Couple whose dream boat sank in John's Pass raises thousands to get back on the water

Published February 12 2018
Updated February 28 2018

MADEIRA BEACH — The couple who left their jobs and sold it all to buy a boat and sail the Caribbean — only to watch it sink to the bottom of John’s Pass on the second day of the voyage — has now raised more money than the boat cost via GoFundMe.

Their campaign titled Couple’s Sunken Dreams surpassed its $10,000 goal in just three days. They raised more than $14,000 by Monday night through hundreds of online donations ranging from $5 to $400.

Tanner Broadwell, 26, Nikki Walsh, 24, and their 2-year-old pug Remy were forced to abandon ship last week when their 28-foot sailboat the Lagniappe struck something, flooded and capsized in John’s Pass near Madeira Beach.

They said they purchased the boat for $5,000 and spent another $5,000 preparing it for the voyage while living at Mar Marina in Tarpon Springs. They told the Tampa Bay Times that all their possessions, as well as their entire savings, went down with the ship, leaving them with about $90 in cash, his ID and her cell phone.

The Coast Guard also told the couple they need to remove the sunken boat, which would cost thousands.

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"Right now, we’re just trying to figure out how to get the boat out of the water, and it looks like we’ll be able to do that this week," Broadwell said Monday. "We’re extremely thankful. There’s a lot of people who want to see us succeed, and that feels really good."

After the Times story, the couple’s tale spread to news outlets around the U.S. and beyond. Broadwell said he’s fielded calls from reporters in Russia. Walsh’s father lives in China, and called to say he saw them on the news there.

Broadwell said his plan for the money is to "continue the dream" of sailing the world and living aboard a boat. He hopes to be back on the water in two or three months and wants to keep people posted on his, Walsh’s and Remy’s travels to inspire others by "showing the world it can be done."

He knows that not everyone who has read about the couple has been so kind. He tries to ignore comments from people saying they should have drowned.

Others have criticized them for not having insurance, or for not having enough experience on the water to handle the boat.

"That’s not true at all," he said. "There was an obstruction underwater that hadn’t been marked on any chart. Everyone I’ve met on my journey says it could have happened to anyone, regardless of experience.

"We were traveling two knots. We were extremely safe."

Video courtesy of CBS-47 in Jacksonville.