The Newport Beach sailor stranded on his damaged boat off the coast of Chile was rescued shortly before 4 a.m. today and will return to the United States within a week, family members said.
Ken Barnes, 47, was attempting to sail around the world alone when he hit rough weather west of Chile. His boat capsized in a storm and he had been awaiting rescue since Tuesday, when he called his girlfriend and told her he was in trouble.
Edward Smith, Barnes’ brother-in-law, said this morning the family first heard of the rescue from reporters and then confirmed it with U.S. and Chilean authorities, who have been helping to arrange Barnes’ rescue.
“CNN called us. They said, ‘Hey, congratulations on the rescue,’” Smith said. “We hadn’t even heard about it ourselves.”
Barnes was rescued by the fishing trawler Polar Pesca 1, with help from a Chilean Navy plane. He was treated for an injury to his right thigh, which was gouged when the boat capsized, Smith said.
The trawler will take two days to reach Punta Arenas in southern Chile, and Barnes is expected to return to the U.S. in five to seven days, Smith said.
Barnes had called his girlfriend, Cathy Chambers, at 2 p.m. Thursday, Barnes' sister Beverly Smith said. Chambers told him the rescue ship would arrive at about 3 a.m. today.
Family members have been in touch with Chilean authorities, the U.S. embassy in Chile, and the U.S. Coast Guard. The family said Thursday afternoon that the trawler Polar Pesca 1 was expected to reach Barnes at about 3 a.m. Friday. A Chilean navy plane would keep Barnes' boat, Privateer, in sight and then direct the trawler to it.
The family was in touch with Polar Pesca 1 through a Riverside man with a Ham radio who spoke to radio operators in Chile, Smith said. She did not have more information about the Ham radio operator but said he was a stranger who offered to help after seeing media reports of Barnes' plight.
Barnes' calls came at unpredictable times, and his loved ones, holding vigil at the Newport Beach home where he and his girlfriend live, did not know how much power his satellite phone had left, Smith said. The short calls to Chambers and his twin daughters never last more than a couple of minutes.
Barnes did not receive a package of equipment dropped by a Chilean naval plane yesterday, but he has a survival suit and at least some supplies, Smith said. He has been living on a diet of Pop Tarts and water, and he has a gouge in one leg. But she said Barnes seems equally worried about getting to keep his ship after the ordeal.
Though a rescue is scheduled for Barnes, Privateer is not going to be so lucky. His father, Ken Barnes Sr., said Thursday that Chilean authorities told the family the boat would be scuttled after the rescue. Bringing the boat home would be far too expensive, he said.
The elder Barnes said he had worried about the voyage from the start.
"To me, what he did was a horrible risk," he said. "I said, 'Son, you're going to do something that no one else in the world has ever done. There has to be a reason they haven't done it." Barnes' voyage would have been the first to begin on the United States' West Coast and go eastward around the world without making landfall.
Despite the danger, Barnes said he thought his son was a smart man with the strength to survive.
"He's ahead and above anyone I know who could survive this," he said. "He's got marine hardware on board and a tremendous will. Think about it: 12 years ago he said that on October 28, 2006, he'd set sail, and on that day he went out and did it."
He said his son chose the date because it was the day supposed to yield the best chance of good weather when rounding South America's Cape Horn. But when the younger Barnes reached the powerful oceans between South America and Antarctica, he met 20-foot waves and 40-knot winds that capsized his vessel, snapped his two masts and set him adrift.
Public affairs officers with the U.S. Coast Guard in Alameda and Long Beach said they had no new information about the incident.