SANTA MONICA, Calif. - Four American yachters killed by Somali pirates early Tuesday were longtime sailors whose passion for the high seas outweighed any fear of the risks, friends said.
The yacht’s owners, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey near Los Angeles, along with Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle, were shot to death after pirates boarded their yacht Friday and took them hostage several hundred miles south of Oman.
The pirates shot the four after firing a rocket-propelled grenade at a U.S. warship, one of several vessels tracking the hijacked boat over the weekend. Fifteen men were captured.
Friends, family and fellow sailors remembered the four as adventurous, with a zest for life, but also as meticulous planners who were well aware of the dangers of the open seas.
The Adams had been sailing full-time on their 58-foot yacht, the Quest, since December 2004 after retiring. They often travelled with friends, and on this trip were joined by Riggle and Macay.
Macay and Riggle had left Seattle on Riggle’s sailboat for a world voyage in September 2007, but in recent years had been crewing on separate boats, said Macay’s friend Cynthia Kirkham of Seattle. The two periodically returned home on visits, she said, adding that Macay had stayed with her last June. At St. Monica’s Catholic Church in Santa Monica, where the Adams were parishioners, Monsignor Lloyd Torgerson described the killings as heartbreaking during morning Mass.
The Adams took Bibles with them to distribute to far-flung corners of the world, he said.
Mariners were warned about traveling around the Horn of Africa because of the risk of pirate attacks. The four sailors had traveled with a large flotilla to stay safe from pirates earlier in the trip, but they had left the group when the attack occurred, Macay’s niece, Nina Crossland, told reporters in South San Francisco.
“My aunt is a very smart and avid sailor,” said Crossland, visibly shaken as she spoke to reporters Tuesday morning. “I think she was smart enough and planned ahead and prepared to not be in this type of situation.”
Macay, 59, was wounded but alive when Navy SEALs boarded the Quest after the shooting, dying later.
Riggle “would never do anything to jeopardize Phyllis,” said Hank Curci, a friend and fellow member of the Seattle Singles Yacht Club.
Joe Grande, another member, said the deaths were like losing family to those who knew the pair.
“Great sailors, good people. They were doing what they wanted to do, but that’s small comfort in the face of this,” Grande said.