Three fishermen from Cape Breton are happy to be back home and thankful for being rescued by the crew of a Marine Atlantic ferry after their boat caught fire.

The crew, from We'koqma'q First Nation, were fishing red fish when their vessel caught fire. The crew blamed a hot pipe that quickly ignited everything around it, including the safety raft.

“Before I left, I hugged my family because you never know, right,” said Christian Phillips.“I called them before I left and said I loved them. I didn't expect this.”

Before jumping into the ocean in their survival suits, Capt. Blaine Hamilton radioed for help.

“I was trying to stay calm, keep my senses about me, but I knew we had to get off, we had to abandon ship,” said Hamilton.

The distress call was heard at 10 p.m. Monday by a passing Marine Atlantic ferry en route to Port aux Basques, N.L.

The MV Leif Ericson switched course and responded to the vessel, which was 50 miles south of Port aux Basques, N.L.

For nearly two hours the three men waited, bobbing in the waters of the Cabot Strait 90 kilometres northeast of Sydney.

“I have experience with Coast Guard, so it was not my first search-and-rescue call, but what we didn't know was what we were going to find,” said Scott Dowding, the captain of the MV Leif Ericson. “The boat was on fire. Were they overcome? We didn't know what to expect actually.”

The captain and two crew members were in the water and their boat was on fire when the ferry arrived.

Only one member of the crew was transported to hospital because he has diabetes and his medication went down with the boat.

The MV Leif Ericson returned to North Sydney around 1 p.m. on Tuesday with the three fishermen on board.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore.