It’s those “magical moments” that make Wish4Fish General Manager Tony Pearce appreciate his job so much.
“One guy was so happy to be fishing again after ten years of being unable to get his wheelchair on board a boat. He was in tears when he caught a fish. He was over the moon. It was a really special moment.”
The charity organisation has been facilitating fishing trips for people with disabilities for almost ten years and now, its new custom-designed $2.4 million launch is ready for excursions.
“It’s a game changer,” admits Tony. “We’ve taken around 400 people out over the last decade. With this new Wish4Fish vessel, we’ll be catering for at least a thousand every year.”
The 18-metre catamaran is believed to be the only one of its kind in the world. Every detail has been carefully considered for people with disabilities and mobility issues in mind – from the ease of guests getting on board, to being able to catch their own fish and even staying overnight in hospital-style adjustable beds.
The deck is spacious and lower railings and large windows allow easy visibility. A specifically designed wheelchair access lift takes guests safely up to the fly bridge where they get a great view from above and can even have a turn controlling the vessel. A full loop gantry crane allows bathroom access for all levels of wheelchair user.
“Right down to the way the doors open and even the shape of the bathroom sink. Everything is designed for the ease of those with mobility issues. It is a really special boat.”
The double-hulled vessel is more stable on the water and during wildlife encounters, a camera with a thirty-times zoom will screen the action on televisions inside so no one misses out on the experience. There’s even a specially created remote controlled fishing rod that can be operated with just one finger.
“We try to do as little as possible. Our guests are in control of their experience. We step in when needed – we put the bait on, take the fish off the hook, fillet it for them. They get to provide dinner for their family. Others simply enjoy the day out on the boat.”
“Our Wish4Fish founder, Bryce Dinneen, once said to me, ‘when I’m on the boat, I’m not disabled; I’m a fisherman.’ That says it all, really.”