For one couple that was hoping to find greener pastures, all they found were rough waters.
Tanner Broadwell and Nikki Walsh from Colorado wanted the freedom to be able to travel anywhere. They sold much of what they owned, bought a boat, and set sail for Key West, Florida.
“We want to live a minimalist lifestyle but still be able to see the world,” 26-year-old Broadwell told PEOPLE. “We can go anywhere we want in the world on our own schedule.”
On February 9, the second day of their trip, the couple hit something in the water while going through John’s Pass near St. Petersburg, Florida. Their boat sank, and with it, their hopes of living off their boat.
Tanner Broadwell and Nikki Walsh were living on their boat off the coast of Florida—until it sank.
The couple had been living on their 28-foot sailboat for a year before trying to set sail for Key West. They worked slowly, but diligently, to make repairs and make the vessel seaworthy.
Walsh’s father taught them how to sail by making short trips between Alabama and Florida.
Broadwell and Walsh lost everything they owned in the watery wreck. They were able to grab a few essentials, like their dog, ID, and some cash, but all their sentimental and valuable belongings were well beneath the water’s surface now.
“I was speechless to see all my things floating, and not being able to take them,” 24-year-old Walsh said. “And what was even worse is I saw my dreams going down with the boat. Everything we planned was just disappearing within minutes.”
They were rescued by the Coast Guard after fleeing the sinking vessel with their lifejackets. They returned to the site later to find that there was nothing to be salvaged from the wreckage.
“It didn’t feel real at first,” Broadwell told PEOPLE. “I thought I was going to wake up and it would all be a dream.”
Amid some jeering and taunting on social media, the couple insisted their dream didn’t sink with their boat.
Unsurprisingly, many who heard their story were less than kind on social media. Even in the face of some taunting in the comments section, they tried to get their dream back on track.
But before they could think about getting another boat and setting sail again, they had to get their other boat out of the water. The Coast Guard wanted the boat removed from the bay for safety reasons—it would cost $10,000.
The couple started a GoFundMe page, which quickly generated enough to cover the cost of getting the boat out of the water.
“Phase 1 is finally complete,” Walsh wrote on their GoFundMe page. “We have contracted to have the boat taken out of Johns Pass. The boat title has been transferred to the salvage company’s name.”
“Thank you so much for everyone’s support, it is a HUGE weight off our shoulder. And thank you to the salvage company, Disco Volante Marine!”
They intended to use any extra money generated from the fundraiser towards buying a new boat—then they caught a huge break.
Mark Reinecke heard their story and wanted to help. He offered them a boat he hadn’t used in years. The cost was $1.
“These kids just had bad luck and were in trouble and needed some help,” 77-year-old Reinecke told ABC News. “I’ve had the sailboat since 1985. I used to anchor it on weekends. I’ve gotten my value out if it.”
His intention wasn’t to sell the boat, but for legal reasons he charged a nominal amount to absolve himself of any liabilities should another accident occur.
“This is like giving your daughter up to marriage,” he added. “It’s something that kind of hurts but in the end it’s for the greater good.”
The boat is in need of minor repairs, which the couple are doing in earnest. And even though many of their treasured personal items remain under water, they have their dream back.
“It was so nice of him,” Walsh said. “He had no reason to do that for us.”