PUNTA ARENAS, Chile – An American trying to sail around the world alone was rescued early Friday after drifting three days on his disabled yacht in treacherous seas off the southern tip of South America.
Ken Barnes was picked up shortly before 6 a.m. EST by the trawler Polar Pesca 1, the Chilean navy's Operations Department reported in Punta Arenas.
Barnes, 47, was in good condition, said an officer who asked not to be identified in line with the department's rules.
Two hours after being rescued, Barnes called his family at his condo in Newport Beach, Calif. He said his right leg, which was reported to have a deep gash to the bone, was fine.
"I love you. I'm on the fishing boat headed for Punta Arenas, and I'm OK and everything's OK," he said in a calm voice.
A navy plane guided the trawler to the disabled yacht, using a flare fired by Barnes as its beacon. At first the pilots only saw the flare. Then they spotted sailor wearing a yellow jacket and waving to the plane. The trawler sent four men on an inflatable boat to pick up the sailor.
"Once on board the trawler, he contacted us by radio," said plane pilot Capt. Cesar Delgado. "He repeatedly thanked the help of the Chilean navy."
The navy officer said Barnes would be taken to Punta Arenas, a trip that could last up to two days, depending on the weather. The fishing vessel had a paramedic team, food and fresh clothing on board.
Barnes' mother, June Dee Linn, broke into tears of relief on learning of the rescue. "I'm just picturing him on the ship and being grateful that he's been picked up," she said before receiving his phone call.
When he called, his mother, his 21-year-old twin daughters and his longtime girlfriend huddled around the cell phone, trying to make out his words over a broken connection that lasted less than two minutes.
"I've taken a shower and everything feels better," he told them. He said he hoped that once on land, he would take a helicopter to the nearest airport and fly home within a few days.
Barnes' sister Teri Ashurst said she was "feeling great."
"I was very fearful of this trip, but I was very supportive of his quest. It's his dream, not mine," she said.
Barnes left Long Beach, Calif., on Oct. 28 in the Privateer, a 44-foot ketch. He hoped to be the first solo sailor from the West Coast to circumnavigate the globe. But about a week ago he ran into a fierce storm that broke both the vessel's masts and its hatches, disabled the steering and soaked Barnes' supplies and food.
The U.S. Coast Guard and Chilean maritime officials picked up signals from his distress beacon Tuesday afternoon, just minutes after Barnes called his girlfriend on his satellite phone to report he was in trouble.
A Chilean navy search plane spotted Barnes about 500 miles off the Chilean coast around 5 p.m. Wednesday and dropped a life raft that missed the boat, said Barnes' longtime girlfriend, Cathy Chambers. The trawler, at the time about 300 miles away, was dispatched to the scene as two Chilean planes hovered over the boat to keep it in sight.
During the ordeal Barnes wore a survival suit to keep him warm and survived on Pop Tarts and granola bars, Chambers said.
Chambers said a Chilean-American HAM radio operator in Riverside, Calif., had been instrumental in coordinating the rescue with the commercial fishing vessel. The operator, Michael Morales, contacted HAM operators in Chile, who talked to the fishing vessel, she said.
According to his Web site, Barnes had planned his trip for several years.
"For many years, probably from the age of 10, I have liked the solitude of sailing, the adventure, the adrenaline associated with the chance encounter of the unknown," he said.