With the persistence of the faithful, Victor Mooney, 46, is readying himself to launch his fourth attempt at raising AIDS awareness through a 5,500-kilometer (3,400 miles) trans-Atlantic row. The voyage will set sail in early January, leaving from the Canary Islands to his home in New York, assuming the funding comes through.
“We hope more people will be tested for AIDS, which is a preventable disease,” says Mooney, who lost two brothers to the scourge.
But this time, he’s also adding another two causes — peace in Israel and Holocaust remembrance.
In addition to his Bible and rosary, the devout African American Catholic will be taking along a “Peace Tube” bearing the messages “Shalom” and “Never Forget” in Hebrew.
The Peace Tube is a foot-long metal tube donated by Fleisher Tubes that Mooney wrapped in printed vinyl. He explains in an early morning phone call with The Times of Israel, “AIDS has touched everyone from Tel Aviv to Texas to New York.”
“My affinity to Israel didn’t start just yesterday. As a Catholic African American, Israel is something we keep close to our hearts. But in the fight against AIDS, Israel has been one of the leaders in reducing the infection rate. The medical missions to Africa and the Israeli expertise in male circumcision have been proven by science saying it is helpful in reducing infection and spread of AIDS.”
The message he wanted the Peace Tube to bear came to Mooney through deep prayer. “I can’t take the credit because I believe the Father shared them with me to share with others.”
Mooney’s faith is key to his survival, he feels. In his previous attempt in March 2011, the married father of four was adrift in an inflatable life raft in the Atlantic Ocean for two weeks after his vessel sank the first day of his journey. He survived on purified water, ginseng root and candied ginger — and the spiritual nourishment found in his waterlogged Bible.
“On the second day, a 50-foot ship approached, looked me over, and left me. I cried because I didn’t want to die and opened the Bible. It opened to Psalm 91, ‘The Lord is my refuge…’ I took that verbatim and the feeling was gone,” says Mooney.
He was saved by a passing ship after 14 days adrift and brought to Brazil. Though he had reportedly promised to abandon the rowing adventure in 2011 — his first two attempts both lasted only a day — Mooney spotted a seaworthy vessel called the “Spirit of Malabo” for sale in Brazil in 2012.
Taking the Brazil connection as an omen, he purchased it and the ship was brought to New York in May for training.
Mooney’s wife and children are supportive of his time-consuming and costly mission. The adventurer is the executive director of South African Art International, a nonprofit based in New York, and part-time energy consultant.
‘I just believe the Father will say, “Let this boat pass”‘
“But as this is my fourth attempt, my wife said, ‘Victor, you have to make it this time!’
“I’m hoping the Father will allow me to make the journey: It won’t be because it is a great boat or my ten years of training, I just believe the Father will say, ‘Let this boat pass.’”
Since December 27 the vessel has docked at the Canary Islands, awaiting the funds to release and transfer it to the itinerary’s starting point. Mooney is hopeful that at the New York Boat Show January 1-5, he will attract the needed $12,500.
Perhaps the funding will even come from his Jewish neighbors on Long Island, where he currently resides.
“In the 1960s, we were walking side by side fighting for civil rights, and as a child raised in Brooklyn, this is something that becomes part of your life in solidarity.
“In NY, African Americans and Jews are really attached at the umbilical chord. I hope the generations that come after me will have the solidarity we should have and the youth rejuvenate their relationships with Israel.”