A cruel twist of fate and a passion for boats are now ingrained in Boatshed’s 20-year history through a chain of events that was to revolutionize the yacht brokerage industry.

It all started in 1998 when a Bronze Medal for Gallantry and Letters of Appreciation were awarded to the RNLI crew of the Courtmacsherry Lifeboat in recognition of their rescue of the three crew members from the sailing yacht Supertaff.

Seasoned sailors Mandy and Neil Chapman had taken an eight-month break to go sailing when they were dismasted in storm force 10 south-westerly winds off the west coast of Ireland in only their first month of the voyage.

Undeterred – and after a rebuild and repairs to Supertaff – the couple cast off again. Upon their return in 1999, they decided that they just had to do something more with boats!

A year of change and challenges

In the same year that Mandy and Neil launched the Boatshed Yacht Brokerage business, President Clinton was acquitted of perjury and obstruction of justice, NATO was bombing Yugoslavia, the USA women's soccer team won the FIFA Women’s World Cup, NASA lost two Mars-bound space probes and the Panama Canal was handed back to Panama.

Discover 20 facts about Boatshed you might not know


September 1999 – and Boatshed opened its doors for business. Mandy used the embryonic FrontPage software to create the first Boatshed.com website. Photographs were taken on film and developed at the local chemist, costing about £200 per week – just on developing film – because so many images were being taken of each boat.


April 2000 – and a huge sigh of relief with the first boat sale of a Rival 34. It was a tough start, with no boat sales in the first six months of trading. But by the end of the first year, 118 boats had been sold as the business really took off. An office was rented at Milford Haven Marina and the couple lived on-board their Rebel 41, Supertaff. To supplement income, Mandy provided a boat upholstery service to local customers from the office. With no budget for marketing, creativity was essential in how the new business was promoted.


The 100th boat they sold was a classic wooden Swallow.


Christmas parties held in the small Milford Haven office were legendary, fuelled partly by numerous alcoholic presents given to Mandy and Neil when boats were sold. The office overflowed with people.


2001 – and two years after building up the brokerage business in Milford Haven, Mandy and Neil decided to sail to new locations. Mike de Graaf purchased Boatshed Wales and Dick Collins set up Boatshed in Ireland.


2003 - Supertaff sailed south to Gibraltar for the inauguration of Boatshed’s third office, just off Main Street. The furniture came from the new (but recently abandoned) Hilton Hotel, so it’s stylish furniture was sold and some of it moved into what was to be the smallest Boatshed office in the world!


2003 – with a new direction as Boatshed became a Franchise business.


2004-5 – after creating the Boatshed Gibraltar franchise, Mandy and Neil sailed back to the UK to grow the business further and introduced group training for multiple offices to expand their respective empires.


2005 – Offices 4 and 5 launched with Boatshed Portsmouth and Boatshed Hamble.


2005 - Boatshed teamed up with Sail 8 and Bob Geldof to lead a small flotilla from France to help raise awareness in tackling world poverty as part of the Live 8 concerts.


Boatshed sponsors an Offshore 225hp race boat bringing widespread media coverage and launched new offices in the Algarve and Spain.


2006 – the annual Boatshed Conference which brought together Boatshed offices from the Algarve, Hamble, Norfolk, Wales, Ireland, Poole, Barcelona, Cadiz and Alicante for the first time. Upgrades to Boatshed.com website to include up to 80 images of each boat listed for sale.


2006 – by September more than 100,000 registered users have signed up to Boatshed.com. The premium Boatshed brand Boatshed Performance is launched as a platform for selling and buying open 60's.


2007 – Boatshed presented with Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the Boating Business Exhibition


2008 – a change at the helm in Boatshed Gibraltar as John and Lynda Alcantara joined the Boatshed group...and are still at the helm today. Scott and Lisa Helker from Boatshed Seattle also started their business this year and have been awarded Boatshed Broker of the Year several times.


Boatshed launched its online boat auction website www.boatbid.com.


2009 – boat sales reached a new high in August, with 124 boats were sold in one month alone


2011 – Boatshed expanded operations to include inland waterways in France and England.


2015 – Boatshed introduced dedicated Owners’ Portals for boat sellers to see real stats about their boats in real time


2019 – Boatshed records 20 years of growth and success with more than 20,000 boats sold, 880,000 registered customers and further upgrades to its online presence to accommodate 300 images, videos and virtual reality walkthroughs for each listing.

For co-founders Neil and Mandy Chapman, Boatshed.com is much more than a way of life. It’s a way of bringing people who love boats together by making the process of buying and selling boats easier and more enjoyable. Two decades on – and with 70 offices in 16 countries and selling more boats, faster, than any other yacht brokerage – here’s to the next 20 years!