Discovering the Breaksea Girl in Fiordland National Park
I would often collide with the Breaksea Girl in Doubtful Sound during my days of guiding multi-day sea kayak adventures for Fiordland Wilderness Experiences. I measured my time management status against where I saw the Breaksea Girl; if it was Turn Point - we were bang on! Essentially, we were on a similar schedule to journey out of the wilderness, over the Wilmot Pass and on a boat across Lake Manapouri back to civilisation.
Often on the last day as our kayak group paddled back down Malaspina Reach towards Deep Cove, soaking up the lasting goodness of a remote wilderness experience, the Breaksea Girl would sneak up behind us. Equally, she housed a great deal of wild tales as explorers on board experienced a multi-day adventure in Fiordland so it was easy to strike up conversation or pour over the weather or other happenings. Lance (skipper and business owner at the time Fiordland Ecology Holidays) was never shy of firing a packet of chocolate biscuits over the side to our weary kayak group.
Aside from the obvious (chocolate cookies), I really admired the beautiful silhouette Breaksea Girl cast against the giant mountains and inky waters. Whilst on my personal extended kayaking expeditions along the Fiordland Coast, I would see the vessel in the distance and would dream of being a pirate; to board her for a warm shower, to have a reprieve from the challenging Fiordland conditions or to devour that promise of ‘Tim Tams’ chocolate goodness.
Fortunately, a few years on when tourism company Real Journeys had purchased the vessel I had an opportunity to run a series of kayaking trips using her as a base. It was just perfect. A full day adventuring and exploring the southern fiords, then back on board with all the creature comforts of home on this charming vessel. I was really taken by this new avenue to share the wider Fiordland Coast.
In 2014, Breaksea Girl was up for sale and at risk of leaving Fiordland waters. I was saddened at the thought of not seeing her about - almost as though I was losing a friend. Although we had to make a hasty decision, my partner Brian and I were given the opportunity to purchase the vessel. We knew with Brians broad skill set as a marine engineer and ability to fix things, coupled with my enthusiasm, experience and firm roots to Fiordland it was the right thing to go ahead and take the plunge.
For a number of years we had the luxury of using her as a bach of sorts to explore the hidden valleys and fiords during our holidays and long weekends. We would drag along friends and family to share these wee adventures into the wild and had wonderful times. But all these good times also came at a cost and it was time she came out of the water for some love.
Blasted, painted, and looking great, it was time to start working towards getting her back to work. It seemed a shame to have her sitting on the mooring in Milford waiting for us as weekend warriors to crank the engine or whip out the sails. I set about applying for the necessary licences, permits and concessions to operate in this World Heritage Area. We were fortunate to have previous owners Ruth and Lance Shaw to show us the ropes and share their experience in operating both the vessel and a successful tourism company in Fiordland.
Today, Wild Fiordland is about being able to share this magnificent wilderness area and to impart a sense of preservation and protection for the flora and fauna. Our desire to adventure, to keep learning and to share a special place with beautiful people in an authentic and sustainable fashion is intrinsic. We look forward to welcoming you aboard to share a taste of Wild Fiordland with us.
- Fiona Lee