Florida man arrested after trying to cross Atlantic in hamster wheel vessel

A Florida man was arrested after trying to “run to London” across the Atlantic Ocean in a homemade vessel resembling a hamster wheel.

The US Coast Guard intercepted Reza Baluchi about 70 miles (110km) off Tybee Island, Georgia on 26 August.

Officials said the 44-year-old marathon runner refused to leave the vessel for three days.

Mr Baluchi has tried three similar voyages before, all of which ended in Coast Guard intervention.

The makeshift contraption he was using is shaped as a wheel, with paddles that are designed to propel it forward as the wheel revolves.

“Based on the condition of the vessel – which was afloat as a result of wiring and buoys – [US Coast Guard] officers determined Baluchi was conducting a manifestly unsafe voyage,” the criminal complaint says.

Mr Baluchi’s voyage began as officials were preparing for the arrival of a major hurricane.

Officials said he refused to step off the vessel and threatened to kill himself. He also claimed that he had a bomb on board, according to court papers.

On 1 September, he eventually surrendered and abandoned his vessel after being brought to a Coast Guard base in Miami.

Officials later determined that the “bomb” had been fake.

He is now facing federal charges of obstruction of a boarding, and violation of 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.”

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