Pirie sailor's final gesture to the club he loved

CHRISTENED: Bernie Collins' father Doug, mother Gene and sister Vivonne present Royal Port Pirie Yacht Club commodore Richard Mackinnon, right, with the Firebug named in his honour.
CHRISTENED: Bernie Collins' father Doug, mother Gene and sister Vivonne present Royal Port Pirie Yacht Club commodore Richard Mackinnon, right, with the Firebug named in his honour.

Bernie Collins' dream became a reality as the Royal Port Pirie Yacht Club opened its season.

Mother and father Gene and Doug Collins, along with sister Vivonne, officially handed over Bernie's Firebug to the club.

Bernie had planned to donate the yacht to the club with an aim for it to be used by its juniors, but tragically he died before the project could be finished.

Mr Collins, along with the help of Frank Hackett and treasurer Mark Eckert, finished the construction in the family's back shed - as per Bernie's wishes.

It was christened Bernie's Bug in his honour.

Mrs Collins said it was a good feeling to see Bernie's dream come to fruition.

"To actually officially hand it over to the club and to think it is finally finished, Bernie would have been really proud of it," she said.

"It was really great to see it finished and to pass it over to the club. It was actually Vivonne's birthday and she sailed it."

A member of the club for more than 30 years, Bernie was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 before he succumbed to the illness in 2016 at the age of 38.

Not only a talented sailor, he was also handy with the hockey stick and was passionate about the development of the junior participants in both sports.

Every three weeks, Bernie travelled to Adelaide for chemotherapy - his mother Gene bought magazines to keep him occupied.

One magazine featured wooden boats and it was that which inspired him to build the Firebug for the juniors to sail.

Bernie had done extensive research into Firebugs and had even contacted one of the boat's designers before the wheels of construction were set in motion.

"He bought the plans, he ordered the mast and the sails and they all arrived before he passed away," Mrs Collins said. "But, unfortunately he passed away in December, 2016, and he didn't see it finished."

As well as the Firebug, the Bernie Collins Memorial Race Navy Cup takes place yearly in February and a club award is issued in his memory.