SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) – A Chilean navy search plane has spotted an American solo sailor on his storm-battered yacht off the southern tip of South America, and a trawler was heading to rescue him, the military said .

Ken Barnes, of Newport Beach, Calif., also made visual contact with the pilots from his yacht, which has two broken masts and a disabled engine, the navy said. Barnes, 47, set off from Long Beach, Calif., on Oct. 28 in a 44-foot ketch called the Privateer in hopes of sailing around the world. His girlfriend, Cathy Chambers, said he called her Tuesday in California on his satellite phone to say he was in trouble .

He told Chambers he had lost engine power and steering and had two broken masts and broken hatches. The Privateer was also taking on water in 46-mph winds and 25-foot swells, she said.

One of the navy pilots, Capt. Gonzalo Vasquez, told Chilean state television that the Privateer was not in danger of sinking. The navy also said the storm that had battered the yacht had passed and the weather had improved greatly.

The navy search plane reported Barnes’ position to the trawler, Polar Pesca 1, on Thursday but it was unclear how long it would take to reach his yacht near the western entry to the Straits of Magellan.

Local media indicated it could happen as early as Thursday evening, but U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Judith Baroody said the vessel probably would not reach Barnes before Friday afternoon.

The embassy had been in contact with Barnes’ family and Chilean authorities, and has “full confidence” in Chile’s capacity to handle the emergency, Baroody said.

In addition to the trawler, a navy tugboat with a helicopter and a merchant boat were operating in the area and were also ordered to join the rescue effort.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Chilean maritime officials picked up signals from Barnes’ distress beacon Tuesday afternoon, when he was believed to be about 500 miles off the Pacific coast.

Chambers said Barnes’ most recent phone call on Wednesday evening would likely be his last because his battery had run out. She said he had contacted her six times since Tuesday.

“He’s shaky, scared, but I think he’s hopeful now that he’s seen the plane and he knows they’ve located him. He’s scared. He just wants them to get him out,” she said.

The condominium the couple shares in Newport Beach was packed with friends, family and reporters, who gathered in hallways and bedrooms awaiting news.

According to his Web site, Barnes had planned his trip for several years.

“For many years, probably from the age of 10, I have liked the solitude of sailing, the adventure, the adrenaline associated with the chance encounter of the unknown,” he said.

Associated Press writer Gillian Flaccus contributed to this report from port Beach, Calif.

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