- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

PUNTA ARENAS, Chile — An American trying to sail solo around the world was rescued early yesterday after drifting three days on his disabled yacht in treacherous seas off the southern tip of South America. “I’m OK,” he told his loved ones by telephone.

Relatives of Ken Barnes hugged and cried in joy as word of his rescue reached them in Newport Beach, Calif.

Mr. Barnes was picked up shortly before 6 a.m. by the trawler Polar Pesca 1, the Chilean navy’s Operations Department reported in Punta Arenas.

Mr. 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, Mr. Barnes called his family at his condo. 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 Mr. Barnes as its beacon. At first the pilots only saw the flare. Then they spotted a 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 Mr. 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.

Mr. 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.

Mr. 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.

Mr. Barnes left Long Beach, Calif., on Oct. 28 in the Privateer, a 44-foot ketch. He hoped to be the first solo sailor to circumnavigate the globe nonstop from the West Coast. 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 his supplies and food.

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

A Chilean navy search plane spotted Mr. Barnes about 500 miles off the Chilean coast around 5 p.m. Wednesday and dropped a life raft that missed the boat, said Mr. 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, Mr. Barnes wore a survival suit to keep him warm, and he survived on Pop Tarts and granola bars, Miss Chambers said.

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