Malcolm Vance of Glennallen, who fishes the F/V Bristol Nymph in Egegik, took the win after he donned a survival suit in 57 seconds at the Pacific Marine Expo.
During the Pacific Marine Expo, National Fisherman hosts a contest dubbed “Fisherman of the Year.” It’s open to anybody willing to get onstage and mend nets, tie knots while blindfolded, and splice line. Winners from each heat then square off to see who can don a survival suit the fastest and claim the coveted title.
This year it’s back in the hands of a Bristol Bay fisherman: Malcolm Vance of Glennallen, who skippers the Bristol Nymph in Egegik.
“I’m very impressed with myself, definitely,” he said with a laugh. “A, that I got up there, and b, that I won.”
He competed in all three events.
“I’m a good net mender, and I thought I would win that one, but no. You get in front of a crowd and you start shaking and getting nervous and drop the needle.”
He was close on the knot tying, but fell short to another Bristol Bay skipper, Brent Thompson from Seattle.
Splicing line got him his ticket to the finals (and $100 and a t-shirt).
The crowd always swells to watch the three finalists wrestle their way into survival suits, and the winner will usually get it done in less than a minute. Vance took an early lead, but struggled in the end to get the hood on, and nearly forgot his flap (a common error, the emcees always remind the audience).
He bested his nearest competitor by a few short seconds, posting a time of 57 seconds. That earned him the title, another $100, and a pretty sweet jacket.
Vance took a minute afterwards to reflect on the importance of practicing this safety skill, something he and his crew do often.
“Everybody should do it once a year, every year. Especially new guys. You can’t have enough training for something like that, you want it to make it muscle memory.”