Hi Rokraider, and welcome aboard.
As I'm sure you will find out, the AI truly is an awesome boat. As you have already noticed, it is not without its little quirks. Still, once you get used to the boat you will enjoy it as much as the rest of us do.
First thing to know is that the AI is a WET RIDE. And sailing it in 3-4 ft seas and 20-25 kt winds, you're going to get really wet! You will also, as you probably noticed, have a lot of fun. In such conditions it's not unusual to have pretty much the entire boat submarine through a wave. I've been submerged up to my chest a number of times. Just make sure that everything you want to keep is securely lashed or leashed. Not to worry though. The AI is a pretty well built boat, and she can take some abuse. I've been out on 6 ft waves on Lake Erie (one of the Great Lakes in the US/Canada), and have sailed in 30 kt winds on the front side of an Atlantic hurricane. Storm hadn't arrived yet, but the winds had. Both were great experiences, and I didn't break anything in either of those outings. That's not to say I haven't ever broken anything. In three years of sailing (something over 200 outings) I've broken 4 rudder pins (three old style and one new "D" head). The broken rudder pin actually is usually pretty easy to extract, as the bottom is where the break usually occurs. Get yourself a stainless steel leatherman tool and keep it with you.
The rudder is an ongoing issue, as you may have noticed from many previous threads on the subject. The best advice seems to be tightly cleat the rudder down, and partially furl the sail to depower a little bit. I know, sounds like it takes the fun out of the big wind, but it can actually let you sail faster because you have better control. The setscrew can help, but then you lose the ability to twist-n-stow the rudder from the cockpit.
The seat plugs is also a common complaint, as evidenced by the recurring thread topic. Some folks have had luck with non-skid shelf liner under the seat. I guess I'm lucky in that regard. The seat in my early 2007 model is a slightly different style, and it doesn't pop out like one on some newer boats I've sailed.
If you have the twist cam style hold-downs for the mirage drive, and the D shaped rudder pin, it sounds like you have a mid-year 2008 model boat. Others may be able to narrow it down even more from the number itself. If there's a "key" to deciphering it, I'm not aware of it.
At any rate, get out there and enjoy the boat every chance you get. You'll get her personality figured out, and have a ball doing it. Pretty soon you'll be wearing what my friends call my "AI Grin". That's the grin so big it connects in the back!
- Jim L