A 44-year-old man, Reza Baluchi, found himself in a peculiar and perilous situation when he was arrested by the US Coast Guard during a three-day standoff at sea. Baluchi, who had embarked on a journey across the Atlantic Ocean inside a makeshift boat resembling a giant “hamster wheel,” claimed to be attempting a transatlantic run.
The dramatic encounter unfolded approximately 110 kilometers off the coast of Georgia, where the US Coast Guard cutter Valiant intercepted Baluchi’s unconventional watercraft on August 26. Despite receiving orders to disembark from his homemade vessel, known as the Hydro Pod, Baluchi steadfastly refused to comply.
The Coast Guard had been conducting a patrol in anticipation of the approaching Hurricane Franklin when they spotted Baluchi and his unique contraption. Baluchi, the sole occupant of the “hamster wheel,” stated that his intended destination was “London, England,” a staggering distance of 7,000 kilometers.
Court documents filed on Monday by the Southern District of Florida revealed that the Coast Guard Special Agent Michael A Perez had decided to intervene due to safety concerns. Perez explained, “Based on the condition of the vessel — which was afloat as a result of wiring and buoys — USCG officers determined Baluchi was conducting a manifestly unsafe voyage.”
Baluchi had embarked on this solo crossing without prior notice and without the support of a safety vessel or a support crew. According to the criminal complaint, Baluchi not only refused to comply with Coast Guard orders but also brandished a 12-inch knife at one point and falsely claimed to have a “bomb” aboard his vessel.
This standoff persisted for three days at sea, concluding late on August 29 when USCG officers, in a small launch, were able to safely remove Baluchi from his unusual watercraft. It was later determined that the “bomb” threat was a hoax.
Baluchi’s encounters with the US Coast Guard were not new, as he had previously attempted similar record-setting journeys using improvised boats. The Coast Guard had intervened in his Atlantic crossing attempts in 2014, 2016, and 2021. During his 2021 endeavor to “run” from Florida to New York, Baluchi faced difficulties, and his vessel washed ashore in Flagler County.
Reza Baluchi, an Iranian-born adventurer, has dedicated his life to setting records in what he terms a “bubble,” his watercraft. He has also used his endurance-based feats to raise funds for various charities, including a barefoot run across the United States from California to Washington, aimed at raising awareness about the rights of women in Iran and advancing human rights causes.
While Baluchi’s transatlantic record attempt was thwarted due to safety concerns, it joins a list of unconventional methods of crossing the Atlantic. The Guinness Book of Records documents over three dozen distinct methods for traversing the 6,000-kilometer ocean, with the “Hydro-pod” being notably absent. These unconventional methods include Thor Heyerdahl’s 1970 drift across the Atlantic on a paper raft and Jaromir Wagner’s 1980 flight, where he stood on the wings of a De Havilland Islander propeller plane to become the first person to fly across the Atlantic.