MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A hamster in a ball may have gotten more momentum than Reza Baluchi did.

Baluchi was trying to make it from South Florida to Bermuda in his hydro pod, better known as a bubble.

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“His plan was to walk from here to Bermuda, which is insane,” said Tony Powell, who works on the beach.

It was a rough start.  When he left Pompano Beach September 21st he only made it about a mile – in the wrong direction. He came floating ashore behind a hotel.

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Powell wasn’t quite sure what he was seeing.  “You see a bubble floating in on the ocean here and it looked like a kids toy at first,” he said.

Soon, Baluchi became known as “Bubble Boy” around Pompano Beach, surprising even people who thought they’ve seen it all, living here for decades.

“I’ve seen a lot of things,” said Mitch Frachtman, who also works on the beach.  “I’ve seen Cuban rafts come up, I’ve seen people on boats come up, people without boats come up but this was the strangest thing of all, the man was walking to Bermuda.”

After a week on the beach Baluchi was gone, on his way.  But the trip would not last long.

Boaters spotted him Wednesday on the open water.  They said he seemed disoriented, asking for directions to Bermuda.  The coast guard caught up with him, asking if he needed help.

“Do you wish to stop your voyage and embark the coast guard vessel?” asked the Coast Guard.

“I been two years practice for this,” Baluchi answered.  He did not want to leave the bubble.

He kept going, caught up in the Gulf Stream.  But Saturday, 70 miles off the coast of St. Augustine, his emergency beacon went off, though Baluchi said it was a mistake.

The coast guard sent a chopper to the rescue.

“I see some helicopter coming,” said Baluchi. “Some person come in front of my bubble. ‘You ok? You need an emergency Doctor?’  I say no.”

That diver who jumped in the water hoisted Baluchi into the chopper.

“I told him there was a fishing vessel an hour away,” said Petty Officer Christopher Ensley from the Coast Guard. “And I asked if he wanted to wait for the fishing vessel and he said no he wants to go with us. He definitely wanted out of the bubble.”

Back on the beach in Pompano people were amazed he made it as far as he did, grateful he’s still alive.

“He was just a guy walking on water,” said Frachtman.  “He was like a hamster in a cage.”

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“I don’t know how he thought he was going to walk there,” said Powell.  “I’m surprised he made it as far north as he did without dying.”

Baluchi was treated in a Clearwater hospital and released.  He’s expected to be okay.

His question now is whether he will be able to get his bubble back.  The Coast Guard said last time they saw it, it was floating in the ocean.

According to Baluchi, he was told that a fisherman would haul his bubble back to shore.

Petty Officer Mark Barney, a spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard, said, “The bubble was left adrift. Our concern is not the bubble. Our main concern was to get him out of the water.”

Authorities believe the bubble is either hundreds of miles from where they left it or it sunk.

“It was caught up in the same Gulf Stream he was caught in,” Barney said. “If it didn’t sink, or unless someone retrieved it, the stream shot it up north. It’s a very powerful current.”

Baluchi is known for his crazy stunts, such as his run from Los Angeles to New York City in 2009 or his 135-mile run from Death Valley to Mount Whitney in 2010.

Now doubt has crept into the mind this free-spirited man.

“I go around running, telling people, if you have a dream, you can do anything,” Baluchi said. “Now I’m here, no money, no bubble, no anything.”

The homemade bubble cost the 42-year-old Baluchi $4,500 to make, which was his life savings.

“I was working two jobs,” said Baluchi, who worked on and off as a mechanic and restaurant dishwasher. “It took a long time.”

His green card, passport, phone, even his shoes were left inside the bubble.

Baluchi said he would need help retrieving the bubble, since he has no boat or money.

Even worse for him is the law of maritime salvage, which states that anyone who recovers another person’s ship or cargo after peril or loss at sea is entitled to a reward equal to the value of the property.

“I’m in trouble. Big trouble,” Baluchi said.


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Ted Scouten