Response to AMAC
First, I don't think anyone should be too smug as we all have our fair share of mistakes. That said, I would offer a couple of thoughts that others may agree or disagree with.
I definitely would have secured the dinghy better. This is probably the least controversial comment I'll make. I think you were very lucky not to have lost it, and having it distract you when you needed your attention elsewhere - of course you knew that by the way you asked the question.
I also think that most would agree to avoid, when possible, taking large waves on your beam. Going upwind might be more uncomfortable, and raise your apparent wind modestly, but I think a safer bet in rough seas.
As for the balance of your sails, its hard to comment without knowing your boat or having been there. In rough conditions, I would err on less sail, not more. Having said that, the way you balance between your sails really depends on too many factors for anyone to give you a definitive answer. You will probably know from your helm whether you have the right balance or not.
I think it is really to your credit that you are asking the right questions, and pushing yourself. Personally, I would have thought twice about going out in a forecast of 35 kts, knowing that the forecast can be wrong and the winds could turn out to be stronger. Repeating myself, if you are going to go out in those kinds of conditions, and you are not racing, I think less sail area is better than more.
Happy cruising - Maine is such a beautiful spot for it.