A 77-year-old Ballina yachtsman had a lucky escape when his 40-foot yacht was ripped apart by an explosion about six nautical miles east of Ballina this morning.

The man, who does not want to be identified, was on a pleasure cruise after having crossed the Richmond River bar around 9am.

Police said the explosion had been reported to police at 9.20am, and the Ballina flotilla of the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard and the Ballina Jet Boat Rescue were alerted. A police officer travelled to the scene on the jet boat.

The man escaped the blaze on a dinghy. He was brought back to shore on the jet boat.

It is believed the explosion was caused by a cooking fire, but investigations into the exact reason the boat blew up are continuing.

It is also believed that the boat was the man’s home.

The man was treated for shock by ambulance officers.

Northern NSW Lifeguard co-ordinator Stephen Leahy said lifeguards on duty at Shelly Beach had seen the plume of smoke out to sea and also made a report to the Ballina SurfCom centre at Lighthouse Beach.