After violating an order from the U.S. Coast Guard, an ultra-marathoner had to be rescued -- yet again -- from his hamster-wheel-like floatation pod just one day into what was supposed to be a five-month ocean trek.
Ray "Reza" Baluchi, 44, of Florida, set off in his makeshift "hydropod" on Saturday from Pompano Beach, Florida, determined to complete a 3,500-mile ocean run to Bermuda, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Cuba and back to Florida.
Instead, Baluchi, also known as "Bubble Man," requested help after a Coast Guard crew spotted the man and his bizarre, less-than-sea-worthy contraption off the coast of Jupiter, Florida, some 50 miles north of where he started.
After Baluchi announced his "ocean run" earlier in April, the Coast Guard issued an order outlining specific safety precautions for the voyage, including the use of an escort vessel. But Baluchi failed to meet them.
“This was an inherently unsafe voyage attempt that put the lives of Mr. Baluchi and other mariners in danger,” Cpt. Austin Gould, commander of Coast Guard Sector Miami, said in a statement. "This proposed adventure unnecessarily risked the lives of Mr. Baluchi, the maritime public, and our Coast Guard men and women."
For his voyage, Baluchi was armed only with a GPS, satellite phone and video camera, and planned to "survive on protein bars, tuna, sea water purified through a filter, Gatorade and chewing gum for sea sickness," according to his website.
Both in its release and on Twitter, the Coast Guard all but berated Baluchi for his selfishness, which it says continues to come at the "enormous" expense of taxpayers. Ironically, as Baluchi proudly claims on his website, the attempted "life threatening journey at sea" was for charity.
Baluchi's 2014 attempt to "run" the Bermuda Triangle ended in similar defeat when the Coast Guard found him 70 nautical miles east of St. Augustine, exhausted and "asking for directions to Bermuda." That rescue, the Coast Guard said, cost taxpayers more than $140,000, though Baluchi hoped the adventure would "raise money for children in need and ... inspire those that have lost hope for a better future."
Baluchi could not be reached for comment Tuesday. His publicist Candace Rojas, however, told the Sun Sentinel that Baluchi was "disappointed about having to end" his trek, but "will definitely try again." As for the Coast Guard warning, Rojas told the outlet that Baluchi had secured a support vessel to accompany him, but ultimately opted to make the trip by himself.
Rojas added that her understanding of the Coast Guard order was that it was a recommendation, not a mandate. But under federal law, violation of a Coast Guard order could result in criminal penalties, including up to 7 years in prison and $40,000 in fines.
Baluchi is no first-time risk-taker. In 2007, he ran around the perimeter of the United States, covering more than 11,700 miles in 202 days.
Davis Hyslop, a businessman and one of Baluchi's supporters, told CNN in 2012 that his friend, an Iranian immigrant, simply doesn't listen to anyone. "He has these outsized ambitions that he sets his mind to," Hyslop said. "He's a success above and beyond anyone's expectations. It's almost biblical. But you gotta be a little crazy to undertake such an endeavor, right?"