Back in 1986, solo Australian yachtsman Jon Sanders began a non-stop voyage three times around the world. His achievement – covering a distance of 71,000 miles – set a new world record for the longest sailing voyage …a record which remains unbroken to this day!
Since then he has completed many more voyages. He returned from his tenth circumnavigation just last year at the age of 79, and vowed it would be his last.
This weekend – October 26th – he will be setting off on another …I asked him why?
Well, first of all I’ve learned to never say never! He told me. …I’ve noticed a lot of changes in the ocean during the decades that I’ve been sailing: Factory fishing ships – thousands of miles from home …plastic bags floating far out to sea from river effluence; so when it was suggested I could help by making this survey – taking samples of ocean water from around the world, working-up the first baseline for the amount of plastic pollution – I really wanted to help. I wanted to give something back.
Sailing mainly in the southern hemisphere via the Indian, Atlantic, Pacific and Southern Oceans – as well as the Tasman Sea – aboard his 39 foot yacht Perie Banou II, Jon will pump 50 litres of water through a filter every day as he makes his way east to west around the world, covering about 100 miles per day. He will bring the filters back home for analysis by Western Australia – Organic and Isotope Geochemistry Centre (WA-OIGC) at Curtin University, providing them with an accurate measure – for the first time – of the presence of microplastics throughout the remote locations of his route. These samples will form a baseline for all future measurements.
Jon’s shore-based team recognise the opportunity to further raise awareness about the level of microplastics in our oceans to which end they have begun a campaign: No Plastic Oceans. This initiative is being led by Dr. Stephen Davis and Morgan Flower who have been working tirelessly – securing support from Curtin University, and third party organisations …Fremantle Sailing Club; Royal Perth Yacht Club; Nebo, B&G (Navico) & ClientSAT and a growing number of other sponsors.
Jon plans to stop at 11 ports throughout his voyage. Details of his route – which is expected to take between 9 and 12 months – can be found here. A detailed report of Curtin University’s findings will be made publicly available after the voyage.
For the journey Jon’s (nearly) 50 year-old Sparkman & Stephens yacht – which has already completed three circumnavigations – is being completely refitted …new sails; running rigging; deck hardware; aids to navigation; together with a new 12V power system …from batteries to inverter.
At Victron Energy, reliable, renewable power lies at the heart of everything we do …so we were delighted to be asked to play a small role in Jon’s historic data-collecting voyage by donating the equipment which will provide him with power for his sensitive electronics, communications equipment, and for powering everyday ‘domestic’ items.
The equipment Jon will be taking with him on Saturday are typical for blue water cruising:
- A Battery Monitor BMV-712 will provide him with at-a-glance status information about his batteries. It can be set to display, in percentage terms, how much of the battery’s capacity remains. It can also provide much more detailed information: battery voltage; rate of discharge; hours remaining at present discharge rate …together with historical ‘highest/lowest’ information. A low-voltage alarm can also be set to trigger a relay which disconnects loads ensuring that the battery is never accidentally drained too deeply.
- A MultiPlus Compact 12/800 will provide domestic 230V true sine wave electricity capable of running computer-controlled equipment. Often used on board yachts to ensure a high quality Uninterrupted Power Supply, its high Peak power capability makes it ideal for running motorised equipment which typically has a high start-up current draw.
- Jon’s two 12V/230Ah AGM Super Cycle Batteries will be charged using a couple of monocrystalline solar panels rated at 175W-12V. He has previously sailed with a wind turbine and found that it was great when sailing to windward – but not quite so great when sailing downwind …or in light airs. The solar power harvest will be maximised by a SmartSolar MPPT 100/20. MPPT solar chargers work hard to convert and store the sun’s energy – particularly in the partially-shaded conditions typical on a yacht. To make the charging process worry free, Jon has a Cyrix 12/24V-120A intelligent battery combiner which works as a relay …directing power from an alternator to a principal battery bank, and then automatically transferring the charge current to a second battery bank when the first bank is recharged. If a new demand is placed on the principal battery bank – the Cyrix will restore charge to the original bank.
- All of Jon’s installation can be controlled from a single device which lies at the heart of the system – the Color Control GX. Not only does the Color Control harmonise the system – channeling intelligent data between components – but it has extensive menu’s which allow for detailed interrogation and programming. More than that – the Color Control is that it can be connected to the internet for remote monitoring and control – by Jon’s shore-based engineering team, for example. This is made possible by Victron Remote Management Portal VRM which is free to use.
Professor Kliti Grice, from the WA-OIGC, whose department is in Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, says that at present the measurable risks of marine plastic pollution to marine life, ecosystems and fisheries were largely unknown. He continues:
Every year, up to 14 million tonnes of plastic flows into our oceans, breaking down to micro- or nanoplastics that can be ingested by marine organisms. It is not currently possible to rank the risks posed by marine plastic pollution in the marine environment, so this research will aim to set a baseline for the future monitoring of southern oceanic microplastic pollution. Jon Sanders’ support for the research will offer vital information that may help preserve the ocean and marine environment.
By helping with this research Jon is playing into his strengths:
After I’ve spent two Wednesday afternoons playing pool down at the club, I start to feel that it’s time to go back to sea. He says.
When sailing, Jon – whose mother Dorothy Lucie Sanders was an author – likes to keep himself busy writing a blog about his travels over the watery wilderness – follow his story here.