Even in a state used to weird items washing ashore, such as cocaine bricks, bodies, sharks, and unexploded military weaponry, the floating contraption that beached itself in Florida over the weekend surprised officials.
A guy emerged from the top hatch of the device, which served as a human hamster wheel. He’d barely traveled 25 miles on what was meant to be a 1,000-plus-mile voyage from St. Augustine, Fla., to New York, relying on the strength of his two legs and, if all went well, the Gulf Stream.
Reza Baluchi, the guy, claimed in an interview on Monday that he had spent thousands of dollars and nearly a decade improving the handmade ship, known as a hydro pod. It included a satellite phone, a water filtration system, a solar array, neoprene wet suits, and a supply of granola and ramen noodles for when he left St. Augustine on Friday for what he believed to be a three-week expedition.
Mr. Baluchi, 49, cut short his Homeric quest the next day when he noticed his backup GPS gadget and charging cords were gone – he claimed they were stolen. Beachgoers were both surprised and amused by his failed trip.
“I leap out and open the top door,” he explained. “They’re giggling. They’re photographing me. I know exactly what I’m doing. I am not a moron.”
According to a Facebook post from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, several worried citizens reported on Saturday morning that a vessel had washed up on the shores of the county’s Hammock. The office stated that the case had been sent to the Coast Guard, which will evaluate if the vessel was in compliance with maritime safety standards.
Mr. Baluchi would not be permitted to continue his journey, a Coast Guard spokesperson said in an email on Tuesday, unless he complies with a directive known as a captain of the port order, which requires him to have an escort or support vessel, specified safety and navigation equipment, and a voyage plan.
According to the spokesman, David Micallef, “failure to comply with Captain of the Port Orders is punished by a civil penalty of up to $95,881.” “There may also be criminal repercussions if the injunction is violated.”
The hydro pod was left stranded near a beachfront resort.
Mr. Baluchi, a former professional cyclist born in Iran and granted refuge in the United States, said he hoped to utilize the publicity generated by his trip to collect funds for homeless people and other humanitarian organizations. He has gotten strange replies, even from the Coast Guard, after executing similar exploits on the sea over the years, he claims. “They ask, ‘Why do you do this?’” Mr. Baluchi, who resides in Boca Raton, South Florida, explained.
As Mr. Baluchi explained to me, the hydro pod is made of aluminum and buoyant plastic balls and can hold several thousand pounds.
Mr. Baluchi noted that the vessel had an outboard propulsion system in a box on the form. Aside from that, he chose “other” as the fuel type. “Florida handmade boats” was written in the place for the odometer reading and the name of the vessel’s maker.
There was no immediate reaction from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Titles and registration are not required for non-motorized vessels under 16 feet in length, according to state legislation. According to Mr. Baluchi, his hydro pod was around six feet long and ten feet broad.
It seems that Mr. Baluchi could not imagine life without the boat.
If Mr. Baluchi were to lose his hydro pod, he remarked, “Now, I’m dead.” My vehicle isn’t mine. “I poured everything I had into it.”
It’s no secret that Mr. Baluchi, a parent who was previously homeless, is no stranger to adversity. A charity cross-country run earlier attracted his attention.
He claimed to have traveled over 400 miles in the Pacific Ocean with a previous version of the hydro pod. But the device was destroyed off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Fla., he claimed, some years ago.
A hydro pod escort would be too expensive for Mr. Baluchi, who has experimented with utilizing an elliptical trainer to power his hydro pod.
According to Mr. Baluchi, the present version of the craft, which features a hammock for him to sleep in, might have attained speeds of up to 6 knots during his voyage from Florida to New York. Besides eating fish, his strategy was to chew anti-nausea gum to combat seasickness. According to him, he was equipped with a bicycle helmet and a strap system to prevent himself from being tossed around in strong waves.
Nikki Ziering, an actress and former model on “The Price Is Right” who has been in Playboy, was used as a shade to protect Mr. Baluchi from the sun. People may keep track of his progress on his website, which prominently features her pinup pictures.
Ms. Ziering claimed in an interview on Monday that Mr. Baluchi was introduced to her by mutual acquaintances, according to the report.
To quote Tom Hanks, “Can you be my Wilson?” Miss Ziering referred to Mr. Hanks’ volleyball partner on a lonely island in her statement. It was an honor for me to be your Wilson, I told him.”
As Ms. Ziering put it, “Mr. Baluchi’s boldness is impressive.”
If a shark appears, he’ll have a spear, she remarked. “He’s basically going to sprint across the ocean in a hamster wheel.”