You'd need to be a licensed captain
if you were taking paying passengers on board. But not if you're simply a recreational boat owner in the USA and not running the boat as a business.
And Floridian whipper-snappers (born after Jan. 1, 1988) are required to get boating safety education, but anyone can take the class and a new boater would get a lot out of it, especially about rules, equipment
, safety, and basics of navigation
. The class is also required for some folks who are cited for violations afloat. See: Florida Boating Safety and Education
Florida Boating Safety and Education
and the calendar:
Event Calendar - FWC Outreach
Looks like it has a US Power Squadron-conducted boating safety class Monday evening in St. Pete. Power Squadrons and US CG Auxiliary offer lots of other boating classes, too.
As for the buying
a boat right off the start, some folks might say there is some risk in doing so before you've gotten comfortable with sailing and had a chance to experience sailing on different boats. But that very much depends upon you and your background, experiences, risk tolerance, skills, and many other personal factors.
And others might say you'd learn the fundamentals of sailing best by starting with a small sailboat, which gives more immediate feedback and makes it more obvious when you don't do things just right. But this is one of * many * points that sailors love to debate. If you are interested in this, there are quite a few sailing schools, clubs, co-ops, community sailing programs, etc., where you can learn to sail and then practice on small or not-so-small boats, sometimes for a quite reasonable cost. And there are plenty of good sailing books
and videos around; your public library is likely to have some.
It would likely be wise to study up on how sailboats and boat systems are made, get the help of an experienced sailor in looking at the boat, find an owners' group for the boat you want so as to learn about that model's quirks, and/or find a reputable, thorough surveyor
to inspect the boat of your dreams. Your family's boating background will help with much of this, but sailboats do have a few quirks of their own that it'd be nice to come up to speed on, and if the boat is bigger than you've owned before it may have more systems for you to get used to.