keel / draft questions
From an overall performance standpoint, the deeper keel is far superior to a shollow keel.
The reason there are so mane shoal draft keels on the eastern US coast is that the majority of coastal cruising areas have shallow water. Forces the issue, to some extent. The advent of the keel centerboard made up for some of the shortfall of a shallow keel when out in the open ocean.
Seeing the you are planning on sailing on the west coast, where anchorages generally have plenty of depth, I would not concern youself with shoal draft keels. And in your size range, even a deep keel won''t be much greater than 5 feet.
As far as the "Seasoned Salt" who gave you his opinion as far as size is concerned, that only scratches the surface. You can have two boats that meet his criteria, that have two COMPLETELY different sailing capabilities. Overall displacement, coupled with how the displacement is distributed, matter more than a handfull of numbers.
Look for boats with 40 - 50 percent of the displacement in a deep keel. Preferably in lead. Watch out for very heavy (12,000 lbs and up, in the 30 foot range) boats. They will either tend to have a great deal more sail to compensate, or will be slow.
Also look at the rig. Find something that has a fractional (Headstay does not go all the way to the top of the mast) rig. Smaller headsails are easier to handle, and a design that is powered by the main, means a more controllable design.
Take your time. Go to marina''s and clubs in the area you are planning on keeping the boat. ASK QUESTIONS. What works, what doesn''t. Almost every boat owner will be more than happy to tell you about his chosen craft. Also remember that some owners my be biased towards their craft. So temper their enthusiasm.