David, sailing has enough of its own inbuilt dangers that you don't need to go looking for them. For example on our last coastal passage (70nm) we were promised sub 20knots and a beam reach, instead we got plus 30 hard on the nose. I probably wouldn't have gone out had I known but it wasn't all that bad really, just a tadge uncomfortable.
So although we didn't go looking for it and the trouble was middling rather than really ugly we learned much about us and our boat. Enough to know that we can cope with mid 30s. Of course its also to do with sea state. While we had Force 6 into 7, because the wind was blowing off the land and we never more than around ten nms offshore the sea were not as big as they might have been.
I guess one also learns to read up on local conditions when you leave your home waters. Couple of years back I failed to do so only to run into a common local gale with rain so heavy visibility was only a boat length or so and I had to wear glasses in order to just keep my eyes open. Had I done my homework and given that quite small area a bit more of an offing we would have missed this freakish event altogether or at least bypassed the worst of it.
One thing I do think I know is that while I have far less experience than many here the more I get the better I feel about heading out.
“Give a man a fire and he's warm for a day, but set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life.” Terry Pratchett