LA ROCHELLE, FRANCE—Arriving to the cheers of thousands of excited onlookers gathered at the Les Minimes marina to witness history in the making, insurance-claims adjuster Gary Morgan, 42, completed the first nonstop leisurely solo float across the Atlantic Ocean in an inflated rubber tube Tuesday.
After departing six weeks ago from Rockaway Beach in New York, the courageously relaxed father of three drifted through tumultuous waters for 3,012 nautical miles to set a new world record and relieve some of the tension caused by his screaming children.
"That was great," Morgan said moments after the thunderous applause of the crowd awoke him. "Boy, I really needed it."
"I think I might go in again a little later," Morgan added. "It's such a relaxing and fun way to travel around."
With unknown dangers behind every wave, Morgan began his epic journey by cautiously dipping his toes into the Atlantic Ocean and easing his plump frame into the circular tube that would glide him into the history books. Morgan faced his first challenge days later when, floating along the southern coast of Newfoundland, the incessant scraping of his tube against the side of the island repeatedly woke him. After several failed attempts to keep his eyes shut, Morgan finally had to push off the landmass with his feet and drift back out to sea.
Halfway through the modern odyssey, Morgan was swept up in the powerful North Atlantic Current, which spun the tiny inflatable craft around and forced him to travel facing backwards for two weeks—a setback that was only mitigated by the fact that it allowed Morgan to receive a more even tan as the sun beat down on him.
"Come to think of it, I probably should have put some lotion on my shoulders," Morgan said. "I did get a little pink."
He then drifted west of Ireland where his tube bumped into an ocean liner and was redirected into the Canary Current, which took him to his final destination in France while he ate a bologna sandwich he had packed for the trip.
Although he claimed he was never frightened during the milestone voyage, Morgan admitted that his biggest challenge was staying alert and awake.
"I was dozing on and off for the first 1,000 miles or so," Morgan said. "It really zonked me out. You close your eyes and the next thing you know the ride is over."
While Morgan did prepare for the perilous journey with loose-fitting swim trunks, some zinc for his nose, and a book of word-search puzzles, he largely shunned the use of modern navigational equipment. Instead, the brave pioneer accomplished the incredible nautical feat by allowing his tube to meander at its own pace across the ocean, only adjusting the tack every several days by lightly paddling with his hand.
"You just have to go with the flow," said Morgan, adding that at one point his sunglasses fell into the water, but he knew he had to continue to float on. "Battling the elements will just make you uptight and then you'll never unwind."
Morgan is also credited with a number of groundbreaking methods for making himself more comfortable as he bobbed along the North Atlantic's most dangerous swells, including floating on his back, lying on his stomach, and clinging to the top while dangling his legs through the hole.
Morgan said he only had to splash some water on his face to cool off about every 100 miles, since the weather throughout the soothing intercontinental journey was "real fine." At one point, however, he did grow concerned when he floated into a powerful storm that threatened to blow his tube to the destination too quickly.
"I was like, 'Settle down, I don't want to get there too fast,'" Morgan said. "There was a pretty annoying rain storm, too. It really watered down my Coke."
On Wednesday, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the city will honor Morgan's epic float with a concert and a ticker-tape parade, at the end of which America's laziest hero will be given the Medal of Valor and a solid gold chaise lounge.