John - that makes perfect sense. Thanks for the feedback. So do you think sheltered water provides a good opportunity to "push" skill level a bit in order to learn to handle the boat/sails in bigger wind without the sea-state "penalty" (at least part of the sailing equation)? That's kind of been my thinking in wanting to get out in winds that I probably wouldn't want to be out in otherwise.
BTW - I fired off a quick email to Beaufort, and he's cool with the whole lake-knot thing. He just said not to get too cocky around sea sailors when bragging about it.
Definitely. Sheltered waters are a blessing for everyone, not just beginners. They let you sail in windspeeds that would be much more difficult out on open waters. You only have to manage the heavy wind and chop, usually without the worry of destructive seastates. One caveat, though, is that sometimes heavy wind blowing over shallow water can create a very nasty, short, steep sea/chop, that can be pretty uncomfortable and tricky to deal with, particularly if sailing upwind.
That said, there are reasons why even folks who usually sail in relatively sheltered waters, don't usually set out when it's blowing 35+ knots. The primary reason is that things tend to break, and it can become pretty costly. Most coastal sailors would rather invest in equipment that makes their routine sailing more enjoyable, than spend all the money investing in storm sails, etc that will rarely if ever get used, or replacing broken parts.
Sure, you can go out in the 40 knots with your regular sails reefed down, but they are not really designed for those windspeeds and you will end up putting a couple year's worth of regular wear and tear on them in one afternoon. Or maybe you'll break the boom and now you're replacing a component that would have given you good service for years instead of buying that new spinnaker you really wanted. If your pockets are deep, none of this much matters, but most of us have a sailing budget we have to live within.
So, we try to be prepared and have a plan for how we'll deal with 40 knots if we're caught out in it -- which will happen eventually if you sail enough. But, most folks won't purposefully set out in those conditions unless they are very well equipped ($$) for them.
P.S. I'm surprised Beaufort replied at all. He's a fairly reclusive type, preferring to let his proxies defend the honor of his scale. You must have a persuasive way with words! If I have time, I will share a story about my first encounter with the Beaufort Scale.