Re: Beginners Question... HELP!!!
I'd personally go the dinghy route. We did the same thing while living in Tucson (bought a Buccaneer 18, which is just a few feet longer than a mutineer). It also depends on the venue for dropping the boat in the water. If you need to back a trailer with a big heavy boat, you may need an extendable tongue (they do that for 3200 lb J-24's), a big hassle, in addition to stepping the rig- that gets old very fast if you are not keeping the boat where you can keep the mast stepped and ready to go. If you have access to a lake with a club that uses a hoist (and you keep your boat there), all the better. Hoisting a heavier boat takes maybe 30 minutes and you're on your way, once you're practiced at it. Buying a smaller boat like the mutineer or capri 14.2 (which is what the AZ sailing foundation uses) are great learning boats- pretty difficult to capsize and easy to put in the water from a ramp. I'd drive to those places you're interested in and look at the boats- bring the instructor with you.
By the way, rgscpat- who's your son? I took their ASA classes back in 2008. Great program!