- Associated Press - Thursday, February 20, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - A tenacious New Yorker who has been trying for nearly a decade to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean, but has been plagued by bad luck, shipwreck and maybe a little early naiveté, has embarked on his fourth attempt at the epic journey.

Victor Mooney, 48, of Brooklyn, left Wednesday from the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa for a roughly 3,000-mile row to the British Virgin Islands.

After landing in April or May, he plans to resupply his tiny boat and row another nearly 1,800-plus miles to New York. Along the way, he’ll live on freeze-dried military rations, a variety of herbs and green tea and whatever fish he can yank from the sea.

“I feel very confident,” Mooney said by telephone last week from a marina in Maspolamas, Gran Canaria. “Everything is checked, double-checked. … I’m ready.”


This impossibly long, lonely path is one Mooney has set out on before. But so far, his tale reads less like “The Old Man and the Sea,” and more like the one told in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” about a land-obsessed monarch who stubbornly builds his castle on swampland only to have it repeatedly sink or burn.

Mooney’s first trans-Atlantic attempt, in 2006, ended when a 24-foot, wooden rowboat he’d built himself sank off the West African coast just hours after he’d pushed off from a beach in Senegal.

Three years later, he tried again with an oceangoing rowboat boat built by a professional. Its drinking water systems failed after two weeks at sea and he had to be rescued.

In 2011, Mooney set off from the Cape Verde Islands in an even more sophisticated boat. But that vessel, dubbed the Never Give Up, had apparently been damaged in transit and sprang a leak shortly after he put to sea.

He escaped in a life raft then spent two weeks drifting 250 miles on the open ocean.

“It was quite humbling,” Mooney said of the disaster. “The first two days I cried like a baby because I didn’t want to die.”

A devout Roman Catholic, he consoled himself by reading a waterlogged Bible, especially Psalm 91, which promises that angels will protect the faithful. Finally, he was picked up by a cargo ship headed for Brazil.

Before that trip, Mooney had vowed to his wife that it would be his last, whether he made it or not. But he was barely on dry land in Brazil before he was plotting another attempt.

This time, Mooney says he has taken his preparation to another level.

His Brazilian-built oceangoing rowboat, he says, is his best yet. He spent months getting familiar with the craft by training around Long Island. He has better communications equipment aboard. More care was taken packing and shipping the boat. He’s taken it out for extensive trials in the Canary Islands to make sure everything is working.

He’s also getting support throughout the trip from an oceanographer, Jenifer Clark, and meteorologist, Dane Clark, a husband-and-wife team in Maryland whose previous clients have included Diana Nyad, the long-distance swimmer who last year became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage.

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