The ORS Int. is the official adjudicator of ocean rowing records for Guinness World Records


The unsinkable Victor Mooney
Queens man back from wrecked row across Atlantic, unbowed about AIDS activism
MAY 25, 2006

By Amy Zimmer / Metro New York

BROOKLYN Victor Mooneys trans-Atlantic row took three years of preparation but only hours to sink.

When he launched from the coast of Senegal on May 7, he was hoping to become the first black American to make this trek. His goal was to raise awareness for AIDS in Africa and to honor the route African slaves made to the Americas. But the wooden boat he built in a Prospect Heights garage sprang a leak after he left Goree Island and he was rescued by the Senegalese navy after treading water for nearly half an hour.

The 41-year-old returned to his wife and four children in Woodhaven on Saturday. On Monday, he went to the doctor for a check-up Im fine physically and mentally, he said. Yesterday, he was ready to speak about his experience.

I feel God has something else for me to do on land, Mooney said, back in his office at ASA: The College of Excellence, where he is a public relations officer.

The boat is resting off the land of our ancestors, so I was able to memorialize them in this way, he said. In Africa, I had a chance to see the population and my story brought hope to people. I was able to keep my promise that I would row for our ancestors.

When he radioed for help, it triggered a call to the government, which contacted his wife. Its like when the military calls to say someone is wounded or dead, Mooney said. It was scary for her. I was prepared for the worst-case scenario, which was death.

Victor Mooney and his boat before their trip to Africa. (Photo: Bill Lyons/Metro)

He planned to row all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Mooney said he wont attempt the trip again, but he will continue to be an activist for HIV/AIDS. One of his brothers died of AIDS and another is HIV-positive.

When the boat was submerged in the water, there was no anger or sadness, he said. It was a sense of joy because I thought about our ancestors and how for the first time they were being memorialized in this way. People of Goree Island gave me beads before I left, put them around my neck and now Im a resident of Goree. Its home to me, and I plan to bring my family there.