Intro and Advice Sought
We are a family of four with kids 10b and 9g. We have been planning for several years to cash out and cruise for at least a year. Originally, we had planned on leaving in early 2009. Circumstances have changed and we find ourselves with the opportunity to set sail next winter (2007). We currently live the mountains of Western North Carolina. I grew up in the Panama Canal Zone and crewed a bit. I am not an accomplished sailor. We have owned several small sailboats (a laser and a lonestar 16) and a 20' motorboat that we spent a lot of nights on. We have sailed together as a family from Nassau to Staniel Cay and back. The kids are great around the water. My wife was a bit claustrophobic in the forward berth.
I need advice about the following things:
Buying a boat - Our budget for a boat tops out at $140k with the ideal being in the 100k range. We would prefer a catamaran for several reasons but a monohull that provides separate "staterooms" for the kids would work. Also, a master/owners stateroom that would be airy and roomy. Design and soundness far outweighs luxury. We have looked at Hardins and like the design. Where can I find that great family cruiser?
Kids education - We've heard about calvert but would welcome alternatives. I'd love to find a good website or discussion with families that are about to, are currently, and have cruised.
Pet on board - Guffey is a 85lb 2 year old yellow lab. Are there any restrictions about pets entering international ports? I've read plenty of articles about "boat-training" dogs but any additional advice would be greatly appreciated.
I have a million other questions but those are the big three right now. I know that there are questions that I haven't even thought about asking. My wife and I are planning on getting instruction from a reputable source. Advice on a good school for couples/families would be appreciated.