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Originally published February 28, 2011 at 10:13 PM | Page modified March 1, 2011 at 10:01 AM

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Seattle sailors killed by pirates remembered

Two Seattle sailors killed near Somalia last week after being taken hostage by pirates were living their dreams and relishing the adventure, said friends who gathered Monday night in Seattle at a "Celebration of life."

Seattle Times staff reporter

Two Seattle sailors killed near Somalia last week after being taken hostage by pirates were living their dreams and relishing the adventure, said friends who gathered Monday night in Seattle at a "Celebration of life."

Phyllis Macay, 59, was "wild and bubbly," and Bob Riggle, 67, was "kind and gentle," said Gail Kalbrener, a past commodore of the Seattle Singles Yacht Club in introductory remarks.

More than 200 friends and family members gathered in a meeting room at the China Harbor restaurant to show slides and tell stories about the two intrepid sailors, many of them fighting back tears as they talked.

"They truly touched many lives," Kalbrener said.

Macay and Riggle were aboard the 58-foot sailing yacht Quest, owned by Scott and Jean Adam of California, when it was "seajacked" by pirates Feb. 18 in the Arabian Sea south of Oman. All four hostages were killed four days later after U.S. Navy commandoes and pirates aboard the Quest exchanged gunfire following a negotiation attempt that apparently went sideways.

"We are here tonight to celebrate Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay, their life and the great adventure they undertook, said Lee Stenson, commodore of the Yacht Club, where the two had met. He asked those who spoke to stick to a two-minute limit and to stay upbeat. "We are not here to ask why, we are not here to vent anger, we are not here to speculate on what did or did not happen," he continued.

There were so many stories about the two it was hard for many to stick to the time limit, but upbeat they were.

"Phyllis was perhaps the most joyful, enthusiastic person I have ever known," said Larry Gill, also a past commodore. Macay, he said, loved fun and relished creating wild costumes and decorations for Halloween parties; Riggle, a retired veterinarian, was a meticulous, thoughtful sailor known for focusing on fine-tuning sails and rigging to get the best out of a boat.

They left Seattle on Riggle's sailboat for a world trip in the fall of 2007 but recently had been crewing on separate boats. They joined the Adams on Quest and were traveling from India to Oman in a group of yachts called the Blue Water Rally.

According to reports, Quest left the group Feb. 15 to take an independent course.

Just why they did that is a question that may never be answered completely. Most yacht sailors consider traveling with a convoy a safer way to get through the treacherous "pirate zone."

U.S. officials said the four hostages had been killed by the pirates, but it was unclear whether the four had been deliberately executed or caught in crossfire.

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Macay and Riggle, friends said, were adventurous but careful; both were very experienced sailors, as evidenced by the slide show, featuring the two in exotic places around the world.

"It's a celebration of the wonderful people they were and to bring their lives to light," Stenson said. "We want to celebrate the positive side of the adventures they had."

Carol M. Ostrom: 206-464-2249 or costrom@seattletimes.com

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