You might think that the title of this blog suggests an encounter with the United States Air Force, well you would be wrong – read on.

The period of sailing after the boisterous exit of the Strait was short lived as the wind disappeared once again and I had to reach for the key to the ‘iron tops’l’ which responded without objection.

Motoring into the evening, I took a longer inshore route to ensure mobile connection before the expected mobile signal desert as I cross the instep. Even after dark, it was notable that the evening temperature was not just warm, it was hot – balmy!

After a quiet night under engine again, dawn brought a backing and increase in the wind so that, with one reef in the main and a reduced jib, we (I seem to refer to we but I mean me and Hejira) enjoyed a sprightly sail just off close hauled. Unfortunately this only lasted for an hour before the wind dropped and we were headed so the engine had to be re-engaged – yet again.

Hejira is very generously equipped with two 250 litre diesel tanks which should give me over a week of non-stop motoring, more if I run the engine at 2K revs as I have done on this passage. I also have the ability to carry a further 160 litres in containers concealed on the aft deck, strapped against new grab bars and fashioned into seats – you may have seen them in photos. I had chosen not to fill them on this trip thinking it unnecessary and the containers had all been ‘dosed’ for empty storage.  I had also chosen to leave the fuel ‘bladder’ stowed. This holds a further 80 litres and straps onto the foredeck – if you search ‘bladder’ in the search facility on the home page it should show blogs where the bladder is pictured – if you can be arsed. These are as a precaution on long Ocean passages when periods of motoring are expected like the return from the Caribbean through the windless Azores high. With it being 1200nm from Nice to Venice, that is probably ten days of motoring. I was expecting to do at least some sailing on this trip but, as I know from experience, the wind in the Med is capricious, often too little or too much for sailing. Unfortunately, to date we have mostly experienced the ‘too little’ conditions and we have motored nearly all the way.

Approaching the end of the first tank with the needle hovering just above the red, I have a decision to make. I am aware that even when showing empty there is still quite a lot of diesel remaining in the tank but one would normally not run a tank dry although this would extract the maximum volume. Having given the situation superficial thought, I have decided to switch to the second tank, hope to get some wind later in the week and stop for a refill when convenient and if I feel it necessary.

I am feeling particularly dozy this morning after my third night on this passage and I think I am entering a critical phase so I will try to catch up with some naps once clear of the coast and crossing the bay.

One of the delights of sailing offshore is the visit of dolphins, or even whales as we had previously experienced off the Azores. The sight of a pod of dolphins playing in the bow wave and looking up seemingly for approval of their antics is priceless and a truly humbling experience. It was significant however that last year all the way from Portsmouth to Nice, we only saw dolphins in the distance and they never came to play. This is so unusual that it seems highly probable that my new ‘Ultrasonic Antifouling’, (USAF) system is to blame. The system uses two transducers bonded to the inside of the hull which emit a random series of high frequency pulses, it could be that the cetaceans can hear the pulses and they find it unpleasant and to be avoided. In that the system was disappointingly ineffective, I have now turned it off and await a visit so watch this space.

Not having photographed anything remotely interesting since the last ‘mega blog’, here is a picture of the instruments at the chart table for what it’s worth.

Electronic night watch at the chart table

Not wanting to disappoint my burgeoning readership which may by now have expanded into double figures, I will try to get this message away earlier than usual as I alter course to pass close to Capo Rizzuto and try to pick up a signal.