A Tauranga tetraplegic’s dream of a fishing boat specifically designed for Kiwis with disabilities, illness and hardship has been realised.
It’s been a long time in the planning, but the custom-made Wish4Fish boat is afloat, and the first beneficiary trips booked for December.
Bryce Dinneen is the man behind the dream – a mighty one that has spanned about a dozen years and involved a mammoth amount of fundraising. The $2.5 million boat has been designed with wheelchair users in mind and is believed to be a world-first in terms of what it can offer the disabled community.
Bryce says it’s “awesome” his idea has gone from a dream to a reality.
“It is going to make such a significant difference. The benefits from these trips go way beyond a day out on the water as the beneficiaries gain a sense of what can be achieved, despite some of the most difficult circumstances they experience,” he enthuses.
This keen fisherman would know. He was left a C4 tetraplegic following a shallow diving accident 14 years ago at the age of 29. He dreamt up the boat idea while on his back in a spinal unit.
The boat shares the name of the charity started by Bryce to provide people with access to the ocean, mainly through fishing trips. Over recent years, the charity has taken about 100 people out annually on chartered boats. Now, thanks to the fit-for-purpose boat, that’s all set to increase to 1,000 per annum and the experience will be improved.
The Wish4Fish boat, made by Alloy Cats, is a Roger Hill custom designed 18m alloy high displacement catamaran powered by twin marine diesel engines. Its capacity is for 50 passengers (with that including carers). It includes a specifically designed loading system to allow for wheelchair access from a wide variety of berths. It includes, for example, a wheelchair access lift to the fly bridge and a full-loop gantry crane to allow bathroom access for all levels of wheelchair users. There are beds too as overnight trips are a possibility although most excursions will span half a day.
Wish4Fish general manager Tony Pearce says there’s great excitement around the completion of the boat build, and what this means for New Zealanders with disabilities.
He says although the boat is based in Tauranga, plans are already afoot for it to pick up passengers in Auckland and The Coromandel and ultimately further afield as this is a boat for New Zealand.
The Wish4Fish boat project was made possible by various fundraising endeavours plus a large grant from the Lotteries Commission, and financial support from the Lion Foundation and the Grassroots Trust, and Pub Charities, for example. While those eligible to enjoy a Wish4Fish boating experience do not have to fish, the boat is fully kitted out with fishing gear, bait and remote-control fishing rods and electric reels for people with very limited mobility. The trips are free-of-charge for beneficiaries.
People interested in booking a trip for beneficiaries can contact Tony on [email protected]
The public can get behind the Wish4Fish endeavours thanks to a just-launched campaign. Called 1,000 Magic Moments, the campaign has been created to help raise funds for 1,000 beneficiary trips per year. It costs about $180 to get one beneficiary (and carer) out on the water.
Tony says people keen to donate any amount can do so on the Wish4Fish website, www.wish4fish.co.nz.
“Donations will empower 1,000 individuals with a physical or mental disability, illness or financial hardship, to benefit from the confidence building and therapeutic freedom of being out on the ocean.
“A day out on the water can bring so much joy and provide our beneficiaries with lifelong memories – we call these magic moments,” Tony says.
The Wish4Fish vessel will also be available for commercial charters, with all proceeds going towards running costs. In fact, the first corporate booking has been received – Bay of Plenty Rugby will host its Christmas staff function on the Wish4Fish boat.