Sailor rescued after 3 days adrift at sea


Published: Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 5, 2007 at 11:48 p.m.

PUNTA ARENAS, Chile — An American sailor who spent three days adrift after a storm dashed his round-the-world voyage was headed toward land Friday after being rescued in treacherous waters off the southern tip of South America.

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The Associated Press

"I'm OK," Ken Barnes told loved ones by satellite telephone.

Barnes, 47, was picked up Friday morning by the Polar Pesca 1 fishing vessel some 500 miles from the western entry to the Straights of Magellan. After the boat reaches land, he'll be flown by helicopter to Punta Arenas, Chile's southernmost city. He is expected to arrive Sunday.

"He is in good general condition, but the first thing upon his arrival will be a complete checkup at a hospital," said navy Capt. Ivan Valenzuela, maritime governor of Punta Arenas.

Barnes' only injury was a long gash in his right thigh, but Valenzuela said the wound had been treated and covered.

His 44-foot ketch Privateer was heavily damaged by a storm with strong winds and 40-foot waves that thwarted Barnes' attempt to become the first American to circumnavigate the world in a solo, nonstop voyage from the West Coast.

He left California on Oct. 28.

After his rescue, Barnes spoke briefly to relatives gathered at his condo in Newport Beach, Calif. "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 later told a group of reporters in a brief radio conversation from the fishing vessel that he knew the risks when he started the trip.

"I lost my boat, but I preserved my life," he said.

Barnes said he survived the storm because he was inside the boat when it hit. "If I had been outside, I wouldn't be here today," he told reporters.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Chilean maritime officials monitored signals from Barnes' distress beacon on Tuesday, minutes after he called his girlfriend on his satellite phone to report he was in trouble.

A Chilean navy plane spotted the disabled yacht after Barnes fired a flare on Wednesday evening. At first the pilots only saw the flare, then they spotted the sailor wearing a yellow jacket and waving. The plane guided the fishing trawler to the yacht, and four men boarded an inflatable boat to rescue the American.

"Once on board the trawler, he contacted us by radio," said plane pilot Capt. Cesar Delgado. "He repeatedly thanked the Chilean navy for its help."

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.

The navy captain said the yacht was abandoned in the ocean.

"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."

Back in Newport Beach, Barnes' mother, June Dee Linn, broke into tears of relief after learning that her son had been rescued. "I'm just picturing him on the ship and being grateful that he's been picked up," she said.

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."

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