A couple who sold all of their possessions and left their jobs in Colorado to pursue their dream of sailing around the Caribbean has seen their dream fall apart and lost everything they owned in a manner of 20 minutes during the second day of their maiden voyage down the coast of Florida.
Tanner Broadwell and Nikki Walsh worked extra side jobs, sold of unneeded possessions and saved every penny to put their plan of sailing around the Caribbean into motion.
When they had saved a little over $10,000, the couple purchased a 1969 Columbia sailboat in Alabama and spent another $5,000 overhauling the boat to make it seaworthy.
Broadwell’s father helped the couple sail the boat from the Alabama coast to Panama City, FL where the couple lived aboard the vessel while making repairs. That trip was their only sailing experience before setting off on a trip down the Florida coast to Key West.
On the second day of their trip, the couple was pulling into John’s Pass.
According to a report from the Tampa Bay Times, that’s when everything went wrong:
It was about 8:45 p.m. when they sailed into a new port, navigating a channel they had never sailed before, in the dark, fog rolling in.
Broadwell steered while Walsh stood at the bow, lighting their path with a spotlight, trying to figure out the navigational buoys. But the red and green buoys seemed out of place, they said, and the shoal wasn’t where their 2016-17 navigational charts said it should be. Had Hurricane Irma altered the channel?
Then it happened: The Lagniappe struck something underwater. Walsh almost flew off the deck.
Broadwell realized that the boat was taking on water. Walsh called Sea Tow, a company that specializes in towing and assisting stranded boaters. However, the service said they were at least 45 minutes away.
“My hands are shaking,” Walsh said. “I know I probably sounded like a crazy person to them. I’m stuttering trying to talk to them.
“They said they would be there in 40 minutes. I thought ‘That is a long time to spend out here.’”
By the time the assistance vessel arrived, their sailboat was already sinking and the couple had to abandon ship with the small dog, about $90 in cash and their ID cards. Everything else they owned either went down with the boat or floated away.
“I’m just standing there in awe. I just lost everything I ever owned. I see my things floating away and I can’t get to them,” Walsh said in an interview.
To make matters worse, authorities say they are responsible for getting their now partially sunken boat out of the shallow, well trafficked channel. Recovery fees could be over $10,000, more than they spent on the boat in the first place.
The couple did not have insurance on the boat. They are currently getting by with the help of friends and family, and are staying in a cheap motel near the wreckage site.
“How do I have everything,” Walsh said, “and end up in a sh*&*# hotel with nothing?”
Despite the major setback, the couple isn’t giving up.
“I’m not going to give up now,” Broadwell said. “I’m going to get another boat down the road.”
“We can’t just give up on our dreams,” Walsh said.