MIAMI – Steve Thomas said he was testing a 1974 Bertram Yacht when it caught fire Thursday off Key Biscayne.
Thomas, an experienced fly-fishing guide, said the owner of the boat hired him after he had some mechanical work done.
He and three others were testing the boat, registered as the Woodwind II, when he said they saw smoke.
"I did everything I could to save it, but it comes to a point where you just have to say, 'Screw the boat. Save the people on the vessel,'" Thomas said.
Before jumping ship, Thomas said he went to pull the throttle back and felt a cable break. He burned his hands when he opened the hatch, used three fire extinguishers and made sure everyone had life jackets.
The U.S. Coast Guard, Miami firefighters and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue helped extinguish the fire. The black smoke was visible from Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and Matheson Hammock Park, from where the boat departed.
Thomas said he believes the fire was electrical.
U.S. Coast Guard records show the Woodwind II recreational vessel -- 46.5 feet in length -- is registered to a Coral Gables port under John A. Weller, Jr.