I really like the sound of that Maryland school. I'm considering one of the 8 day cruises in the carribean where they teach the ASA101 and 103 classes. I figure between the two, I should be good enough to motor around, right? And 8 days on a boat of about the size I'm considering should give me a feel of what it would be like to live on one, albeit in a much nicer climate. $2200 is a big chunk of change to drop on something like that, plus airfare. Are there any cheaper schools, or can anyone else back up the assertion that this is a good school (ergo worth the cost)?
I do not know anyone with a boat who lives around here, unfortunately, but there are people that do it. I read The Essentials of Living Aboard a Boat by Mark Nicholas, and purely by chance it turns out he lives in Constitution Marina! It was almost like a how-to guide written just for me. From what it told me, the number 1 thing I need to be concerned about is heat (and by extension, condensation). I think if I have an insulated-hull boat and central heat, I'll be just fine. That seems to be a rare combination, judging by yachtworld.
My budget is not unlimited, but I think is pretty high, especially for someone my age. I have been saving for a couple years to buy a house/condo, but then I thought I'd like a boat more. Banks were willing to give me $250k loans for a condo, and I have about $18k for a down payment. I figure that means I'll be able to get financing for at least a $75k boat, if I figure ~25% down payment. I'd like to not spend more than about $60k though. I was initially enamored by catamarans (more space, no heeling), but after learning most marinas charge double to dock them, I decided I probably want a monohull. I can afford about $1500 in monthly expenses, so that would be boat payment + insurance + marina fees + fuel. At Constitution Marina, the average monthly fee over the year is about $700/mo for a 40' monohull (it varies hugely from winter to summer). Maybe I can find someplace cheaper around here.
Is taking the class a good plan? Have I overlooked anything major? Am I completely insane? (my friends think so). Thanks for your awesome help so far!