NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A man near the end of an incredible journey at sea rowed through Hampton Roads Sunday.
Victor Mooney’s stop in Hampton Roads is what he calls a “little break” in his journey across the Atlantic Ocean, which began off the coast of Africa more than a year and a half ago.
“I began this journey off the coast of Africa in February 2014 in memory of all those who died AIDS, including my brother,” says Mooney, who also has another brother suffering from the virus.
Mooney’s boat doesn’t have a sail or motor. It’s propelled only by his hands on the oars, which he’s gone through five sets of on this journey alone.
Previous attempts over the past decade ended calamitously, according to Mooney, starting in 2006, when his boat sunk off the coast of Senegal.
Three years later, he tried again, this time with a better boat. But its desalinator broke down, and Mooney aborted the mission.
On a third attempt in 2011, Mooney says his boat took on water and sunk.
“I was in a life raft for 14 days before I was rescued by a container ship, which brought me to Brazil,” where he found his latest model, called Spirit of Malabo.
The 2014-2015 journey has not been without its challenges since he set off from the coast of Morocco.
“I made landfall in St. Maarten 130 days later. I lost 80 pounds coming across,” he says. “A shark put a hole in my boat and I continued from St. Maarten to British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. While passing through Haiti, I was pirated. The boat was destroyed and repaired […] and here I am today in Norfolk with the same boat.”
Unfazed by his challenges at sea, Mooney hopes his mission inspires others to take on the challenge of defeating HIV/AIDS.
“This disease of HIV/AIDS is still here in the United States, and so many folks are afraid to get tested,” he says. “If I can row across the Atlantic Ocean, you and your loved one can go see the doctor and get tested.”
Mooney expects to arrive in New York City before the end of September.
You can read more about his journey here.