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16-year-old pollution campaigner sails the Atlantic Garbage Patch

by Linda Trimble/Sail-World Cruising on 13 Sep 2011
Le Roux Eloi Le Roux - campaigning for ocean pollution prevention SW
While many sixteen-year-olds are hanging out with their friends at the coolest place in town, Eloi Le Roux, a sixteen-year-old from Florida USA, is passionate about his personal campaign to combat ocean pollution. He convinced his family to sail in search of the Atlantic Garbage Patch while on their way to Europe.

Here Linda Trimble of the Daytona_Beach_News_Journal tells a moving story:


Still partly inflated, a bunch of balloons floated on the surface of the Sargasso Sea east of Bermuda, a silent reminder of a distant celebration.

The Le Roux family of Ormond Beach eased their sloop toward the pink and blue flotsam so 17-year-old Alex could snag it with a boat hook and haul it aboard.

It was just the kind of 'souvenir' Alex's younger brother, Eloi, was hoping to find on his family's seven-week voyage across the Atlantic from Ponce Inlet to Portugal.

The balloons and other trash Eloi collected, including tiny particles of plastic and large buoys trailing shell-encrusted rope, came from what scientists have come to call the 'Atlantic Garbage Patch' between Bermuda and the Azores Islands.

Research teams that have collected samples from the area over the last 20 years reported on the phenomenon last year at an ocean sciences conference -- something that caught Eloi's attention as his family prepared for the voyage that was two years in the planning.

Seeking evidence to support his campaign to combat ocean pollution, Eloi rigged up six 120-pound-test fishing lines to trail from the sailboat at different depths to collect whatever might be floating on or in the water.

'The ocean is downstream to everything,' said Eloi, adding the answer to reducing pollution is to take more care in disposing of items that aren't biodegradable.

He and his family packed carefully for their voyage, avoiding items wrapped in plastic and choosing paper products like plates over the plastic variety whenever possible.

Eloi also printed up fliers to post at marinas along the way and talked to fellow boaters about the issue at every opportunity, discouraging them from ever throwing trash overboard. He plans to build a science fair project around his summer experiences to spread information to another audience.

Eloi's parents, Michel and Thanda, aren't surprised by the 16-year-old's tenacity in tackling the ocean pollution issue.

They're used to his curiosity and determination to solve problems. He was only in eighth grade when he spotted an abandoned catamaran in a Daytona Beach yard and approached the homeowner about fixing it up. She gave the boat to Eloi and he and a friend repaired it, even fashioning a homemade sail.

Thanda Le Roux said Eloi's interest in sailing that boat is what ultimately got the whole family involved in boating.

Eloi said his father had sailed years before in his native France and seeing his son get involved in the sport 'rekindled his sailing heart.'


It wasn't long before the family bought a 26-foot sailboat, replaced the next year by their current 43-foot boat. Eloi, his brother Alex and father honed their sailing skills in races offshore of Volusia County.

After two years of planning and detailed preparation for any possible emergency, the family left for Portugal in late May this year. Thanda Le Roux was the chief cook. Her husband and sons shared the round-the-clock sailing duties and 8-year-old daughter Alice kept the ship's log.

http://www.news-journalonline.com!Daytona_Beach_News_Journal

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