I'm 54 and on my 3rd boat, which was purchased with the help of our home equity line of credit. This was much cheaper (about 3 percent) than the best "boat loan" available, or buying
into a charter. We live on her during the summer and like being able to return to our home on dry land for the off season.
A few suggestions: Charter lots of different boats to get a feel for what you like and are comfortable maintaining. We sailed some really nice boats (Island Packets, Sabres, Shannons, etc.) but ended up with a Bavaria
as they go fast in light winds and are a breeze to work
on & maintain (for now- knock on wood). Ditto on the "don't buy a new boat" advice
. Your first major boat purchase
will likely not be your last. You might want a shallow draft
cat now for cruising in the Caribbean/Bahamas, but may fall in love with other destinations more suitable for other types of boats.
Good luck and have fun planning/obsessing- as sometimes this is half the fun.