Welcome, and not sure if this reply fits your time line however....
I have browsed the previous posts and can agree with all on at least some point. Here is my assessment (been sailing since 1958). Your first boat, by definition will not be your "last boat" but it should be a good viable spring board to the next umpty million seasons of boating
1) 6'5 head
room should not be your priority. You are absolutely correct that most of the time below will be in a non standing position and when heeled at 20 degrees, you pick up head
room fast! Cooking
aside, most every other activity is sitting or lying down. You do learn to get around without killing your self. 2) Get a boat that you can grow into and not grow out of immediately. Since you are going to travel some distance, it should be a comfortable "apt" while dockside and one that you feel good about inviting new friends aboard. 3) A prior poster mentioned Pamlico Sound... a hardy second to that. Plenty of good sailing area and adventures to nearby Manteo or Ocracoke
Island will never be forgotten.4) 32'-38 foot boats are easily single
handed or short handed when properly set up. Sails
(even heavy Dacron) are easily handled by one. 5) the JR Overseas analog moisture meter is very reliable. I have one and count on it regularly. Also a phenolic hammer (Craftsman screwdriver handle will work in a push) is invaluable for finding "dead" coring around hardware
. 6) I agree whole heartedly with the fin keel
assertion above. There are some very noteworty full keel
boats however for short sailing sessions, performance counts. If you have a boat that sails
well you will sail...otherwise it may sit at the dock
and look pretty.
Sorry this got so long winded...good luck on your search...keep us posted.