Zane Havens, ’12, studied geology as an earth science major at Albion College, but he was always close to the water.
His grandfather Bill competed in canoeing events in the 1948 Olympic Games, his great-uncle Frank was a two-time Olympic medalist in canoeing, and his father, Keith, Albion's former swimming and diving coach, twice participated in the Olympic Trials in flat-water canoeing and provided instruction as he competed in swimming & diving at the varsity level and in canoeing and triathlon events at the club level in college.
Havens is now combining his love for the water, the environment, and adventure while serving as a quartermaster for the Hikianalia. Along with its sister vessel the Hokule’a, the Polynesian voyaging canoe has been restored and is making a 1,000-mile trip around Hawaii with stops at 30 ports through October before departing for Tahiti next year as part of a worldwide voyage.
“Hokulea’a is as traditional as modern law and knowledge of traditional rigging will allow,” said Havens, who learned of the opportunity through his uncle Kirk, a member of the American Canoe Association’s Board of Directors. “Much of the traditional knowledge of how voyaging canoes were built has been forgotten and had to be relearned. Also, in order to operate safely and legally, certain additions had to be included, such as VHF radio, running lights, etc. For these electronic devices, Hokulea’a has an array of solar mounted panels mounted on her stern. However, she has been successfully navigated using only traditional methods (celestial, currents and swells, observation of birds, etc.) many times.
“Hikianalia includes many modern updates to her traditional double-hulled design, including prototype electric motors that run on solar power, GPS and AIS (automatic identification system), and even 110-volt outlets for charging of phones and powering of other devices,” he added. “She is designed to be a companion to Hokule’a, embracing traditional design while still offering a platform to connect with the outside world and perform research.”
The Hikianalia is 72 feet long and holds a maximum of 16 people. While Havens’ main responsibilities on the leg from Oahu to Hawaii included inventorying and keeping track of food and water, everyone assisted with keeping the canoe running smoothly when they were awake.
“A typical 24-hour period at sea consists of two four-hour watches,” Havens said. “On the voyage from Oahu to Hawaii, I was on the 2-6 watch (a.m. and p.m.). If we were under tow, our responsibilities consisted of manning the sweep and basically being alert. While sailing, we had to trim the sail, man the sweep, and basically follow any orders from the captain.”
Havens had a solid academic background before working on the voyaging canoes, having spent the summer of 2010 studying the cloudiness of the water in the Kalamazoo River, with funding from the College’s Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity, followed by an internship with the Bureau of Land Management’s field office in Colorado. Still, he reports he finds himself learning more than teaching.
“Hawaii is in many ways different environmentally than the mainland United States, and I am realizing that areas of concern in the U.S. more deeply affect Hawaii, such as sea level rise and ocean health,” Havens said.
Havens, who completed a concentration in environmental science at Albion, has been impressed with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, which operates the Hokule’a and Hikianalia, and its dedication to its core mission of caring for the Earth – the natural environment and all humankind.
“My favorite experience has been just listening to the legends who have been with the Hokule’a from the very beginning talk and share their stories,” Havens said. “These voyagers are still involved and have seen so much. Every time that talk, the younger crew is sure to listen, because what they say is most likely gold.
“This experience really has been one of the best of my life so far,” he added. “It is far from being over, but I feel that I have learned so much in the few months that I have been here, and I am sure to learn more. Seeing the world while contributing to such a noble cause was an easy choice for me.”