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Hijacked couple had discussed dangers of piracy in Red, Arabian seas

Scott and Jean Adam talked to a sailor friend about avoiding the Arabian and Red seas altogether on their trip. But they decided instead to join a yacht rally going their way; the rally organizers say the couple broke off before being hijacked.

February 20, 2011|By Corina Knoll, Los Angeles Times
  • Phyllis Mackay and Bob Riggle are reportedly on the yacht Quest, hijacked by Somali pirates on Feb. 18. The Quest's owners, Scott and Jean Adam, are also onboard.
Phyllis Mackay and Bob Riggle are reportedly on the yacht Quest, hijacked… (Joe Grande / Associated…)

For nearly a decade, Scott and Jean Adam's home has been a 58-foot custom-made sloop and the ocean below.

Although they docked every so often in Marina del Rey to pick up mail and see old friends, the couple spent most of their time sailing to far-flung locales like the Galapagos Islands, Tahiti and New Zealand. Posting photos and information on their website, they raved about their travels aboard the Quest. "We've decided to ... explore Fiji like petals on a flower," they wrote about their 2007 trip to the South Pacific.

For their most recent adventure, the Adams planned to travel across the Indian Ocean from their temporary dock in Phuket, Thailand, and then head up the Red Sea and through the Mediterranean to the Greek islands. But earlier this week, U.N. officials announced that the Quest had been hijacked in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia.

"This is all of our worst nightmares," said Scott Stolnitz, a friend of the couple.

Stolnitz, who also travels around the world with his wife via boat, said he and Scott Adam had previously discussed the dangers of piracy when navigating the Arabian and Red seas.

Scott Adam, 70, had considered shipping the boat to avoid the dangers of the trip, a costly option, but decided instead to join a rally of yachts heading to the same location, Stolnitz said.

The couple, however, apparently decided to break off from the Blue Water Rally, which organized and supported the group of boats headed toward the Mediterranean.

Blue Water Rally organizers released a statement on their website Saturday that said the Adams chose to take an independent route from Mumbai to Salalah, Oman, and left the rally on Feb. 15. With them on their boat was another American couple, Phyllis Mackay and Bob Riggle.

An official for U.S. Central Command said they are "monitoring the situation" but had no further comment.

A former TV unit production manager, Scott Adam is an experienced sailor who has owned a boat most of his life, friends said. And although 66-year-old Jean Adam, a retired dentist, became seasick easily, she took medication for it because she loved being on the water.

According to their website, the Adams, who each have children from previous marriages, planned to hand out Bibles during their trip. For years the couple has attended St. Monica Catholic Church, where they were known as devoted parishioners, said Msgr. Lloyd Torgerson. Jean Adam sang in the choir, and Scott Adam, who once pursued a doctorate in theology, often wanted to discuss the Scriptures. "They are great people, wonderfully attentive, and came to this community each Sunday when they were in town."

But friends say the Bibles were not the purpose of their trips. "They did bring Bibles with them, but they're not doing a proselytizing mission," Stolnitz, 57, said. "They distributed Bibles to Christian churches and communities who appreciated them. They're not out there trying to convert — they're just being nice people. It's just part of what they do as their sailing adventure."

In an e-mail dated Feb. 12, Jean Adam announced the couple's arrival in Mumbai.

"We stayed off the coast a bit more than the little boats," she wrote. "We're anchored happily in the Bombay harbour. We can see the Gateway of India on shore right next to the Taj Mahal Hotel … We're getting fuel and water and a few other essentials and will be leaving for Salalah, Oman soon."

It was the last mass e-mail that family and friends received.

The Adams have raced with the Del Rey Yacht Club, and club members said the couple lived on a different powerboat in Marina del Rey when they weren't sailing around the world. "They put on seminars at the club about their travels," Harold Moskowitz, 74, said. "They'd show pictures of their trip and where they'd been. They were very nice, very friendly."

Times staff writers Tony Perry and Ruben Vives contributed to this report.

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