Miami-Dade County

Boat crossing Atlantic on mission for AIDS takes a detour in Miami after attack

Victor Mooney’s boat is being repaired in a shop in Miami after it was destroyed during a robbery off the coast of Haiti. Mooney plans to row from Miami to New York to complete his journey raising awareness for HIV testing.
Victor Mooney’s boat is being repaired in a shop in Miami after it was destroyed during a robbery off the coast of Haiti. Mooney plans to row from Miami to New York to complete his journey raising awareness for HIV testing. Victor Mooney

Victor Mooney first set out in 2006 to row across the Atlantic Ocean. His goal: to raise awareness and encourage voluntary HIV testing.

And after three failed attempts, he’s nearing the end of his fourth and final journey.

But not without setbacks.

Mooney, originally from Queens, New York, was robbed in October off the coast of Haiti. His boat was destroyed. It had a hole in it, missing components and ruined woodwork.

The boat is now in Miami where it’s being fixed for the last leg of his journey.

“The goal is to arrive in New York, so I’m 1,500 miles from the finish line,” he said. “But I'm sure after I arrive in New York, the rowing will be over but I will still continue to advocate until we have an AIDS-free generation.”

Mooney’s brother died from AIDs in 1983. He has another brother who is living with the virus.

Rowing across the Atlantic Ocean has been a goal of his for 10 years.

“There’s still a great need to encourage people to get tested for HIV because they are afraid to get tested,” he said. “I’m just grateful that I have the strength to continue this mission.”

Mooney, back in New York for now, started out his fourth journey from the Canary Islands. He stopped in St. Martin, British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The trip will total about 5,000 miles when he is back in his boat and reaches New York.

During Mooney’s past attempts to cross the Atlantic Ocean, one of his boats sank. Another sprung a leak, forcing him to float on a raft for two weeks. And he had to survive on little food and with no company.

“But I never gave up,” he said.

When he was robbed and his boat damaged near Haiti, Mooney kept going.

“It was a horrific attack but I’m glad to be alive,” said Mooney, who wasn’t hurt in the encounter. “I’m glad to be alive and so grateful to be able to continue the mission.”

His boat is being fixed by RMK Merrill Stevens in Miami. It was taken by an Antillean Marine Shipping Corporation vessel from the Port of Cap Haitian to Miami. The damaged boat may be displayed at the Miami International Boat Show starting Feb. 12. The festival features more than 3,000 boats at three locations: the Miami Beach Convention Center, the New Yacht and Powerboat Show at Sea Isle Marina and Strictly Sail at Miamarina at Bayside.

John Spencer, the CEO of RMK Merrill Stevens, said the boat arrived at the shop on Monday and would take about three weeks to fix.

Spencer said when Mooney explained his situation, he was “sympathetic to his perils.”

“He had a bit of a disaster on his hands,” Spencer said.

Mooney has shown one of his boats at the Miami International Boat Show before and go support from the boating community in Miami.

“I think it’ll be very special to have it there even if it’s not complete,” he said. “Just to let folks know that the mission still continues.”

Mooney has been trying to raise awareness about HIV testing for many years, he said. He has dedicated his time to the journey and its preparations.

He is flying into Miami on Monday and plans to leave in the boat at the end of the month. He said the trip to New York will take between 60 and 90 days, but he won’t stop there.

“The biggest challenge until we reach an AIDS-free generation is to increase more education and prevention. That’s a great tool that still needs to be enforced,” he said. “I think the takeaway here is never give up, and that’s something that I strongly believe in.”

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