The young couple whose story traveled around the world after their dream voyage ended early at the bottom of John’s Pass is ready to try again.
Three months after the Lagniappe sank, Nikki Walsh, 24, and Tanner Broadwell, 26, said they set sail Tuesday afternoon out of St. Petersburg Municipal Marina on the Lagniappe II. They were finally leaving behind the waters that claimed their old sailboat and most of their possessions save for $90, a phone and their beloved pug Remy when they struck something near Madeira Beach.
As they prepared to shove off, Walsh told the Tampa Bay Times they were "keeping an eye" on the weather system rolling north in the Gulf of Mexico, which meteorologists gave a 40 percent chance of developing into a tropical depression or tropical storm over the next five days. At the least, it’s expected to drop a lot of rain along Florida’s gulf coast in the next few days.
"We won’t be too far out. We’ll kind of just be scurrying the coast, so if it gets rough we’ll bring it in," Walsh said. "It’s time to go. It’s like $80 a night at the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina, so we’ve got to go."
They’ve been living on the boat, purchased for $1 from a retired St. Petersburg physician in February, for the past few weeks doing engine repairs.
The plan is to sail the 1985 Cheoy Lee Pedrick 36-foot sailboat formerly named the Odyssey down to the Florida Keys. After that, they’ll sail around the Florida peninsula and up to Merritt Island, where they’re going to do a "bottom job" on the boat and some detail work.
The plan then is to continue the dream that led them to leave their jobs in Colorado, sell everything and buy a sailboat in the first place. Walsh said they’ll sail to the Caribbean and just bounce around, definitely making stops in Cuba and the Bahamas.
Some questioned if the couple had enough experience when their first attempt ended the way it did, although Broadwell told the Times later that it could have happened to anyone, since the obstruction they hit wasn’t charted. Either way, Walsh says the crew, which now includes Broadwell’s father, an experienced sailor, as well as his sister, another friend who lives aboard a sailboat, and three dogs total, is more prepared this time.
"We’re definitely more ready, but also more cautious because the worst that can happen has happened to us," she said. "We’ve learned our lesson not to go into unknown ports at night time."
She expressed gratitude to Mark Reinecke, who essentially gave them the sailboat he owned for more than 30 years after reading about their wreck in the news, and the people who donated more than $16,000 to their GoFundMe campaign to get back on the water and have their old boat removed from John’s Pass.
Nikki said she’d like people to follow the couple’s "new adventure" on her Instagram account: @nikkiwanderwalsh.