When you hear the words “cold call,” you probably conjure up the ringing telephone at suppertime or the annoying voice trying to get you to subscribe, buy, or sign-up for something that will absolutely make your life better. You probably aren’t thinking you’ll help someone in their pursuit of a dream. Yet, that is precisely what happened when Mattapoisett boatbuilder Paul Milne answered his phone nearly a decade ago.
Milne is a well-established craftsman whose rowing sculls have been shipped throughout the continental United States and as far away as Canada and South America. He has a reputation for producing fine rowing sculls favored by educational institutions and rowing clubs. It’s fair to say that, if one is a high-performance rower, you know about Milne’s Peinert rowing sculls.
As Milne was quietly beavering away those years ago, he answered his ringing phone. On the other end was one Victor Don Mooney cold-calling Milne, literally. Mooney is an activist who hails from New York and who thinks big and dreams even bigger. He was in the early stages of pulling together materials and other support in his effort to attempt an Atlantic crossing by rowing in a solo vessel.
Mooney is a unique individual in that he had little to no experience rowing, let alone navigating the open ocean waters of the great Atlantic. But he was inspired to do so by his brother. This was in the days of the early 2000s when HIV/AIDS was understood as a devastating virus, yet funding for research was still needed. Mooney had lost his brother to the virus. He felt compelled to do something meaningful to heighten awareness that this virus was still killing people.
Still, with no background in rowing, no money, and no support, Mooney’s dream of rowing across the Atlantic only grew. He asked Milne for help.
“He was not a rower, so I loaned him a boat,” Milne recalled. “He was supposed to train with it for one year; he had it for about five or six.” Milne also donated footboards, and associated bits and pieces for a boat Mooney planned to build.
Like running or tennis or nearly any physical activity, rowing has an elite sector of those who have perfected and continue to perfect their chosen sports. In Mooney, Milne recognized that driving spirit to conquer massive odds. You could say he helped Mooney achieve his dream.
Milne recalled that Mooney failed four times to complete the trans-Atlantic crossing. Sinking boats, poor understanding of currents, insufficient supplies, and even pirates are part of the come-lately mariner’s story.
But in the absence of kindness from others, Mooney’s dream might never have come true. In 2015 he succeeded.
Today, Mooney continues to find causes to direct his energies, and he still remembers those who helped him on his epic crossing. One of the straps Milne gave Mooney is now part of a time capsule that was recently presented to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. Mooney is quoted as saying, “Mr. Milne’s custom fabrication for my rowing station platform put me in the driver’s seat across the Atlantic Ocean.”
Dreams are never a singular effort. Others have to help the dreamer in ways big and small. Though Milne doesn’t believe he did much to assist Mooney, clearly, his support played a critical role in helping a dreamer wake up to find it came true.
By Marilou Newell