OK, this IS embarrassing, but here goes...
One of the first times we had the boat out (my first boat, although I have crewed for years on other people's boats) we ran into 25+ knot winds.
The boat really started to heel (no reef in the main - first mistake). My 6 year old freaked out, as we got into an extreme heel, and he grabbed my fiancé and clung onto her (as she likes to put it) "like a little monkey". He wouldn't let go, and she couldn't move to help me.
Well, the wind kept gusting and the boat kept heeling further and further... The rudder was almost useless due to the heeling, AND I didn't have the main sheet in my hand (2nd mistake) and it had blown to the other side of the cockpit. I was afraid to leave the tiller and my fiancé was wearing a 6 year old boy straight jacket, unable to help.
So........ I was able to grab the main halyard and thought I might be able to just let it go... but the wind was far too strong and that was impossible.
Eventually I managed to turn the boat into the wind and grab the mainsheet. The near 90 degree heel finally ended.
Needless to say, we had to motor back to the slip and have a pep-talk with my son. He quickly got over it and agreed to go back out... this time with Dad firmly grasping the mainsheet the entire time!
Since then I have learned that the Merit 25 will not capsize due to wind alone in a small lake (it needs the help of large ocean swells) AND I ALWAYS have the mainsheet in my hand. I can hear my college friend’s voice still echoing in my head while he was teaching me how to sail a lightning…
“In high wind ALWAYS hold the mainsheet and if you start to heel out of control just pop it out of the cleat” oh, yeah… I forgot about that!