Phyllis Macay & Bob Riggle, Seattle Yacht Travelers, Murdered by Somali Pirates

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Macay + Riggle.jpg
Macay and Riggle via Leadline , the Corinthian Yacht Club newsletter
The pair of boaters were abducted Friday along with a California couple off the

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Phyllis Macay & Bob Riggle, Seattle Yacht Travelers, Murdered by Somali Pirates

  • Phyllis Macay & Bob Riggle, Seattle Yacht Travelers, Murdered by Somali Pirates

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    Macay + Riggle.jpg
    Macay and Riggle via Leadline, the Corinthian Yacht Club newsletter
    The pair of boaters were abducted Friday along with a California couple off the coast of Oman in the Indian Ocean. Up until yesterday it was exciting and, frankly, kind of cool. But today, the situation came tragically to an end.

    Since the hijacking, four U.S. Navy warships were trailing the pirates and their captors in the Gulf of Aden, just off the northern coast of Somalia. The military was negotiating the release of the captives when -- for reasons still unknown -- the pirates opened fire on their hostages, the U.S. Central Command said in a press release.

    phyl1.jpg
    Phyllis Macay
    The U.S. Troops boarded the yacht -- Quest, owned by Scott and Jean Adam -- and engaged in a shootout with the pirates, but it was too late. Macay, 59, and Riggle, 67 both died from gunshot wounds.

    Here's the full text of the military's statement (emphasis added):

    TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 22, 2011) -- At approximately 1 a.m. EST today, while negotiations were ongoing to secure the release of four American hostages, U.S. forces responded to gunfire aboard the pirated vessel (S/V) Quest. 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.

    "We express our deepest condolences for the innocent lives callously lost aboard the Quest," said Gen James N. Mattis, U.S. Central Command Commander.

    During the boarding of the Quest, the reaction force was engaged by pirates on board the vessel. Two pirates died during the confrontation and 13 were captured and detained along with two pirates already in US Forces custody. The US Forces also found the remains of two other pirates already dead aboard the Quest. In total, it is believed 19 pirates were involved in the hijacking of the S/V Quest.

    US Forces have been closely monitoring the S/V Quest for approximately 3 days, once it became known to be pirated. Four U.S. Navy warships comprised the response force dedicated to recovering the S/V Quest: the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), the guided-missile destroyers USS Sterett (DDG 104) and USS Bulkeley (DDG 84). The ships are deployed to the region to conduct maritime security operations and to provide support to operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn.

    bob riggle.jpg
    Bob Riggle
    Riggle, a retired veterinarian, and Macay, a consultant, were members of the Corinthian Yacht Club in Ballard and had also been active in the Seattle Singles Yacht Club. They had been sailing continuously since 2008 on their 35-foot yacht The Gaia, according to their website/blog.

    The couple began their voyage in Seattle and sailed down the coast of North America, heading east across the Pacific after reaching Panama. They stopped in the south Pacific, Australia, southeast Asia and, apparently last year, sailed through the pirate-infested waters off the northeast coast of Africa unscathed, going on to explore the ports of Red Sea and Mediterranean.The masthead of their blog says of the voyage, "Well...it was no vacation...it was an Adventure!!"

    Earlier this year, Riggle and Macay were participating in the Blue Water Rally yacht race, departing from Phuket, Thailand, when they met some kindred spirits in Scott and Jean Adam. An evangelical California couple, the Adams had been sailing since 2002, according to their own website, distributing thousands Bibles over the course of their voyage.

    Riggle and Macay apparently left The Gaia at the dock in Mumbai and set sail aboard the Adams' sloop Quest, headed for Oman then Djibouti. Sadly, the group never made it that far. They are the first Americans to be killed by Somali pirates, according to the Associated Press.

    UPDATE 2 10:25 a.m.: The AP and Fox News have more details on the lead-up to the violence, including word that President Obama authorized the use of force if the hostages faced "an imminent threat," and a claim that pirates planned to rig the hijacked yacht with explosives to ward off a U.S. attack. This via the AP:

    The violence on Tuesday started when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired from the yacht at the USS Sterett, a guided-missile destroyer 600 meters away. The RPG missed and almost immediately afterward small arms fire was heard coming from the yacht, Fox [News] said.

    President Barack Obama, who was notified about the deaths at 4:42 a.m. Washington time, had authorized the military on Saturday to use force in case of an imminent threat to the hostages, said White House spokesman Jay Carney...

    ...Only minutes before the military announced that the four Americans had died, a Somali pirate told The Associated Press by phone that if the yacht were attacked, "the hostages will be the first to go."

    "Some pirates have even suggested rigging the yacht with land mines and explosives so as the whole yacht explodes with the first gunshot," said the pirate, who gave his name as Abdullahi Mohamed, who claimed to be a friend of the pirates holding the four Americans.

    UPDATE 10:07 a.m.: Sailing blog Three Sheets NW has more Riggle and Macay's decision to join up with the Adams and the potential dangers of the Blue Water Rally:

    Before being hijacked, Quest was part of a flotilla of boats sailing together in the Blue Water Rally, which brings cruisers together to sail around the world. According to the rally's website, the Adams joined the Australia-Mediterranean section of the rally just before Christmas and had been sailing with it from Phuket to Mumbai. At some point after Christmas, Riggle and Macay joined the Adams on Quest, which left the rally Feb. 15 to take its own route from India to Oman...

    ...The website notes the danger of the rally route, which goes past Aden and up the Red Sea. To help protect boats, the rally is organized into "tactical defensive formations" and sailors are briefed on a strategy intended to avoid pirates. Over the past 15 years, the website says, about 200 yachts have traveled through the area in Blue Water Rallies without any problems.

    The Blue Water Rally also issued its own statement about the hijacking. Here's an excerpt (emphasis added) :
    Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of Jean, Scott, Phyllis and Bob. We know that all their fellow participants are deeply affected by this appalling tragedy.

    All four were brave adventurers. Phyllis and Bob had already circumnavigated the world with our rally in 2007 - 2009 in Bob's yacht Gaia. They enjoyed it so much that they came back to do it again as crew on various rally yachts. So they are well known amongst a host of yachting people and have had good times on many different yachts. Jean and Scott had only joined the rally before Christmas and were not so well known but, as is the way of yachtsmen, they quickly built a relationship with our floating community. Ironically, after more than 6 years of roaming the globe together,they joined our rally for the added security we could offer through the Gulf of Aden. Sadly, they did not get that far as the pirate activity has spread out across the Indian Ocean at an alarming rate over the past few months.

    Although yachtsmen have been discouraged from sailing through this area for some time, it is a hard decision when the only other choices are to sail around the stormy, dangerous seas off South Africa, leave the yacht in the Far East, put it on an expensive cargo ship, or to sail back across the Pacific which presents more weather challenges and difficulties. When one has set one's heart on a circumnavigation, these choices are very difficult to make.

    To all the lovely friends and families that we have been speaking to since the Quest was captured, we extend our deep heartfelt sympathies and share with you the pain of their passing.

    Many questions remain about the deaths of Macay, Riggle and the Adams -- particularly what exactly prompted the pirates to open fire -- and we'll update this post with answers as they become available.

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