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Slain yachters called 'brave adventurers'

By Mike Pearson, For CNN
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Security expert on pirates, hijacking
  • NEW: Scott and Jean Adam distributed 10,000 Bibles around the world, victim wrote in 2009
  • Friend: They were passionate about "friendship evangelism" of sharing Bibles
  • All four yachters, slain by pirates, loved their adventures, friends and family say
  • Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay had already circled the world before aboard another yacht

Read more about Jean and Scott Adam distributing Bibles in CNN's Belief Blog

(CNN) -- Phyllis Macay wrote of her travels around the world with the breathlessly joyous and staccato style of a teenager.

"I can say that I want to spend a week here ... month here ... maybe a year," she once wrote of visiting Corsica. "It is exciting, vastly busy ... and beautiful at the same time."

That sort of infectious love of adventure, of sailing, of seeing the world was a defining characteristic not only of Macay, but also her companion Bob Riggle, and friends Jean and Scott Adam, friends and family say.

All four died early Tuesday off the coast of Somalia at the hands of pirates who had hijacked the Adams' yacht, the Quest.

The news struck like thunder at the couples' far-flung friends and family, who feared for their safety after learning of their capture, but did not think four sea-travelers were in mortal danger. Their slayings, friends said, brought a dream journey to a shocking end.

"Our thought was they are going to be in some stinking jail somewhere -- not give them food, not give them food until whatever negotiations it takes to get them out," said Hank Curci, who had followed news reports about the capture of his friends by pirates on Friday.

Curci had known Macay and Riggle since becoming a fellow member of the Seattle Singles Yacht Club nine years ago.

"They were having a wonderful time sailing around the world," Curci said. "They'd send us pictures of the trip, from Fiji, New Zealand, the Philippines, whatever, showing us the route they were taking."

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"We were very happy for them," Curci said. "They found something they wanted to do."

Scott Stolnitz had similar observations about his longtime friends, the Adams.

"They loved the experiences they were having with the people they were meeting and the places they were going," Stolnitz said Tuesday. "We asked them once if they ever looked forward to living on land again, and they both, believe it or not, said no."

The Adams -- Californians who called the Marina del Rey harbor home on the rare times when they weren't sailing -- owned the Quest.

They had the 58-foot sloop built in New Zealand for what they had hoped would be an eight- or 10-year around-the-world voyage, according to their website.

And they gave it a good go. From New Zealand to Alaska their first year aboard. Then the Galapagos Islands, Costa Rica, Tonga. Last year, China, Cambodia, Thailand. Dozens of places in between.

Scott Adam was the laid-back one, a retired film executive with a dry sense of humor who late in life earned a theology degree. Jean Adam, a retired dentist, would "go on and on and talk about anything," Stolnitz said.

"She wore her heart on her sleeve," he said.

She also got violently seasick, Stolnitz said. But she wanted to be at sea and with her husband, so she found ways to manage.

The Adams dedicated part of their journeys to distributing Bibles, friends said. They called it "friendship evangelism."

Jean Adam wrote of the couple's spiritual dedication in a August 2009 letter she posted on the Seven Seas Cruising Association website for yachting enthusiasts.

Adam described the couple's "bible mission" as "interdenominational and multilingual." She recounted delivering French and English language bibles to Tahiti and Christmas Island.

"We have been able to place over 10,000 Bibles during the seven years we have out here. We also bring school supplies and clothing as do many other cruisers," Adam wrote. "We rely on the Lord to tell us where these Bibles should go. If we don't feel right about a place, we leave."

Lee Stenson, commodore of the Seattle yacht club, believes the sea travelers probably understood the dangers they might face by sailing near the east African coast.

"It sounded like they were taking precautions," Stenson told CNN. "We know this year and each year the pirate problem is escalating."

"This could have been something they were aware of and planned for, Stenson said, "but you can only do so much planning."

According to their website, the victims had been to the same pirate-infested waters of the Indian Ocean near Yemen and Somalia, where the Quest was taken.

"They enjoyed it so much that they came back to do it again as crew on various yacht rallies," said Richard Bolt of Blue Water Rallies, a group that organizes sailing events.

Bolt called the victims, "brave adventurers."

Relative and friends described Macay and Riggle as highly qualified sailors. Macay, according to niece Nina Crossland, was a "smart and avid sailor."

"She enjoyed every port and every experience she had," Crossland said.

Macay and Riggle had already circled the world before, from 2007 to 2009 aboard Riggle's yacht, Gaia, Bolt said.

"As far as sailing companions, they made an excellent team," said Lee Stenson, commodore of the Seattle yacht club. "I mean Phyllis was a great sailor -- far better than I am -- extremely talented but she could also go in the galley and with a can of beans make a gourmet meal."

"And Bob was very meticulous with the mechanics of the boat and the skills he had," Stenson said.

"We knew he would not be irresponsible," Curci said. "He would do a good job."

Macay was the oldest of six siblings, part of a large family that ranged from Michigan to California to Seattle, according to Crossland.

"She was beautiful, she was vivacious. She lived life to the fullest. And she was, as I was growing up, one of my mentors," Crossland said.