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Brett,

Welcome to SailNet.

Based on some of your assumptions about sailing, I would suggest that you first take a sailing course. An on water course will help you to determine if you even like to sail. Once you do that, you should revisit your list and see if it changes. I would also suggest Googgling for a local sail club to join. They are inexpensive and often will give you the opportunity to sail on other people's boats so that you can see just how varied the choices are.

As it stands, it seems to me like you should be looking at boats that can be trailered (to get to the lakes and back out to the coast) and have an adjustable keel (for the gunkholing in rivers). You'll also need a vehicle that can safely tow the boat.

As for boat size, unless you go with the high end of 20 feet towards the trailerable limit, 7 people will be a tight fit even then. Unless you love each other a LOT.

Spend some time in the Learning to Sail forum. Others with your same questions have received good advice. Ask questions here and best of luck with your new adventure!!
 

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