A Whangārei man feared his boat - a four-month labour of love - would explode and throw him overboard as smoke billowed out from below deck on Sunday.
Shortly before 3pm Mike King, 67, from Parihaka, was cruising through choppy seas from Marsden Cove Marina in Ruakākā towards a floating moor in Waikaraka on his 8m launch when he noticed dark plumes of smoke coming from the lower deck.
"I came very slowly out through the marina then I went a bit faster and faster and five minutes later all this smoke was coming out from the motor," King said.
The engine was around 1m below where King stood at the boat's steering wheel.
King was "s*******" himself" as smoke poured from the boat's front hatch and crowded into the canopy at the top of the vessel while around 500m offshore.
"I was hoping it didn't blow up. The explosion would've come up through the top and I'm right there. That's the only time I feared for my safety," he said.
The experienced boatie thought about abandoning ship but hip trouble meant swinging a leg from the deep water into the dinghy he always tows behind his boat would prove too difficult.
Instead the self-described "health and safety fanatic" phoned 111 from the fully charged phone he always carries with him on the water.
"I fully thought a fire was going on down below."
Mid-conversation with the operator the boat's motor cut out, leaving the vessel at the mercy of southwesterly winds exceeding 25km/h.
He followed the operator's advice to hold tight until help arrived but phoned back around four times as the boat neared jagged rocks in the Reotahi Marine Reserve.
"I said, 'I'm getting closer and closer to the rocks' but the awesome woman on the other end of the line kept talking to me, asking questions - just keeping me calm."
Until he said: "I'm on the rocks now, I better go and get on the dinghy."
The boat had grounded on an area of rock and was sitting "bow down a** up" with a now-punctured hull.
By then the Whangārei Heads Volunteer Fire Brigade had arrived. The crew had encountered difficulty locating the boat as it drifted away from the reported location in Parua Bay.
Chief fire officer Paul MacDonald said a relentless search found King drifting offshore near Darch Point Rd in Reotahi.
"When we arrived there was no fire, it had gone out."
He said the exact details about the fire were in short supply.
By 5.45pm King had safely rowed ashore on his dinghy and was supported by firefighters, police, the Northland Regional Council Harbourmaster and locals.
King said he was incredibly grateful for everyone who came to his aid.
He was devastated about his boat's fate as he had spent the last four months sanding and painting it.
"It had only done a couple of trips in the six months I've owned it."
Sunday was a carefully planned operation to get the boat from the yard in Ruakākā to its new permanent mooring and King felt comfortable in the rough conditions, having spent years on the sea.
Sergeant Jim Adamson, from Northland Police search and rescue, said the main thing was King was unharmed in the ordeal.
He advised boaties to make sure vessels were in good working order and to have all of the necessary safety equipment onboard.