Over the weekend, a strange vessel washed ashore on the Northeastern coast of Florida, near St. Augustine. Made of plastic and aluminum, it looked a bit like a massive hamster wheel, and to complete that picture, a man eventually popped out of a hatch. Concerned beach goers contacted local authorities about the craft, but it turns out they weren't witnessing anything particularly strange, at least by Florida standards.
What they'd stumbled upon, it turns out, was a guy just trying to achieve his dream of traveling from Florida to New York...by walking across the ocean.
The vessel has been dubbed a "hydro pod" by its owner and designer, Iranian cyclist Reza Baluchi, who's used similar versions of the craft (the photo above is a 2016 model) to attempt other water-based feats, including a journey of nearly 400 miles in the Pacific Ocean on one occasion. You can check out the current model of the "hydro pod" in these photos from the local sheriff's office. The idea this time around was to use the novelty of the craft, and the monumental nature of what would have been a three-week walk over the ocean, to raise money for charities to help the homeless.
According to The New York Times, Baluchi seemed to have just about everything he needed to make that dream a reality. The pod is tricked out with a hammock for sleeping, a harness for rough seas, solar panels, water filtration, wet suits, a satellite phone, granola and ramen for eating on the go, and equipment for fishing. Baluchi was all set to make the trip, and even had plenty of anti-nausea meds on hand for life on the water...then he realized he was missing his backup GPS and other electronic components were missing, forcing him to abort the mission after just a day.
“I open the top door and jump out,” Baluchi told the Times Monday after washing ashore over the weekend. “They’re laughing. They’re taking pictures of me. I know what I’m doing. I am not dumb.”
Unfortunately, Baluchi now finds himself facing bigger problems, namely U.S. maritime laws enforced by the Coast Guard. On Tuesday, a Coast Guard spokesman told the Times that Baluchi's trip is not in compliance with the Guard's "Captain of the Port Order," which states that such voyages must have detailed, submitted plans, specific types of navigation equipment on board, and an escort boat, which Baluchi said is out of his price range for this little mission.
“Now, I’m dead,” Mr. Baluchi told the Times. “I don’t have a car. I put everything in my life in it.”
As of this writing, Baluchi's hydro pod is still reportedly on a Florida beach, but that doesn't mean his dreams are dead. After all, if you've pushed yourself far enough that you've built a special craft to walk across the entire Eastern seaboard with, it's going to be pretty hard to stop you forever.