Amazing Sailor, Metal Sculpture, and Author – Alice Otsuji Hager (09-13-1920 to 01-13-2014)

by C.K. Thomas

Alice HagerAs a second-generation Japanese American, Alice Otsuji Hager spent time during World War II in the Gila River Relocation Camp, along with her parents and seven brothers and sisters. Hager’s father was sent to a camp in North Dakota. When the war ended, they found they no longer owned their farm in Napa County, California.

After the war, Hager took up nursing and practiced her career for 30 years. She married and had three children, but her husband was killed in an auto accident while on a errand for his wife. She felt responsible for his death and became determined to go to Japan to scatter her husband’s ashes in the Pacific Ocean in order to assuage her guilt.

It took her a second try due to an electrical problem on her sailboat, but at age 63 she sailed solo and non-stop to Japan in 77 days aboard her 26-six foot Marieholm International Folkboat. The boat’s name was Ganbari, Japanese for perseverance. A relatively novice sailor and a non-swimmer, Hagar arrived in Kagoshima, Japan (her parents’ home town) on July 24, 1984, having sailed from San Francisco Bay.

She told United Press International, “I went through seven sets of sails, down to the storm sails. Gale-force winds, at least 60 knots, lightning and thunderstorms.” She finally sighted Wake Island and knew she was on the right course for Japan.

After touring Japan and being hailed as a sailor-celebrity by the Japanese people, she returned to California where she took classes to learn how to do artistic welding. She created more than 25 sculptures between 1987 and 1998. In 1992 her work as a sculptor was first exhibited in a metal and glass display in her Benicia (a suburb of San Francisco) hometown library. Two of her sculptures, “Wavering Woman” and “First Step” were later displayed in a local art gallery.

In 1969, American Sharon Sites Adams, became the first woman to sail across the Pacific. She made the trip in her 35-foot sailboat Sea Sharp II in 75 days.

Hager’s book O’er the Bounding Main, an account of her adventurous life, was published in 1998.


Vallejo, California Time Herald article by Tony Burchyns.
July 26, 1984 United Press International article from The Arizona Republic

C.K. Thomas
lives in PhoC.K. Thomasenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.

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