Breaksea Girl provides break.

Donna Mitchell

Cooking for guests on the tourist boat, Breaksea Girl, is a far cry from a dairy farm at Five Rivers but for Donna Mitchell she knows where she would much rather be.

The high seas have their challenges in a tiny galley where paying guests expect a high class meal with all the trimmings but of course is adaptable when dolphins or some other unpredictable happening lures the guests to the bow or stern to oggle and enjoy.

Donna started by doing office work for Ruth Dalley and Lance Shaw, owners of Breaksea Girl at Manapouri. When it was discovered she did not get seasick she offered to take up the offer of cook- crew.

“ I must admit there was quite a lot of wheedling and pouting to get on the first trip, about 5 years ago,’’she said. ‘’I proved myself first on a six day trip from Doubtful Sound to Milford Sound in relatively rough conditions, not only not being seasick myself but proving I could cope with other people’s misfortune.’’

She was then employed both for office and sea work. 2010 has seen her full time after 2 years at Five Rivers being challenged by cows, calves and all that goes with a big dairy unit. Her husband Neil accepts she would much rather be at sea.

Lance, Ruth and Donna re-stock the boat before each trip being mindful of what has been used on the previous trip although occasional lapses has required Donna to be innovative with pasta, flour and vegetarian. Guests are unaware of any glitches and Donna’s smile can win people over with her creativity if there are any queries.

The variety of people who come from all around the world to experience the magic of Fiordland gives Donna her biggest thrill as she interacts, listens and enjoys this place through their eyes. She never ceases to be amazed at the unexpected and chance happenings which appear around every corner in ever-changing weather patterns ranging from still calm sunny days to challenging rain and storms.

Dolphins frolicking alongside, snorkelling to take in the fish and seaweed life, blue ducks surprising, mollymawk and royal albatross alongside visiting historic early explorers’ sites mean this is always an exciting adventure with no two days ever the same.

With this trip at the end of May being the last one under Lance as skipper, Donna has no desire to return to the life of being a dairy farmer’s wife so watch out other Fiordland skippers as she will be hounding them for a job.

‘’It has been an amazing experience working with Ruth and Lance as they live the life they believe in, founded on conservation and environmental principles, leading the way in this fragile place, ‘’Donna said. ‘’I have had my eyes open to a new vision through working alongside people as passionate as Ruth and Lance and thank them for this unique opportunity and incredible experience.’’