Two hours per foot seems excessive. My original experience comes from painting and finishing custom cars, where the the amount of work after the paint is applied is as much as the prep work, if you want it to be perfect and have that 1000 mile deep smooth finish.
On heavily oxidized hulls you want to use a 1500 wet sand paper, wet sanding
keeps it from clogging and helps keep frictional heat from sanding to a minimum. A heavier grit polish with a regular buffer (not an orbital) will start to show a good shine, then a finish grit polish and a good waxing, now with an orbital buffer will have it looking like new, if the gelcoat
is in decent shape. The gelcoat
from a 1998 shouldn't be that bad unless it's seen some serious abuse.
If your not experienced using a buffer I suggest going easy on at first until you get used to it, once you have an hour or two in you should have a good feel for how aggressively you can buff the surface, the last thing you want to do is burn or rub through the gelcoat. I've been able to knock out a 38 foot boat in two solid weekends but I will tell you that you'll find muscles in your arms and shoulders you never knew you had, it's a pretty good workout.
You can get a buffer decent enough for what you need at Harbor Freight tools pretty cheap
, you don't need a professional one unless you plan to do it for living, the rest of the supplies like the sandpaper and buffing compounds can be found at local bodyshop supply companies or even Jamestown Distributors online.
With a little elbow
grease and minimal money
you can have it looking good, oh, and don't forget the ibuprofin for your aching muscles.