Florida man arrested after trying to cross Atlantic in hamster wheel vessel
A Florida man found himself in custody after attempting an audacious feat of “crossing the Atlantic Ocean on foot” within a homemade contraption resembling a hamster wheel. On August 26th, the US Coast Guard apprehended Reza Baluchi approximately 70 miles (about 110 kilometers) off the coast of Tybee Island, Georgia.
Authorities reported that the 44-year-old endurance runner refused to abandon his makeshift vessel for three days. This wasn’t Baluchi’s first endeavor of this kind, as he had previously undertaken three similar journeys, each ending with Coast Guard intervention.
Baluchi’s homemade contraption was wheel-shaped, and equipped with paddles designed to generate forward motion as the wheel rotated. A criminal complaint stated that the vessel remained afloat due to wiring and buoys, and Coast Guard officers concluded that Baluchi’s voyage posed a clear and present danger.
Notably, Baluchi embarked on his journey amid preparations for a major hurricane’s arrival. He adamantly refused to disembark and made threats of self-harm, even claiming the presence of a bomb on board, as documented in court records.
Ultimately, on September 1st, he surrendered and abandoned his vessel after being taken to a Coast Guard facility in Miami. Subsequently, it was determined that the “bomb” was a hoax. Baluchi is currently facing federal charges for obstruction of boarding and violating a Captain of the Port order.
It is unclear whether he has obtained a lawyer to represent him in his criminal case.
This was not Mr. Baluchi’s first arrest for taking to the ocean in his vessel, which he calls a “bubble”.
In 2021, he was arrested after being rescued while trying to ride from Florida to New York after drifting 30 miles south of his departure point.
In 2014, he had to be rescued from a similar contraption near St. Augustine, and then two years later he again had to be rescued off the coast of Jupiter, near Palm Beach in Florida.
According to previous interviews, Mr Baluchi said he was attempting the voyages to raise money for a variety of causes, including for the homeless and the Coast Guard.
“My goal is to not only raise money for homeless people, raise money for the Coast Guard, raise money for the police department, raise money for the fire department,” he told WOFL-TV in Orlando in 2021.
“They are in public service, they do it for safety, and they help other people.”