Mark, I totally agree on the idea of instruction. Safety and dealing with emergencies is an obvious area but, just like casting, it seams there are efficient and not so efficient ways of propelling a kayak. Since this will be a first for me, getting the right technique down before developing a bunch of bad habits seems like an all round smart move. Fortunately there are several schools in my neck of the woods also, so I plan to sign up for a few lessons before the season gets going.
It looks like we have quite a core of enthusiastic paddlers and I'm really looking forward to checking out all those previously inaccessible areas!