Originally Posted by msjston
As for my choice for a full keel - this is because my ambition is to undertake some long-distance offshore cruising eventually
What about your short term goal? How long till you plan to sail off into the sunset? If your short term goal is to learn to sail and get out locally a heavy cruiser may not be the best boat.
I too want a 30+ heavy boat to long term cruise on someday. If I had the money to buy a big boat now it would not be my first choice though. Besides the heavy/full keel in a cruising boats there are other design factors making them not as nice for other things besides crossing large bodies of water. Narrow beam, small cockpit, etc. can all add up to a boat not so well suited for weekending with a couple of friends at least compared to a racer-cruiser.
Another factor for a bigger heavier boat, is it will take more people to sail it or more experienced people to sail it short handed. This could pose a big problem in the learning curve. But, if your goals is to take off in 5 years then go for it. Get a big heavy boat and take a few courses, find someone local willing to "crew" even if they are more experienced and can help you learn.
If you just want to learn to sail and explore the area then a racer cruiser might be a better short term learning boat. For $5000 you could get a Catalina 25 sail it for a year, probably be comfortable short handed sooner, then move up to your dream boat. Also larger Catalinas, Ericsons or C&Cs might be a good way to start sailing.
When you are 3-5 years out from casting off for long term voyage then start looking for your dream boat. As that is how long preparing a boat for a long trip often takes.