Well I hope you stick with the game because your two issues should be solved,
First JTodd has addressed the New Player Experience (starter quests and such) multiple times... in a nutshell there are not any in the game atm because he does not want to spend the resources to have to keep changing them as the game is stiil changing
Second, the whole reason everyone else is ahead of you is passive skill training, with higher skills it gets so much easier for rare resources, and such. As an example I am not even a quarter through my crafting and exploration tables.. I can barely take down a rank two motherload with another player... yet I have many more points to train in damage to motherloads, runehammer damage ect.. Furthermore eventually I will be able to make better tools as I advance in my runemaking skill and gain better tools that do more damage.
Most of your problems lie in the fact that some people have been filling those trees for two months longer than you, when the skill trees are wiped... no one will have vessels or be able to get one for quite a while..
I hope this cleared some things up