Nutmeg, do you have any finalists under consideration?
Also, are you left coast or right coast or bi-coastal? Proximity of the maker would have some weight with me.
I noticed there where Bierdakas (sp?) on one of those sites (already built) for more then the price of an airline ticket, the course and the boat at the Center for Woodenboats here in Seattle. At least, I think it would come to less then $3500. I have walked through the class on a couple of occasions since it's held during the summer at the shelter at the entrance to CWB.
They seemed incredibly easy to build: a basket you pull an artifical sort of skin over, stitch up and then tighten by applying your choice of paint (what they have or bring your own). All the builders where beginners (at least at building) and the finished products I saw where very professional looking.
If you don't think for yourself, someone else will do it for you!