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The 64-year-old had been on the boat at Fennell Bay, south of Newcastle, when the boat burst into flames, sending plumes of smoke into the sky.
During the fire, the man managed to dive from the boat into the water.
A neighbour rushed to his aid, pulling him from the lake and providing first aid to his burns.
A helicopter was called to the scene.
The 64-year-old was transported to John Hunter Hospital in an ambulance before being flown to Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney.
He remains in a serious but stable condition with burns to 40 per cent of his body.
“(It’s) unbelievable that he was able to walk away from that incident,” intensive care paramedic Jake Broughton-Rouse said.
“The bystanders did an amazing job. They commenced first aid immediately and that really helped prevent his burns from getting worse.
“Then we provided some advanced pain relief to make sure he was comfortable en route to the hospital.”
Firefighters worked into the night to put out the flames.
“There were a lot of calls initially to a large fire,” Peter Nies from NSW Fire and Rescue said.
“When they found out it was a boat they had plenty of resources. A couple of stations attended plus the hazmat and the RFS (Rural Fire Service).”
He said emergency teams worked to prevent the destroyed boat’s diesel from spilling into the lake.
Locals said the explosion was felt on nearby streets.
It is not yet clear what started the fire.