Large boats have an advantage in heavy weather and how your boat handles weather should be very familiar before beginning a long trip. For a cruising boat small craft warnings should be familiar to travel in and should not really be a problem, but you need to be very safety
conscious. The sheet tensions and forces on the boat increase. Injuries from inattentive operation could prove serious. Sailing with gusts above 25 knots is something you should know how to handle. At 30 knots consistent wind the fun goes by the wayside and you should have already shortened sail once if not twice. Learn when to reef early!
At gale warnings I would say you are not out there for fun. It would be because you didn't have adequate forecasts or failed to observe warnings. Sheet tensions increase vastly and moving on deck
is dangerous. An accidental gybe to the head
would kill you on contact. Fingers caught in a winch
drum are gone. Sails
can easily be damaged. Adding a reef you forgot to set earlier is a very difficult chore. Sea states become more difficult. Large gusts with too much sail may render the boat totally out of control for periods. The danger
from broaching becomes very real. At this point you have minimal sails
up yet can be making progress. A man over board rescue
is quite difficult and dangerous. You could easily lose sight of someone in the water even if you could perform the maneuver.
If you could not perform a MOB rescue
in the conditions you are sailing in then you have failed your responsibility to your crew. This is all supposed to be fun and when it isn't fun you don't need to do this. You should always avoid difficult conditions because you should not be on a schedule. Forcing events
to happen with time constraints are the warning signs of trouble ahead. Crew become exhausted in serious weather quickly and normally sound decisions can be exceptionally hard to make under this stress. This is what can lead to injuires. Treating an injured crew member
under serious weather conditions now leaves you doubly short handed at a time when you need extra hands. This is how danger
leads to disaster. The wind speed numbers don't really tell you the danger as noted by Gord's comparison of wind forces. The best storm tactic is to be some place else!