I learned how to sail in the mountain lakes on both a laser dinghy
and a 30 foot costal cruiser. We often have BAD storms of wind come from nowhere at 3AM and 3PM. It's the wierdest thing you've ever seen, like clockwork. I HATE THAT. I know exactly what you were feeling, and I can offer once piece of advice from someone who sails a lot in these situations: Don't get scared or intimidated to the point where you will quit sailing; weather issues make up for less than 2% of the time you sail, but account for about 98% of the stories because they are flat scary.
If you just let everything go... open your hands holding the sheets and let them flog, you'll be ok. It's like hitting the brakes or opening the safety valve, the boat bobs back up like a cork, you feel relieved, and you can concentrate on having a co-pilot hold the helm while you go retrieve the sails and drop the main. Even better would be to have the co-pilot start your aux engine to help you hold steerageway directly into the wind while you drop the sails.
Our boat has a "semi-emergency" plan like that. We start the motor, engage it into gear (which provides for 1.2 kts when simply idling in gear and gives us steerageway), then we steer into the wind, drop the sails or reef, then hove-to, or heave-to depending if we end up drifting or not.
Remember, if the sail is luffing, or flapping in the wind, it isnt doing anything. If it werent for the expense and noise of the dang things, you could probably just leave them up since those squalls inland don't last over an hour anyhow.
This is a time where you could have had fun practicing this - and I'm not sure if they showed you in school, but you should try heaving or hoving to. (heaving is when you continue to make a little -1kt or so - of headway and hove is drifting at about 1/2kt in your own ship's slick.)
@@@@@ Slick created by your own hull
Simply douse the jib
, slightly trim the main to leeward, about a 20 degree "close haul" with maybe a reef or two in depending on the wind velocity, and tie the tiller to about 10-15 degrees to windward. What should happen is this - you'll see the boat head up slightly in the wind, then fall off where the rudder pushes it back up. By exposing your hull to the wind about 50 degrees, you create a slick spot behind you and the boat begins to fall back into it VERY slowly. This smooths out those nasty waves on your weather side and you could actually go sleep or eat while the storm blows.
Hove to is far better than heave to where you make headway beacuse you'll start riding into the troughs of the waves. You want to stay in that slick as much as you can to get the best ride you can; I drop tissues in the water to see if they move to the back of the boat or not. That is the only way I can tell without staring at my GPS
for a few minutes.
Let me know if I can help more.