PUNTA ARENAS, Chile – An American sailor, safely headed toward land after three days adrift, said a driving storm off the tip of South America snapped his masts and rolled his yacht, shattering his dream to make a nonstop, round-the-world voyage.
"I lost my boat, but I preserved my life," Barnes told a group of reporters in a radio conversation from the fishing vessel that rescued him Friday.
Barnes said his 44-foot ketch, Privateer, was hit with winds between 35 and 45 knots and waves of about 20 to 25 feet.
"The boat rolled 360 degrees. I was inside the boat, if I would have been outside, I wouldn't be here today," he said. "But like I say, I went around with the boat as everything else did inside the boat. The batteries ended up in the sink, all the tools, the floorboards, one of them came up and broke in half."
Barnes' received a long gash on his right thigh but was otherwise uninjured.
The 47-year-old man from Newport Beach, California, hoped to become the first American to circumnavigate the world in a solo, nonstop voyage from the West Coast. He left Long Beach, California on Oct. 28.
He said he knew the attempt would be dangerous.
"Anybody who sails these waters knows the risk that they are taking," he said.
The U.S. Coast Guard and Chilean maritime officials received signals from Barnes' distress beacon on Tuesday, minutes after he called his girlfriend on his satellite phone to report he was in trouble. It wasn't until Friday that the Polar Pesca 1 fishing vessel, guided by a navy plane, was able to reach Barnes.
He was some 500 miles from the western entry to the Strait of Magellan at the time of his rescue. Navy Capt. Ivan Valenzuela said Barnes' boat, which he spent years equipping for what he expected to be a six to eight month voyage, had to be abandoned.
"It was badly damaged, its two masts broken, and had also meter-high flooding," Valenzuela said. "It will probably sink very soon, and Mr. Barnes himself told us he has no interest in recovering it."
After his rescue, Barnes spoke briefly to relatives gathered at his condo in Newport Beach, California. "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.
His mother, 21-year-old twin daughters and longtime girlfriend huddled around the 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.
Barnes' sister Teri Ashurst said: "I was very fearful of this trip, but I was very supportive of his quest. It's his dream, not mine."
Barnes wore a survival suit and ate Pop Tarts and granola bars while waiting to be rescued, his family said. "He was very well equipped," Valenzuela said.
After the fishing boat reaches land, expected Sunday, Barnes will be flown by helicopter to Punta Arenas, Chile's southernmost city.
Unlike some countries, Chile typically pays all expenses for maritime rescue operations, and navy representatives on Friday said there were no special instructions to indicate Barnes might be billed.