Your impression that there is a lot of swimming initially is incomplete. There is always
a lot of swimming.
OC1 is a ton of fun. OC2 is too. Like LSB I'm accustomed to pool and drop rivers and as such find flotation bags sufficient, but I'm contemplating adding pumps to the solo boats because my daughter and I plan to spend a little time paddling some sections of the Arkansas this summer, which brings me to my next point.
We will be in the Smokeys for Week of Rivers at the beginning of July. Between now and then you are very likely to find a boat in that area that will work for you. If you do and can work it out with the seller (that's never a problem) I'll pick it up and bring it back to Arkansas, then I'll deliver it to the Ark valley two weeks later and you can meet me there to take possession. The same applies to boats anywhere in Arkansas (they're pretty widely available here too).
I think you should get a canoe and give it a shot. They're big fun to paddle and outfit, and if you decide you don't like it you'll have no trouble selling it out there.