He Tried to Walk on Water From Florida to New York. It Didn’t Go So Well.

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Reza Baluchi washed ashore connected Saturday adjacent St. Augustine, Fla., successful a ‘‘hydro pod,” startling beachgoers with a homemade contraption that resembles a hamster wheel.

The “hydro pod” that Reza Baluchi washed ashore successful  connected  Saturday successful  Florida.
Credit...Reza Baluchi

Neil Vigdor

July 27, 2021, 7:37 a.m. ET

Even successful a authorities accustomed to unusual things washing ashore — similar cocaine bricks, corpses, sharks and unexploded subject ordnance — the floating contraption that beached itself successful Florida implicit the play had the authorities doing a treble take.

A antheral popped retired of the apical hatch of the contraption, a makeshift quality hamster wheel. He had made it lone 25 miles connected what was expected to beryllium a 1,000-plus-mile travel from St. Augustine, Fla., to New York, utilizing the powerfulness of his 2 legs and, if each had gone according to plan, the Gulf Stream.

The man, Reza Baluchi, said successful an interrogation connected Monday that helium had spent thousands of dollars and astir a decennary connected making improvements to the homemade craft, called a hydro pod. It was equipped with a outer phone, a h2o filtration system, a star array, neoprene bedewed suits and a stockpile of granola and ramen noodles for erstwhile helium embarked from St. Augustine connected Friday for what helium expected would beryllium a three-week trip.

But the adjacent day, erstwhile Mr. Baluchi, 49, realized that his backup GPS instrumentality and charging cables were missing — helium said they were stolen — helium chopped abbreviated his Homeric odyssey. His aborted escapade startled and bemused beachgoers.

“I unfastened the apical doorway and leap out,” helium said. “They’re laughing. They’re taking pictures of me. I cognize what I’m doing. I americium not dumb.”

In a Facebook post, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office said that immoderate acrophobic radical reported connected Saturday greeting that a vas had washed enactment successful a portion of the region known arsenic the Hammock. The bureau said that it had referred the substance to the Coast Guard, which would find if the vas was compliant with marine information regulations.

The Coast Guard did not instantly respond to requests for remark connected Monday. The hydro pod remained beached adjacent an oceanfront resort.

Mr. Baluchi, a erstwhile nonrecreational cyclist who was calved successful Iran and was granted asylum successful the United States, said that helium was hoping to usage the attraction from his travel to rise wealth to assistance stateless radical and for different charitable causes. Over the years, helium said, helium has received puzzled reactions — including from the Coast Guard — aft performing akin stunts connected the water.

“They say, ‘Why bash you bash this?’” said Mr. Baluchi, who lives successful Boca Raton, successful South Florida.

Constructed from aluminum and integrative balls that are buoyant, the hydro pod tin transportation respective 1000 pounds, according to Mr. Baluchi, who provided a transcript of a vas registration signifier that helium said helium had filed with the authorities of Florida.


Credit...Jim Rassol/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, via Associated Press

On the form, successful a container specifying what benignant of propulsion strategy the vas has, Mr. Baluchi wrote that it was the outboard type. He checked disconnected “other” for the substance type. And successful the abstraction for the odometer speechmaking and the sanction of the vessel’s manufacturer, helium wrote, “Florida homemade boats.”

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles did not instantly remark connected Monday. Under authorities law, non-motor-powered vessels little than 16 feet successful magnitude are exempt from being titled and registered. Mr. Baluchi said his hydro pod was astir six feet agelong and 10 feet wide.

Mr. Baluchi seemed incapable to fathom beingness without the craft.

“Now, I’m dead,” Mr. Baluchi said, referring to what would hap if helium were to suffer his hydro pod. “I don’t person a car. I enactment everything successful my beingness successful it.”

Mr. Baluchi, who is simply a begetter and was erstwhile stateless himself, is nary alien to tests of endurance. He antecedently drew attraction for a cross-country tally for charity.

In an earlier exemplary of the hydro pod, helium said, helium traveled astir 400 miles successful the Pacific Ocean, reaching Santa Catalina Island. But the contraption was destroyed respective years agone disconnected the seashore of Cape Canaveral, Fla., helium said, adding that the Coast Guard had advised him that helium should person a vessel to escort him.

But that would person been excessively costly, said Mr. Baluchi, who has experimented with utilizing an elliptical trainer to powerfulness his hydro pod.

For his travel from Florida to New York, Mr. Baluchi estimated that helium could person reached speeds of up to 6 knots successful the existent mentation of the vessel, which has a hammock for him to slumber in. He had planned to drawback and devour food and to chew peculiar anti-nausea gum to negociate seasickness. To support himself from being bounced astir successful unsmooth seas, helium said, helium had a bicycle helmet and a harness system.

To shield himself from the beating sun, Mr. Baluchi had enactment up a shadiness with a photograph of Nikki Ziering, an histrion and erstwhile exemplary connected “The Price Is Right” who has appeared successful Playboy. Her pinup photos are featured prominently connected his website, which has a leafage for radical to way his progress.

Ms. Ziering said successful an interrogation connected Monday that communal friends had introduced her to Mr. Baluchi.

“He said, ‘Can you beryllium my Wilson similar successful ‘Cast Away,’ the Tom Hanks movie?’” Ms. Ziering said, referring to a volleyball that was Mr. Hanks’s companion connected a deserted island. “I said, ‘I would beryllium honored to beryllium your Wilson.’”

Ms. Ziering said she was impressed by Mr. Baluchi’s fearlessness.

“He’s going to person a spear successful lawsuit there’s a shark,” she said. “He’s going to tally successful a hamster wheel, basically, crossed the ocean.”

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