If I were to purchase a 16 to 18 foot dinghy with center board, how do they heel over before capsize? Are they able to sail on days with high winds of 20 mph or so without capsizing? I would love to get a smaller boat to practice on as it is easy to set up and easy to find a place to sail it by myself. However I also want to take the better half with to get her used to sailing as well. This will not happen if the boat is going to capsize on regular basis. I realize some boats are more likely to capsize then others but in general are dingy's able to sail without capsize is the question.
thanks for the advice
To answer your questions in order:
They heel alot before they capsize.
You can sail safely without capsizing in higher winds IF you have a developed skill set. At this point, it sounds like you might set some limits for yourself.
In a dingy, you're the ballast and provide the righting moment. Yes, some are more stable than others. Something like an Oday Widgeon or a Lido 14, etc... will be more stable than a high performance racing dingy, but again, it's your skill set that keeps you dry. Stick to light air with your S.O. until both of you are more comfortable with things.
Be absolutely certain that you can right the boat yourself and re-board before you get in over your head. There's no shortcut. You'll have to get wet and practice. As someone who knows how to help you. There are some tricks that will ensure success. Also remember that righting a boat on a calm practice day is very different than in 15kts in a chop. Again, practice progressively. I'm also assuming the water is warm where you are. If not, you'll need to invest in some proper dingy clothing/wetsuit or the like. In cold water this isn't an option, it's a must.
Most importantly, have fun!