as if you didn't need more advice...
i'd get a cheap paddle, but i wouldn't skimp on drytop or PFD. i'm still tooling around in my "nice" paddle jacket, really wishing i had a drytop. was pretty cold early this season, but you could certainly get alot of late season boating in with no drytop. if you're far enough along to know that you'll be paddling till you're old, you might want to go ahead and get the rescue vest - seems like most of the dudes who are really into it are wearing one. learn how to use it though.