Pirates Hijack Touring Yacht

Reports surfaced Tuesday morning that all four Americans aboard a yacht hijacked by Somali pirates had been killed off the coast of Oman. Rally organizers told reporters Sunday that the crew had been traveling with yachts participating in the Blue Water Rally, a group cruising expedition, since its departure from Phuket, Thailand. On Feb. 15, the yacht, S/V Quest, which was owned by Jean and Scott Adams and worked on by Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle, decided to take an alternate route than the group after leaving Mumbai, India. A statement from United States Central Command revealed that gunfire erupted aboard the pirated vessel as negotiations for the captives’ release were underway.

“As they responded to the gunfire, reaching and boarding the Quest, the forces discovered all four hostages had been shot by their captors. Despite immediate steps to provide life-saving care, all four hostages ultimately died of their wounds,” said the statement.

Two of the pirates reportedly died during the confrontation with a U.S. reaction force. According to Central Command, 13 other pirates were captured, along with two who were already in the custody of U.S. forces. Two other pirates were already dead when U.S. forces boarded the S/V Quest, the statement revealed. In total, 19 pirates are believed to have been involved in the hijacking.

U.S. forces had been monitoring the Adams’ yacht for about three days before the deaths were believed to have taken place. An aircraft carrier, a guided-missile cruiser, and two guided-missile destroyers composed the reaction force that confronted the pirates. The U.S. Navy ships were in the region to conduct “maritime security operations” and provide support for U.S. operations, the statement said.

Jean and Scott Adams, a couple from Southern California, have been sailing the globe for the past six years. “Djibouti is a big refueling stop,” wrote Jean Adams, a retired dentist, on her and her husband’s blog. “I have no idea what will happen in these ports, but perhaps we’ll do some local touring.”

Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse that Friday as the pirates boarded the Quest, a blue Davidson 58 Pilot House Sloop.

The Adams’ case is eerily reminiscent of that of Paul and Rachel Chandler, sailors from a London suburb seeking adventure in similar waters in 2009. Somali gunmen seized the Chandlers’ boat and held the couple hostage for more than a year.

The American Navy has warned ship owners of the importance of remaining in designated shipping lanes when passing through these waters of the Arabian Sea, waters in which pirates continue to strike despite the presence of dozens of warships. The Navy sometimes provides escorts for convoys and the ships often travel in numbers for safety.

“But we can’t track everything, we can’t track everybody, it’s too large of an area,” said Bob Prucha, a spokesman for the military’s Central Command, to reporters on Saturday. He added that it is “common knowledge” how dangerous those waters are.

Scott Stolnitz, a friend of Scott and Jean Adams, told reporters that Scott mentioned that he was aware of the risks of traveling through such dangerous waters. They had a device on his boat called a Spot communicator, which can transmit his yacht’s location to his blog website. Stolnitz told reporters that Adams said he was going to turn it off during this particular voyage, because he had heard that pirates may be capable of tracking such a device.

In the past few years, ransoms for pirate hostages have shot up from a few hundred thousand dollars to now typically $4 million or $5 million. According to Ecoterra International, an organization that monitors piracy attacks, more than 50 captured ships are currently in the hands of Somali pirates. In these ships are at least 800 captives.

The Chandlers were released in November after their friends and others paid around $1 million in ransom. Unfortunately, the Adams’ and their crew were not that lucky.

The Adams’ began their voyage around the world in 2004. For the past six years they have ventured from New Zealand to Tahiti to the Galapagos Islands to the Hawaiian Islands to China and India. Adams wrote that she wanted to blog as much as possible, but, “Since this trip is a reflection of our life and because life on a moving boat is unpredictable, we expect this trip to hold some unexpected surprises!”


February 23, 2011