Galaxy Girl, the steps outlined by George are almost precisely what we did after scouring internet forums with scattered results. There is just too much information coming at you to understand what applies and what doesn't. There is no substitute for chartering when it comes to showing what you like or dislike IMO. Day charters are very eye opening.
I might add that finding a local professional captain that you can relate too may help if you can not locate a naval architect, but do the reading first. This process while not glamorous will flatten out the learning curve by a large factor.
Great advice George.
Craig - AKA Some Clueless Idiot
The person who is saying something is impossible should not interrupt the person who is doing it.