STUNNED onlookers watched as firefighters battled a blaze which engulfed a moored boat.

Calum Rennie, 24, noticed a light in the distance as he returned from his daily bicycle ride along the Wivenhoe trail.

“I noticed a bit of light up ahead and as I got closer realised it was flames,” he said.

“I assumed it was a bonfire, but as I got closer I saw it was a boat, positioned right on the other side of the river where the trail begins.

“I was sitting on my bike and quite a few university students came out to watch.

“It was surreal, because everyone was standing far apart from each other as they took in this spectacle.

“I could make out it was a boat with a cabin.

“It was engulfed in flames.”

Mr Rennie, who is temporarily working at a supermarket after being placed on furlough from his job at Firstsite gallery, also feared people may be aboard the boat.

“There are many different boats down there typically, and I know some people do live on them,” he said.

“That was my first worry, but it didn’t seem like anyone was hurt.

“Within a few minutes I heard sirens coming from the Maltings site, at least two crews.

“One of them got a hose out and immediately started on it, when it appeared it wasn’t going to go out they started with a second hose.

“They kept going and were doing a smashing job.

“Before long it was a big cloud of smoke.”

He added: “I regularly cycle around the area, but I have never seen anything like this.

“What struck me was there was a big crowd out watching it and everyone was silent.

“I think with everything that’s been going on, it made a bit of an interesting interval to watch this happen.

“The fire crews had it under control by about 8.45pm and I moved away as the smoke was so thick, I thought it wasn’t the best idea to breathe it in.”

The fire destroyed the boat, which was moored at the Hythe, Colchester, at around 8.30pm on Monday.

A spokeswoman for Essex Fire Service confirmed the fire was started accidentally.

“Firefighters were called to King Edward Quay, Colchester at 8.20pm,” she said.

“On arrival, crews reported that there was a fire in the cabin of a boat and worked to extinguish it by 9.42pm.

“The cause of the fire was accidental.”