December 7, 2022

Colorado Couple ‘Loses Everything’ After Sinking Boat, Strangers’ Generosity Helps Them Rebuild

3 min read

A couple from Colorado recently made viral news when, after selling all of their belongings to buy a sailboat and hit the open waters, the boat sank near Florida just two days after their departure.

Nikki Walsh, 24, and Tanner Broadwell, 26, purchased their boat for $5,000 and had spent another $5,000 on repairs and renovations. About 95% of boats sold in the United States are made in the United States, but the couple had lovingly named their vessel after a Creole term for ‘bonus,’ Lagniappe.

“Like the 13th donut in a dozen. It’s something extra for you,” Broadwell told the Tampa Bay Times regarding the name.

The couple moved from Colorado to the Florida Gulf Coast to save up for the 28-foot boat before setting sail on February 6 from Tarpon Springs.

Unfortunately, just two days into their once-in-a-lifetime adventure, the Lagniappe struck something in the water and completely capsized in John’s Pass on the way to the Florida Keys, leaving them with nothing to their name except a small amount of cash, their social security cards, and their pug, Remy.

Half a million big rig accidents happen each year, and deaths from these accidents account for 10% of all traffic-related deaths. Still, while boating accidents are not quite as common, they can certainly be destructive. Experts say Hurricane Irma likely contributed to the unexpected troubles. Walsh recalls a moment in the midst of the chaos when she was in pure disbelief.

“I’m just standing there in awe,” she said. “I just lost everything I ever owned. I see my things floating away and I can’t get to them.”

While Walsh and Broadwell do say they had relatively limited sailing experience prior to embarking on their journey, their fate was likely sealed anyway due to unforeseen changes in their projected navigational chart that could throw off even the most experienced sailors. According to statistics from the NHTSA and Auto Vantage auto club, 66% of fatal crashes are caused by aggressive driving, but that’s rarely the case when it comes to boating accidents — for the most part, Mother Nature has the last word.

However, after a strike of good fortune, the couple has not only raised more than $16,000 through a GoFundMe campaign, but they’ve miraculously managed to replace their boat, thanks to an overwhelming act of kindness from a stranger.

Retired physician from St. Petersburg, Mark Reinecke, 77, sold the couple his old 36-foot Odyssey for quite the bargain — a single dollar. He said he related to the couple’s story, having himself moved from Colorado and once having a pug, named Chow. While he used to sail his boat years ago, it’s gotten more difficult with age.

“So I’ve had it there behind the house trying to think of something to do with it,” Reinecke said. “That boat is like part of our family, but we also feel that the sailboat deserves to be at sea, not just sitting there, so when this situation came up, we said, ‘Let them have it.’ It’s like passing it on to the next generation.”

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