Coast Guard crews credited a quick-thinking boater for helping the agency rescue him and another person Thursday about 54 miles northwest of Key West. There were no injuries.
The mariner, headed to Key West from Naples, was able to put out a fire on his 24-foot Bayliner sometime Wednesday, but the blaze nearly destroyed his VHF radio and propulsion systems, said Coast Guard Sector Key West spokesman Peter Bermont.
There was no information given about the second person on the boat.
He was able to put out a two-second radio call over VHF Channel 16 at 2 p.m. Thursday that said only "Mayday, mayday, boat fire," Bermont said.
The radio then went dead, but lucky for the boater, Coast Guard crews found him using the Rescue 21 system, which triangulates VHF signals received by multiple radio towers to determine location.
Coast Guard crews launched a C-130 search plane from Sector Clearwater and a 45-foot boat from Sector Key West, Bermont said.
The C-130 spotted the boat, seeing that the mariner had written SOS on the bimini top.
As the plane approached, he also shot two flares, Bermont said. The plane dropped a radio to the boater.
The Coast Guard boat from Key West towed the Bayliner to the Northwest Channel, where it was met by a salvage vessel that towed it to Robbie's Maritime Center on Stock Island.
"This case validates the layered system of search and rescue," said Coast Guard Sector Key West Deputy Cmdr. John Reed.
"The outcome can be attributed to the mariner's actions, the Coast Guard's Rescue 21 advanced communication system, the watchstanders and the operators of the aircraft and surface assets.
"We couldn't have asked for a better outcome."