Thanks for all the info. It looks like one of the best bets is to simply take the classes offered at one of the accredited sailing schools (ACA) and then just head down to the Carribean for a couple of years. Once the necessary "days" of sail time are put in, then return to the USA and get the Coast Guard to sign off on the 6-pack.
It seems a little silly to be able to do it this way, but I guess if you take the classes and actually get the grades (both paper and practical) to earn the ACA certifications, you should be capable of captaining in most circumstances. The CG's time requirement is only good in that it helps to make sure that a captain has the time onboard to have the correct reactions instilled good and deep (one hopes the correct reactions!).
In the meantime, until I can come up with enough cash to buy my boat and run away... I'll keep practicing and sailing on my little Dolphin Sr. It's amazing how big a bow wave it throws off when a storm front with 30 mph winds comes in...