If I was just two people, and of course I'm in a different area I would be looking at a NZ made compass
H28. Almost 30' very good layout for a small size and very good sea keeping ability, a go anywhere yacht. Out this way if your on the hunt they can be good value for money
. Another nice boat that I almost bought before was a Nicholson 31 but the broker was slack and it sold for less than we offered the month before however he was holding out and didn't relay our offer by the time he came back to us we moved on. Anyway I preferred it to the 32 and if your on the hunt I would hold out for a boat that is well equipped. The one we almost bought was a world cruiser.
So yes you could go less than 30 but no matter what you picked if its a boat that you plan to go out of protected waters with I would pick foremost a stout build that can handle heavy weather
Yes you can start with something more suited to coastal fair weather
sailing. But honestly if your thinking that way I would start with dinghy
sailing then a day sailor and work up but I don't think that's your intention. Either you stick with the boat that can take you places or you trade
up. If you have a heavy weather capable boat here's some benefits;
1) you and your wife can feel confident in the boat
2) you can slowly build up experience including heavier weather which will benefit you for your long term goals.
3) by having a design you are confident in even if the weather is not beyond that of a lesser vessel as a beginner you may not know that and having confidence in the vessel means you can focus on your skills.
Now with both of the boats that I mentioned I have met numerous cruising couples and the wives were always content with the boats. This is important.
I have kept in mind what you have said about your needs. Many may tell you you need more but only you truly know what you can deal with. We are a family
of 4 and this is our last year ashore. Within the next 12 months we hope to be aboard our 33'.
We are simple to and if it was just the 2 of us we could even go smaller on the right boat. What I mean is if there were 2 boats and they both had the same sea keeping qualities where both outfitted with the same sort of gear
and one was a 33 the other was a 29 both with good beam but the smaller one had the character and style that we love and the other was plain white inside. Well we could only live in the smaller.
So I think your best bet is finding the qualities of a boat that you desire in your budget
and rough size than go hunting for the right boat.
Anyway I hope this gives you another perspective to consider. Follow the advice so many say and that is go now!