Welcome to the family, Todd!
As for your first question, I've never had any problems stepping the mast by myself without any mechanical assistance. If you tie a 10' length of line to the bridle and the other end to the jib halyard shackle, you can hold the mast in place with the jib halyard after you lift the mast up. (Do a search on this forum for "solo mast stepping" and you'll get a ton of free advice.)
To bring the shine back on the hulls, you can start with rubbing compound on an electric buffer, but the real secret is to finish it off with 3M "Finesse-It II" polishing compound and an electric buffer. (You can do it manually, but I don't advise it unless you have lots of time and/or need the exercise.) When I was done restoring my '72 H-14, it looked like it had just popped out of the mold!
You can get the rubbing compound and Finesse-It at West Marine.
To find people to sail with, you should hook up with the folks in Hobie Division 2 here
and Fresno Hobie Fleet 62 here
You can check out the latest edition of the Hobie Class News
, the class magazine at http://www.hobiecat.com/hobieclass
We look forward to seeing you out on the water!