Welcome to CF!
In answer to your question(s). I'd say, go sailing as much as you can, as a couple & solo, whenever you get the chance. Be it day sails
, or longer trips. Start slow, in order to get the basics. But don't hold back from pushing yourself outside of your comfort zones either.
As one pretty much has to (do) in order to really learn.
And while many on here hate the "R-word" (racing). It's a great tool (as well as being fun), because when you're racing
, you'll learn 5x as much or more, for every hour spent on the water
vs. each hour spent conventionally sailing.
This is because, when racing, everyone onboard is pushing to use every miniscle, available resource in order to gain that last little advantage over the competition.
- Sail; type, combinations, & trim. Navigation
; basic X to Y type, current
mapping (small & large scale), etc. Weather
forecasting. Tide & Current
mapping. And on & on.
Plus, the boats (and crews) are being pushed hard, so you wind
up doing things, & getting into situations which, while uncommon when cruising, do happen. And thus, you'll learn the skills & confidence to handle them. Including when; short handed, at night, sans sleep, in abysmal weather
& or other dodgy situations, etc.
That & 1,000 other little things... 99% of which pretty directly transfer to cruising.
Also, in addition to time on the water
. Which you need to get documented, BTW, for use towards liscences & such.
Do as much studying on the various aspects of sailing as you can, including related topics like; first aid, electrical
& mechanical servicing & repairs
, sail making, rigging
But Especially to include studies based on a structured set of sailing courses, like those offered by ASA
or other, similarly recognized programs.
Such, well laid out, courses will aid you both in gaining knowledge, in an easy to learn, & structured fashion. And that will help you whether; you want to rent a charter
boat, & thus have verifiable creditentials. Or, also, to further you on your path down the road to whatever liscences you may be seeking.
In addition to the obvious... helping you learn how to sail, navigate, deal with emergencies, & everything else which goes into sailing.
I hope that that's of some help. That & that it makes sense, as I'm not 100% awake as yet ;-)