On Tuesday, Jan. 22 the local boating community lost two of its more adventurous stalwarts, Jean and Scott Adam, members of the Del Rey Yacht Club in Marina del Rey who were among four Americans murdered by Somali pirates while making a passage towards Oman in the Arabian Sea.
When I came into the office that morning to check on the latest developments for this story, I typed into the search engine: “Americans killed by pirates.” It gave me pause to enter the phrase, since over the last few days I had been entering “kidnapped Americans.”
As the search results loaded, it was surreal to think that two members from the Marina del Rey boating community, and the other two hijacked Americans, Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle of Seattle, were being reported on in every media outlet.
The Adams’ journey was no longer the tale of a pair of hearty sailors navigating a 52-foot cruising boat, passing out bibles along the way, but was now a story with international ramifications.
I have been on the Adams’ email list for years getting regular updates as they made their way into some of the most rural, obscure and interesting areas the Third World has to offer aboard their home/boat Quest. The adventures of the couple were vast, boundless and it seemed, never-ending.
The emails spoke of swimming with whale sharks in the Philippines, enduring 50-knot winds sailing to Hong Kong, being bitten by dogs, terrorized by monkeys, visiting locations like Bangkok, Burma, Cambodia, India and dozens of other exotic areas. Jean’s writing was laden with optimism and excitement throughout the many setbacks and difficulties such a life of travel presents. Most of her reports spoke of the quality of people they met, the beauty in nature they witnessed and their anticipation for the next location they would soon visit.
“We will continue to send out our SPOT [an internet locater that allows people on land to keep track of their vessel] as far as Salalah and will continue in Djibouti (or further north into the Red Sea),” Jean wrote in an email before making the journey known for prevalent pirate activity. “We do have a schedule, we have contact with the authorities in the Gulf of Aden, and we do have a plan of action. All of this has worked in the past and is proven to be the best strategy in these circumstances.
“Do NOT be overly concerned as there were NO pirate attacks on yachts in 2010. There is a heightened risk area north of the Maldives as there were three pirate incidents in the past three days in that area. These were threats to large ships. We do NOT plan to visit the Maldives! We have EPIRB, AIS, normal SSB radio and VHF, Irridium phone, VHF satellite phone and email, and our SPOT. We are told NOT to use firearms or flare-guns as it will increase the risk to us (I believe this because neither Scott nor I are trained killers). We feel comfortable with the trip, so please don’t go nuts.”
As the media has so now widely reported, Scott and Jean Adam with two other crew members, Macay and Riggle, were crossing an area well-known for pirate attacks when they were boarded by 19 Somali pirates, held hostage for three days and killed on Feb. 22.
Following their death, the Del Rey Yacht Club held a press conference declaring their devastation at losing a couple they called, “wonderful people dedicated to serving mankind – trying to better the world with their humanitarian efforts.”
DRYC’s Commodore Gary Deitsch said stoically facing a throng of television cameramen: “We hope their deaths will bring about the world’s focus and eliminate this unnecessary violence.”
It’s this sentiment that I take away from a tragedy that many are calling “senseless.” Jean and Scott had a hold full of so many bibles that the waterline had dropped by half a foot.
Beyond the personal satisfaction of experiencing these far-off lands, they were interested in spreading a message of peace – they wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of their names in a context of world change.
Through their violent deaths, the victims symbolize a desperate need for a given situation to be remedied – to change. Their voyage has brought worldwide attention to a savage mentality that the world agrees needs changing. Perhaps, through their brutal deaths, in time, a less violent region will emerge. If so, then their deaths would in no way be “senseless.”
Here is the last email I received from Jean:
“Jean and Scott on Quest, getting ready to leave for pirate infested waters. Pray for our safety and swift passage. A big catamaran just came into the marina because they were afraid to do the passage (1,800 miles) due to pirate reports!
“PS: We need to stay silent with our emails and SPOT for the next 10-12 days. Security reasons. The sophisticated pirate[s] search the web for passage info.”