SANTA ANA, Calif. – Sailor Ken Barnes, who was rescued last week from his storm-damaged sailboat off the tip of South America, returned home Tuesday to hugs from his family and well-wishers.
The 47-year-old said he was happy to see everyone but had mixed feelings about his journey's end. He had been attempting to become the first American solo sailor to circumnavigate the globe nonstop starting from the West Coast.
"I'd like to be out there for another three or four months completing what I set out to do," he said.
The homecoming with his longtime girlfriend and twin daughters ends an ordeal that began New Year's Eve when Barnes' 44-foot ketch was caught in a violent storm. He was rescued early Friday by a Chilean fishing trawler after three days at sea in stormy conditions.
Barnes was released from the Armed Forces Hospital in Punta Arenas, Chile's southernmost city, and began the long trip home on Monday.
During his brief stay in Punta Arenas, Barnes toured the downtown area and kissed the foot of a bronze statue of a Patagonia Indian in the main square — local lore has it that this means he will someday return to the city.
Barnes, who sold his Orange County home and pool maintenance business to finance his trip, was able to communicate by satellite phone with his girlfriend, Cathy Chambers, while she and the twins kept vigil at their his Newport Beach condominium.
He said Monday that he never feared the waves would sink his damaged boat.
"I wouldn't let it happen," he said, flanked by friends and family. "Just look what I've got to come back to."