A Florida ultra-marathoner and peace activist is facing felony charges after allegedly attempting to run across the Atlantic in a homemade hamster wheel, in what authorities said was at least his fourth attempt.
Reza “Ray” Baluchi’s intercoastal stunt ended approximately 60 miles off the coast of South Carolina last week after the U.S. Coast Guard said they spotted him floating in the circular cage ― initially near Savannah, Georgia ― during routine preparations ahead of Hurricane Idalia.
The 51-year-old said he was heading for London, England, but he was repeatedly told that his vessel was unsafe and should not be in use. It was described as staying afloat through wiring and buoys, according to a copy of the criminal complaint.
Reza Baluchi's so-called Hydro Pod is seen ahead of a 2016 attempt to reach the Caribbean from Florida.
Baluchi allegedly refused to leave his vessel, which authorities described as a hydro pod, and he threatened to stab himself if anyone tried to stop him.
The officers stayed with him for three days as he continued to make his way up the coast, during which he also allegedly threatened to blow himself up with a device that was later found to be phony, authorities said.
He ultimately surrendered near Georgetown, South Carolina, on Aug. 29 and was brought to a Miami federal court where he was charged with obstruction of boarding and violation of the Captain of the Port Order.
According to the court documents, this was Baluchi’s fourth attempt to traverse the high seas in the floating craft, with him previously stopped by the Coast Guard in 2014, 2016 and 2021.
His first attempt cost taxpayers more than $140,000, the Coast Guard said in a statement after that failed attempt to reach the Bermuda Triangle in 2014. The law enforcement agency said it provided Baluchi with an outlined series of requirements if he wanted to safely and legally travel in such a vessel again.
These requirements were ignored, authorities said, and he was rescued in another homemade vessel in 2016 while attempting to travel from Florida to Bermuda, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Cuba and then back again.
His publicist at the time told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that it was her understanding that the Coast Guard’s order was merely a recommendation and not a mandate. She added that he would “definitely try again.”
Baluchi has publicly presented himself as a peace activist. His website states that his mission is “showing the world that anything is possible if only you believe.”
An attorney listed as representing Baluchi did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.