Good advice here. Even strong gusts move slowly enuf that, if you can see them a mile off, you have a minute or two to prepare. A few other ideas: heading up will depower the sails but it can leave you stalled, backing water, and inevitably veering off in a dangerous direction, usually with sheets close hauled. In bad wind, keep that mainsheet uncleated.
DON'T haul your main until the boom is straight over the midpoint; there's really nothing to be gained by sailing fully hauled, and you'll heel like the deevil. "Point-to-point" -- that is, end of boom over the corners of the transom, will suffice. 40 to 45 degrees off the wind is your best heading on a beat; but beating is never the most comfortable ride. When things get hairy, your best tactics are pinching (sailing closer to the wind than ideal, accepting a bit of luffing, and always prone to irons or heeling) or reaching. A beam reach in a small boat can be a very comfortable ride. Fast,too!
One thing to note: heading up suddenly can make the heeling WORSE for a moment; falling off tends to level the boat out, but you absolutely need to sheet WAY out as you do that or you will take the wind broadside and flip.
Finally, when a big blow hits and you are beating (tacking, pointing, waddevah), try raising the centerboard a quarter to a third. You'll lose some ground to side-slipping, but the boat will heel less. Light boats like ours require quick reactions, constant attention to sail trim & crew placement, and a relaxed attitude toward swimming.
If you ain't wet, you ain't learning. Keep us posted!
Fellow sailor of a spooky 18er.