... I don't know about other boats, but my boat doesn't point worth a fart on the main alone...
Your boat is similar to most in this respect. There are some designs that will do okay on main alone, but most will need their jib to make decent progress upwind.
One suggestion: Especially when it's gusty or the wind is trending upward, try to spend the first 2/3 or 3/4 of your time working your way upwind. That way, if the wind continues to build and begins to get borderline unmanageable, you can then ease off and run back to your protected waters, without having to fight your way home upwind.
This assumes you're just out for practicing, without a particular destination in mind, and that you have "water" to head upwind in.
You know, the more people I talk to, the more I can divide people into two schools of thought:
1. Point higher to reduce power and heel.
2. Trim the sails.
Some people really seem to have a preference. I think the "hold course and trim" method matters most when you have a specific point on the water that you're trying to reach, perhaps as in racing. If you're just out fooling around, with nowhere specific to go, pointing higher is the easier method requiring less work.
Also, I don't think you're quite stating the two options properly. It could be that you understand fully and are simply expressing what you mean somewhat inartfully. But in case you're still trying to get your head around this, I'll elaborate a bit more.
When sailing upwind, close hauled in gusty conditions, we usually use a combination of procedures to deal with the sails as they become temporarily over-powered in gusts.
One option is to reef down. But sometimes this option can be frustrating, as it can leave us seriously underpowered when the gust subsides.
On a monohull, the other option is to adjust both trim and heading in the gusts (this is not a good options for multi-hulls, which should reef to the gust conditions).
When a gust hits while sailing close-hauled, you should really employ a combination of procedures. What exact order depends somewhat on the boat and conditions, as well as the heading objective. The usual options and order are to feather up into the wind somewhat, drop the traveller down, and finally ease the mainsheet.
When beating to weather, feathering up is very advantageous. This is because it takes you farther to windward, while simultaneously maintaining boat speed (as a result of the boost from the gust).
But if you were simply sailing on a close-hauled course (but not beating), you might choose to drop traveller and ease the mainsheet instead. This would allow you to maintain course more easily, which might be important if there was a shoal or other obstruction to windward.
But, just to avoid confusion/misunderstanding, we usually don't say "trim the sails" when we actually mean to let them out. It's more clear to say "ease the sails". "Trimming" suggests bringing the sails in tighter, which would not be one of the basic strategies for responding to gusts.
Hope this is reasonably clear and helps some.