The MJM is the eighth boat MacMillan has owned; prior boats include a large trawler and six sailboats. When he purchased the MJM, MacMillan was downsizing in scale — he wanted something easier to transport than the trawler and quicker to operate than a sailboat. The MJM, with its focus on high-end finishes and state-of-the-art technology, "fit the bill of everything I wanted."

But boating isn't all about high-tech gadgets and posh staterooms. It's often about satisfying emotional needs for community and, conversely, privacy, boaters say.

"The best part about boating is the relationships," says Betsy Schreitmueller, an avid sailboat racer who has developed a core group of female friends during her years racing on the bay. "Doing something competitive together in all kinds of weather conditions — there's a lot of bonding that goes on."

Bluewaters' Meyers sees the opposite appeal.

"When you untie the lines and start your cruise, you become your own island. There's a real sense of freedom, privacy and relaxation."

What's new in boating

Some of the latest trends captivating upscale seafarers' hearts — and wallets:

Going big: First-time boat buyers are opting for bigger boats these days, reports Annapolis Yacht Sales' Tim Wilbricht. "We used to sell a lot of smaller sailboats," he says. "But now people are jumping to larger boats for their first boating experience." He says the new "sweet spot" for sales is in the 37- to 41-foot range.

Get catty: In the sailing world, catamarans have grown in popularity, says Annapolis Boat Shows GM Paul Jacobs. "They are wide and long and very comfortable. They don't tip. You can sleep four couples easily, and they don't have a big draft [the depth of the bottom of the boat]. so you can go shallow places."

Five-star marinas: Joy McPeters of Marinalife says that as the boating industry has grown, marinas have stepped up their games in terms of services and amenities. "Marinas need to go to the next level to keep boaters coming back," she says. "It's just like a hotel."