjacked by pirates in Haitian waters. Mooney would be unharmed, but his boat was gone.
After a multinational effort, the boat was recovered and brought to Miami for repairs. On North Carolina coast, his boat hit a cypress stump and took on water. U.S. Coast Guard rescued Mooney and towed his boat to shore. After repairs, he continued.
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