The fire started on the car deck of the Commodore Clipper
Passengers on a Portsmouth-bound ferry have been allowed to leave after being held on board for nearly 12 hours.
Fire spread from the lower vehicle deck of the freight and passenger Commodore Clipper while it was en-route from Jersey.
The 101 passengers and crew were stuck on board in Portsmouth, because it was unsafe to disembark.
Julie Stratt, from Northwich in Cheshire, was on board when the alarm was raised.
'A scary time'
She said: "We were asked to assemble at the back terrace in the club lounge [and] wait with our lifejackets on, which was quite a scary time at 3 o'clock in the morning."
"There's a dark sea outside, knowing we were in the middle of the Channel which is a busy shipping lane
Work is continuing to remove vehicles on Commodore Clipper following the fire.
Ms Stratt said: "I'm actually moving house, so I've got myself and my removal van on there so there's no point me moving until both of those vehicles are released because I'll be going to an empty house. My world is on the boat."
However, what could have been a devastating loss looks to have been avoided.
She added: "It [the removal van] was parked on an outside deck, so I know in terms of fire it's okay, but quite honestly judging by the amount of smoke it is likely that there is smoke damage both to that and to my possessions in the car.
"But we're safe, we're lucky
we're thankful for that."
Tim and Tessa Derville, from Staplehurst in Kent, were travelling with their two-year-old daughter.
Mr Derville said: "The alarm went off and... we were called up onto deck and were told there was potentially a fire and we got ready to disembark by lifeboat. So obviously, with a family, I was quite concerned."
The passengers waited in Portsmouth Dock for nearly 12 hours
The Derville family were booked on a ferry for the previous day, but delayed their departure after their daughter fell ill.
Mr Derville said: "We had a three hour journey that ended up turning into a two and a half day marathon."
It took 50 firefighters to put out several small fires and remove damaged trailers.
No passengers or crew were hurt but it is thought the steering was damaged, and the ferry was helped in to port by two tugs.
Marine Accident Investigation Branch
has started an inquiry, and vehicles on the ferry will be stuck on board until that investigation is completed.
Meanwhile passengers are being looked after at a hotel in Liphook.