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Perfect day with Reels on Wheels

CATHERINE HEALY
Last updated 05:00 23/11/2012
Reels on Wheels
CATHERINE HEALY
FRESH CATCH: Steven Dart wraps up some fish to take home after his Reels on Wheels trip.

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Hauling your dinner out of the sea is one of those classic Kiwi experiences many of us take for granted.

But not everyone in the City of Sails has access to a boat, and if you get about in a wheelchair, getting on a fishing charter is not easy.

Sure, you could get a mate to lift you over the side, but will there be room for your wheelchair to move about on board?

And have you seen the size of the toilet on your average fishing boat? There's no room for a chair in there.

However there is one organisation that gives Kiwi wheelchair users the chance to get out on the water and fish for their supper.

Reels on Wheels has been around since 2008.

Last summer 150 wheelchair users and their carers took a trip out on the Seasprite II with skipper Sean Dickie.

He's built an accessible toilet and has cut a piece out of the stern to allow room for a wheelchair ramp. He's also added a canopy with side curtains as extra protection from the weather.

As one participant puts it: "It would be nice if this was a reflection of society in general, the effort that's been made to give us access."

Mary Saunders took her first Reels on Wheels trip on November 7.

"It means a lot to me. I'm in a home, in a wheelchair, and you don't get to go anywhere. I like this crowd, they're not all old people and we all get along."

David Swaffield is the trust manager and has been involved since its inception.

He says the trust survives on the willingness of like-minded volunteers.

By applying for various grants and community funding, all costs are met so the participants don't pay a cent for their day out.

"The advantage we have is it's easy to explain and you can see the results. It's hard for some charities to show what they achieve."

Letitia Hayter is a caregiver who has been on the Seasprite three times now with the woman she cares for, Maia Amai.

"It means a huge amount to them," Ms Hayter says. "The crew really look after these guys. You can't pay for that kind of courtesy and love."

Mr Swaffield points out that the trip is also valuable time-out for caregivers.

In some cases the "chair angler" will come with a friend, giving their primary caregiver a precious day off.

More than 100 people are already registered on the Reels on Wheels database but the charity would like to expand its reach.

Register online at reelsonwheels.co.nz if you or someone you know would like to take part. Donations are also accepted via the website.

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The next trip is planned for December 10.

- Auckland City Harbour News

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