A loaded topic? No doubt.
Go small? An 11,000 lb, 24'' sailboat is only small in its usable interior space.
Go simple? If one thinks building from scratch an 11,000 lb, 24'' carvel planked wooden boat results in a simple boat one should attempt to duplicate the process.
Go now? Do you have any idea how long it takes to build such a boat. Or the 30'', 18,000 lb one that followed.
When I was in the SoPac in the early 90''s the average boat size for a couple seemed to be around 40'' ~ 42''. Refrigeration, water makers and RIBbies, were the must haves. GPS
was just starting to become resonable in price and well worth the ~$1,000. The owners were successful in life and could now afford these vessels.
However I also met many solos and couples in smaller and larger boats.
Some were happy, some miserable. The boat size had little to do with the atitude of the owners.
So Stede are you a couple? Do you plan to become one? Or are you a dedicated solo? That may go a long way in helping you determine your boat type. Because even if you are or you become a couple you are still in essence a solo.
Another question would be, "How much blue water experience do you have?"
This question is not about your ability to sail, it is about your level of experience. If your amount of blue water experience is very limited or nonexistent then your ideas for your ideal boat will change, sometimes dramatically once you are out for 2 years or so.
You said your budget is $65k. I would suggest that you think about putting $25k away in a safe investment and use the other money to get the least boat that will serve your intended purpose. Today''s used f/g boat market is filled with boats in the 30'' -35'' range that are suitable(usually with some modifications) for getting you out sailing now. Many are available for less than $25k.
Think of it this way. If you put your boat on the rocks or reef and it goes down with everthing you own, how much more upset are you going to be if the boat represents every nickle you have? Vs. knowing you have a sizable nest egg stashed away.
In the early 80''s I was in Hilo repairing a dismasted 45'' slug(not mine). A young man about 23yo came sailing into the harbor one day in a 20'' Flicka. He built in the back yard of his parents house. He sailed the boat from Dana Point, Ca. in 23 days. He was having the time of his life.
Years later when I was in a small atoll in western French Polynesia I met a couple(40ish) aboard a large Mason(53'') designed boat. The owner had made a small fortune in real estate. He cashed out and went sailing.
The thing is I could not tell you whether he was having more or less fun than the 23yo in the Flicka. The big boat guy was certainly more comfortable.
I built a boat(not a thing to do for the inexperienced or faint of heart). Sailed and lived aboard for 5 years including 2 years in the SoPac. 30'', simple and easy to solo, which I did most of the time.
Now I am like you in some ways. Considering another boat. My budget is quite a bit less than yours. However I think I can still manage a 36'' boat. Will probably start in the spring 2005.
Take care and good fortune in your decision,