Got to the boat on Friday evening and the first job was to refit the repaired rudder blade (job turned around in under four days by Swallowboats, thank you Matt). Motoring to the slipway from the mooring with no rudder was a challenge, but I had a bit of steering on the outboard and there was no current so it worked without a hitch. I pulled the stern onto the hard and rebolted the blade. A simple job, if you had three arms. An eye on an extendible stalk to peer through the bolt hole to line things up would have helped as well. But got there in the end. Had a near disaster when I let the blade drop down, only to see the downhaul rope get caught between the blade and the steel rudder head. Just like a giant pair of scissors... It cut half through the rope. I was concerned that what was left wouldn't be strong enough, but I managed to knot on a new length of rope. The knot disappears into the rudder head and seems fine after a full day's long sailing. (The next morning I disassembled the whole blade and managed to insert a PTFE disk either side.) The whole blade swings sweetly up and down now.
Had a nasty fright in the morning. I was dried out at low tide, on a soft sandy beach. One yard to the left were 6" pointed stumps of the posts of an old wooden pier. One foot to the right were two old steel joist sticking out of the sand. If I had settled on any of them it could have punctured the hull. How I missed them I don't know. Maybe the Gods wanted to make up for slicing through my downhaul rope the day before. I stood by the boat as the tide came in and pushed her into deeper water as soon as I could. (The tide comes in amazing quickly. From being on dry ground to floating was not much over half and hour, if that.)
North east offshore wind, F3-4 all the way. Close reached on one port tack all the way to Hengistbury Head. Some gusts pushed me up into the wind, so I put in a single reef. No loss of speed and much lighter helm in the gusts. Speed generally around 5-6kts with surges over 7, but I did have a weak favourable current.
As it was I tied up to an empty mooring for lunch and then headed for home. Millions of swans. What attracts them I don't know. The water is fresh enough for horses to be drinking it from the bank.
A very good day's sail. The boat handles beautifully single handed. Reefing is easy and makes her lighter in strong winds, with little if any loss of speed. But watch out for nasties sticking out of the mud at low tide.