PAPER TRAILS: Sailing solo for Hawaii a challenge

Sean Clancy, Paper Trails columnist
Sean Clancy, Paper Trails columnist

Little Rock native Olivia O. Wyatt is a seasoned sailor, but she had only six hours of solo sailing to her credit when she decided to set off alone for Hawaii from San Diego this summer.

It's one of the planet's longest ocean passages "with nothing but a wilderness of waves between the land," Wyatt writes on the thoughtful, poetic blog she kept of the trip at her website,

Speaking from Los Angeles last week, Wyatt, 37, says the time was right for this adventure.

"I spent years looking for that romantic sailing partner, but I was getting older, and I thought that if I don't do this, I'm never going to do it. I could sit on the shore and wait for that perfect someone, but I am that someone I've been looking for."

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Though it was a solo trip, Wyatt says she wasn't by herself.

"I didn't do this on my own. I truly believe God was with me the whole way. He guided me."

She left Aug. 1 on Juniper, her 34-foot-long sailboat and home. What came next were days and nights filled with joy, fear and seemingly impossible challenges. There were storms, a finicky boat motor, friendly dolphins, flying fish, huge waves, hunger, periods of doubt and transcendence.

She docked at Oahu after 23 days and about 3,000 nautical miles (3,452 miles).

The ocean, she wrote, "hurdled obstacles at me to make sure I was truly humbled. To make sure that I had learned all of my lessons. To make sure I never forgot what it meant to linger in its treacherous threshold."

So, just curious: How does a woman from landlocked Arkansas become such an accomplished sailor?

"I have no idea," Wyatt says. "But I remember when my parents first took me to Florida, they couldn't keep me out of the water. I loved it."

She attended Mount Saint Mary Academy and studied photojournalism at the University of Missouri. After graduating, she took a job in New York and promptly moved to Rockaway Beach to be close to the water. She also started taking sailing lessons.

She is a U.S. Coast Guard-certified captain and a television producer, and has made three feature documentaries. Her latest, Sailing in a Sinking Sea, is about the Moken people of Burma and Thailand.

Wyatt is at work on a TV show in Los Angeles now (the Juniper is still in Oahu), but her next seafaring adventure will have her following the migrating patterns of humpback whales in an effort to learn why they sing.

She gets back to Little Rock to visit family on holidays and says in an email: "I am really proud to have been born and raised in 'The Natural State' and miss it a lot. I wish I could put it next to the sea."

Photos from Wyatt's journey are at


SundayMonday on 10/13/2019

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