Dec 01 2021 All Articles

Boating enjoyment for people with disabilities

Boating enjoyment for people with disabilities

A day out on the water can bring so much joy, and thankfully those with physical and mental disabilities have a number of ways to participate.


Just launched and ready for summer is New Zealand’s Wish4Fish boat, a special boat with an incredible story behind it. 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.

The man behind the story is Bryce Dinneen. Bryce suffered a high-level spinal injury, severely damaging his spinal cord following a shallow diving accident 14 years ago at the age of 29. This keen fisherman dreamt up the Wish4Fish boat idea while on his back in a spinal unit.

Faced with the prospect of never being able to fish again, he wondered if he could design and build a boat that would allow individuals with a disability or illness to get out on the water and go fishing. How would this opportunity enhance the lives of those people and their families who would not otherwise be able to do this?

It was at this very point in 2007 that the ‘Wish4Fish’ dream was born. Although now with only four percent function and his own mountains to climb every day, Bryce relentlessly pursued his boat dream and the first beneficiaries are booked for December.

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 (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. 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.

Wish4Fish general manager Tony Pearce says although the boat is based in Tauranga, plans are 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 trips are free-of-charge for beneficiaries. People interested in booking a trip for beneficiaries can contact Tony on


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 make a donation of any amount can do so on the Wish4Fish website,

“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 boat project was made possible by various fundraising endeavours plus a large grant from the Lotteries Commission, financial support from the Lion Foundation, the Grassroots Trust, and Pub Charities, for example.


Many disabled New Zealanders are already well aware of the therapeutic benefits of time on the water, thanks to Sailability, which has been catering for people with disabilities since 1991.(While this link connects to Sailability Auckland, the organisation also thrives in various other parts of New Zealand – just have a google, or scroll through this website.)

Sailability provides opportunities for children and adults with disabilities to learn to sail and race, or to just experience being in control of a sailing boat.

This fabulous organisation’s aim is to provide people with disabilities the opportunity to sail in safety and to experience adventure and freedom – building mobility, self-confidence and pride through achievement.

Sailing programmes suitable for almost anyone are on offer, regardless of the level of their disability or sailing skills. The yachts used have many safety features.

Many members have competed in sailing events including multiple World Championships and Paralympic Games. Others opt to simply have fun on the water and enjoy the freedom sailing can offer.

Yachting NZ – inclusive sailing

Yachting NZ recognises there are many opportunities to get on the water for recreation or competition in boats that can be adapted to suit anybody. With that in mind, this organisation has developed a toolkit for clubs in providing inclusive programmes and delivering sailing for people with a disability. There is a wealth of resources available on inclusive sailing.

In fact, Yachting New Zealand has a committee for sailors with a disability that is responsible for ensuring New Zealanders in this community have the chance to participate at all levels from grassroots up to international competition.

Check out this website for answers to frequently asked questions, to read about upcoming inclusive events, and to find out about high performance para sailing opportunities. This site includes links to Sailability contact people throughout New Zealand, and to a contact person for blind sailing.

Yachting NZ’s philosophy is based on four principles.

  • An enabling attitude
  • An enabling environment where barriers are removed
  • Access that is real and equitable
  • All people participating

Just as it should be! Yachting NZ and Sailability have long been applauded for what they offer NZ’s disabled community. It’s great to now have Wish4Fish on board with their special boat too.

Looking for the right cover on the water in New Zealand in 2021?

No matter what your plans are on the water in 2021, Mariner Insurance is here to support you. We have been offering Kiwis specialist marine insurance in New Zealand for over a decade with cover for all types of boats and watercraft. Just talk to us about what you’re doing on the water, and we can tailor one of our insurance policies to fit.