This will sound exceedingly lame, but my best advice is simply to try some boats and see what feels right. I gather that youre not in a huge hurry, so you could conceivably wait until later this year, making a trek in July to the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium where you could try out many different boats. Or, there might be a rental center near you with boats that might suit your needs. Because youre going to need a boat that fits both of you, feels comfortable to both of you, and lets you work well together, you should both be present when picking one out.
That said, there certainly are some boats that I would put on my short list. These include:
Prijon Excursion ($1,950; wildnet.com): This is a nice big boat that should make beginners, as well as advanced paddlers, happy. It includes bow and stern hatches for lots of storage, and it has a stiff, sturdy plastic hull.
Wilderness Systems Northstar ($2,125): Heres another plastic (polyethylene) boat, but its a little longer than the Excursion for possible better tracking. Itll hold 600 pounds, so theres plenty of capacity for you and gear. Like the Prijon, it comes with a rudder. The Northstar is also available in fiberglass Pro model, but that one is nearly $4,000 (find one used?).
Necky Amaruk ($1,750; necky.com): The Amaruk is a little more compact, essentially a day-tourist, but it could handle an overnight. Its a very tough, seaworthy boat that would do fine on your waters.
Check out Outside's picks for Gear of the Year and 400-plus gear reviews in the 2007 Summer Buyer's Guide, on newsstands now.