I would make a distinction between learning to sail and learning to handle a small cruiser.
I think learning to handle a small cruiser can be approached by taking a class/hiring a captain/reading books/crewing/just doing it..or a combination of these or all...as the various recommendations above say.
Learing to sail is a different matter, All the above are good suggestions, but in my opinion best preceded by an intense period of time hands-on sailing a small boat. Look for a local sailing club where you can use a small boat for cheap, go out every afternoon for 2-3 weeks, and then you will be good to go. Thousands of others like myself have learned to sail at places like http://www.community-boating.org/
, find something like it in your area. You can do only a tenth of the damage, to the boat or to a loved one, in a Mercury 16 that you might do in a Hunter 31.
I think learning to sail and learning to boat-handle at the same time on a 30 footer is a formula for disaster. It may work out fine for you, many sailors have done so successfully, then again you do create a real risk of injuring even killing someone that you love. ..how's it go, do you feel lucky today?
Learn to sail first, then learn the boat handling, and the risks in my opinion are far more manageable..