Thanks for the replies (and keep 'em coming!).
I agree with this statement: "There's nothing more expensive than a cheap boat".
However, my current budget will only allow a small purchase and lots of sweat equity. It's either buy now and sail a bit by next summer or wait 2+ more years to save up.
There must be someone out there who is of the opinion that "Hey, it's less $1000. Go for it!" I can always eject (sell it/dump it) if I find it's going to cost too much. But I honestly think I can get it in seaworthy for not much money. That probably means I'll be patching the old sails and living without cushions for a while, but I'll be sailing and learning.