Feb. 24--Three passengers were rescued by good Samaritans when their 46-foot sportfishing boat caught fire in the Atlantic on Sunday morning about six miles east of Hillsboro Inlet, said a witness to the blaze.
The Sea Lion was not so lucky.
The boat sank in deep ocean waters more than an hour after the 8:45 a.m. distress call came in to the U.S. Coast Guard, said Capt. John See of Sea Tow in Fort Lauderdale.
All three passengers, two men and a boy, had already boarded another boat by the time Sea Tow and the Coast Guard arrived on scene, said Petty Officer Sabrina Laberdesque.
"We were on scene in case people needed medical assistance," she said. "But no one did. The people were already off the boat."
The names of the rescued passengers were not available late Sunday.
Another fire destroyed a sailboat anchored near Monument Island in Miami Beach early Sunday, The Miami Herald reported. The blaze killed a dog on board.
The Sea Lion's May Day call prompted a response from the Broward Sheriff's Office Marine Unit and Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue. Neither agency could be reached Sunday.
Sea Tow, which heard the distress call come in to the Coast Guard, posted dramatic footage of the blaze on Facebook.
"They said their vessel was on fire and they were going to have to abandon ship," See said. "By the time we got there, the three passengers were already on a good Samaritan's boat."
The Sheriff's Office Marine Unit arrived about two minutes later and transported the Sea Lion's passengers to shore, See said.
The Coast Guard showed up about 30 minutes later, quickly followed by Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue, See said.
"They started shooting it with water," See said of the firefighters. "They weren't trying to save the boat. There was nothing left to save. They were trying to put out the fire to make sure it wasn't a hazard to other boaters that were out there. They had the flames pretty well under control after about 20 minutes. But by the time they got there, so much of the boat had burned down."
With the boat ablaze, more than a dozen boats headed over to watch the Sea Lion's final moments, See said.
"It took about an hour or an hour and a half to sink," he said. "It's sitting in 650 feet of water right now."
See estimates Broward County gets about four May Day calls a year from boaters whose vessels are ablaze at sea.
See kept watch until the boat finally sank.
"If the boat had not sunk, the insurance company would have required us to tow the boat in," he said. "You can't just leave a boat drifting out in the ocean. It becomes a hazard to navigation."
email@example.com or 954-356-4554
Copyright 2014 - Sun Sentinel