NewsRegion South PinellasMadeira Beach


Couple escapes capsized boat off John's Pass, loses everything

Posted at 11:31 PM, Feb 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-12 07:11:43-05

MADEIRA BEACH, Fla. — An old sailboat symbolized a new life for a Colorado couple who relocated to Tampa Bay. 

Tanner Broadwell and Nikki Walsh sold just about everything they owned, including a car, to buy a 28-foot boat and sail the Gulf of Mexico hoping to escape the trappings of modern life. 

"Travel and do things on our own terms when we wanted to, thought what better way to do it than with a sailboat," said Broadwell. 

Their trip came to an abrupt and dangerous end in only the second night passing through John's Pass off Madeira Beach. 

"We hit something in about 8 or 9 feet of water and it stopped the boat completely," said Broadwell. 

The couple says it was a traumatic moment, watching the Gulf water rush inside and destroy everything they had. 

They grabbed their social security cards, some cash, and a few clothes. 

"Everything I've worked for, everything I've owned since I was a child, I brought with me. It's just floating away and there's nothing I can do," recalled Walsh. 

Storms often shift the channel leading to the docks and unforgiving sandbars wait to trap boats. 

"We've also had several experienced captains hit that from time to time when there's been big storms and they try to get into the inlet and they don't hit the buoy just right," said Kenny Keen, a local charter boat captain. 

Keen showed ABC Action News the capsized boat Friday night, still peeking over the Gulf waters. 

He's seeing more sunken vessels recently, posing a threat to other boaters. 

"You could run into that mast or run into some floating debris that's just underneath the surface of the water and really hurt your boat or even hurt yourself," said Keen. 

While Tanner and Nikki are trying to figure out how to pay the estimated $6,700 to remove their sunken boat from the Gulf, they aren't giving up on their adventure. 

"The boat sank, but our dreams didn't sink with the boat," said Walsh.