Somali Pirates Seize a Yacht, the Quest, with Four Americans on Board

Officials confirm that the yacht has been taken by pirates in the Indian Ocean.

February 19, 2011, 11:37 AM

Feb. 19, 2011 — -- U.S. officials confirm that a yacht with four Americans aboard has been seized by Somali pirates in the waters of the Indian Ocean.

The advocacy group Ecoterra International says its monitoring of regional maritime activity off the coast of East Africa indicates four Americans aboard the yacht S/V Quest were seized by pirates 240 nautical miles off the coast of Oman.

It is believed that Somali pirates currently have 29 ships in their possession and are holding 660 crewmembers hostage.

"All relevant U.S. agencies are monitoring the situation, working to develop further information, assess options and possible responses," said Matt Goshko, a spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, according to The Associated Press.

Lt. Commander Susie Thomson, a spokesperson for the Combined Maritime Forces that patrol the waters of the Middle East, confirmed the Quest incident, but could provide no details.

"We've seen the reports and all the appropriate government agencies are closely monitoring the situation," said U.S. Central Command spokesman Lt. Col. Michael T Lawhorn.

A U.S. official said, "We are still looking at what the options are."

The 58-foot S/V Quest is owned by Jean and Scott Adam, who have been sailing the boat around the world for the past seven years. As they approached the notoriously hostile waters off the Horn of Africa, the Adams cut back using their radios and satellite systems so their location couldn't be tracked by pirates, but they were still found.

The Adams are members of the Del Rey Yacht Club in Marina Del Rey, California. Contacted by ABC News, a marina manager there said he knew of the situation, but was unwilling to comment or give further details at this time.

The couple details their travels on a website, an entry from last December listed their stops in 2011 as "Galle, Sri Lanka; Cochin, India; Salalah, Oman; Djibouti, Djibouti; The Suez Canal; and Crete. That gets us to April."

That path would have taken them directly into the pirate-infested waters off the coast of Somalia. Pirates from there have seized oceangoing vessels for large ransoms; just last week two supertankers carrying oil were seized in waters far off the Somali coast.

Pirate seizures have continued in the waters off East Africa despite the constant patrols of by the world's navies, including ships from the United States.

On Thursday, Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse was sentenced in New York Thursday to 33 years in prison for kidnapping and brutalizing Captain Richard Phillips, who was held hostage for five days in 2009 when pirates armed with AK-47's scrambled up the stern of Maersk Alabama.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, coordinates an international task force that patrols the waters of East Africa. The European Community also maintains a separate anti-piracy mission in the same waters.