CLEARWATER, FL (WFLA) – US Coast Guard rescue crews saved a man and his dog after days on the water. The man was sailing from New Orleans to Tampa.

The man told the Coast Guard his sailboat was disabled for three days before it caught fire Friday afternoon. “When I saw the smoke I knew that we found what we were looking so that actually made it a little bit easier. We were probably about 10 nautical miles away when I started to see the smoke in the distance,” aircraft commander Lt. Chanel Lee said.

“There was a lot of smoke and not much left of the boat but it definitely made it easier for us to spot. He contacted the Coast Guard. He put his life jacket and gave a good position to where we could locate him,” said Erick Leib with the Coast Guard.

Rescue crews found the dog huddled in a blanket. “He kept the dog close to his chest,” Leib said.

Crews didn’t initially know how big the dog was. “Is it going to be a problem? Is it going to freak out on you? But it was a very small dog, and I just told him to hold on very tight to it,” Leib said.

The man and the dog were both taken to the hospital for treatment because they inhaled smoke before abandoning the ship. “Once we’ve got them in the helicopter and we know we’ve saved someone and we also did it in a safe manner, it’s a feeling of relief and a feeling of excitement. Your adrenaline is going for sure, but it’s an exciting and rewarding feeling,” Leib said.MORE ON WFLA.COM: