As the smoke grew thicker, Rosenberg and her teenage son grabbed fire extinguishers to spray into the engine compartment while her husband tried to dock the boat to the closest surface — a walkway connected to Trump Tower.
“There was tons of smoke. You couldn’t see,” said Rosenberg, 53.
But her family heard people on the pavement yelling. They shouted, “Get off! Get off!”
The bystanders, which included some crew members from a nearby Wendella boat, helped hoist the family — and their 3-year-old dog — to safety over the walkway’s railing. The five people on the boat escaped and were not injured from the apparent electrical fire, which was out by 3:20 p.m., said Chicago Fire Department Cmdr. Frank Velez.
About 50 firefighters responded to the 300 block of North State Street around 3 p.m. by boat, fire engine and a firetruck to help the passengers. Two police boats also sped to the scene.
“Everybody was out by the time we got there,’’ Velez said. “No one was hurt.’’
The unusual sight attracted the attention of pedestrians, who crowded the DuSable Bridge on Michigan Avenue and leaned over the side to get a better view.
The sleek silver boat, which is emblazoned with large letters on the back spelling SANDJ after Sandra Rosenberg, is an Italian-made model from 2008, Rosenberg said.
The family was on the boat only for a short time Saturday, traveling west on the river after undocking from 31st Street Harbor, when the fire started.
After the smoke dissipated, the family from suburban Highland Park and Tanner the dog waited near the boat as Fire Department officials inspected the vessel. Two officials from the department’s office of fire investigations wore protective masks on their faces to keep black soot and other harmful particles from the fire out of their lungs.
The lid of the engine compartment, which was originally white but stained a dark gray from the fire, remained open as investigators interviewed the boat owners.
Meanwhile, Tanner, a scruffy Bichon Frise-Shih Tzu mix, trotted along the pavement without a leash, approaching strangers and seemingly unfazed by the ordeal.
John Ludvik, a Wendella captain, also stood nearby talking with first responders on the scene. Ludvik and three of his crew members saw the smoking boat as they were finishing up a tour, evacuated their ship and rushed over to help, he said.
The crew members helped tie the boat to the walkway and pulled the passengers over the railing, Ludvik said.
“Being an electrical fire, it was tons of black smoke,” Ludvik said. “It looks like a big, black rubber fire.”
Electrical fires aboard boats are “very rare,” Ludvik added.