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Vince Vlasoff



Vincent (Vince) Nicholas Vlasoff MBE (1917-1986) was born in Newcastle NSW, with a Russian émigré father who had come to Australia from Siberia as an engineer, via Vladivostok. He had an itinerant childhood as his father moved the family around in search of employment during the Great Depression.

Vince trained as a mechanical fitter and turner at Portland NSW and subsequently in Sydney. In June 1939, he moved to Cairns and was employed in his trade at a small engineering firm. Whilst still in this employment, he ventured offshore with commercial fishermen at every opportunity- the life and the freedom attracted him far more than operating a metal turning lathe.

Within a year, Vince had purchased a commercial vessel, the Whalanui, and was fishing on his own account. World War 11 was now raging and in 1942 he was conscripted into the Australian Army. He was discharged due to injuries in 1944 at which time he resumed commercial fishing in partnership with a Chinese friend. Cairns was an extremely busy place during these times, a base for the still crucial Pacific campaign. Vince prospered from his fishing venture, using a leased vessel Tradewinds.

Based on his own designs, and with his own hands, in 1948 Vince Vlasoff constructed the 42 ft. Tropic Seas, the first steel boat built in the area, and embarked on earning his living from her. For a time he ran charter parties of locals and visitors to fish the reefs. A Melbourne hunting enthusiast Rene Henri headed The Australian Crocodile Shooters’ Club. He teamed with Vince to foster expeditions to far Cape York and other remote regions in search of crocodiles. The voyages were very successful and Vince’s astute promotion ensured that he had plenty of return business. This business continued until the mid- 1950’s when the croc population crashed due to over exploitation and Vince moved on.

With business partner Lloyd Grigg, Vince constructed an underwater observatory from an ex- RAN decompression chamber and set it up at Green Island as the premier Cairns tourist attraction. This was also successful for many years, hosting hundreds of thousands of visitors.

The spectacular birth of the giant black marlin fishery in 1966 gave Vince a further opportunity and he placed Tropic Seas in game fishing charter, especially for live-aboard expeditions. His clients included many of the very earliest game fishing visitors to the region, including the TV stars Bob and Dolly Dyer. His anglers boated a number of significant fish and despite her slower speed, she was considered to be a “fish catcher”.

In the late 1960’s, Vince joined with US and Australian scientists to search for, and ultimately recover, six cannons, a large anchor and much ballast jettisoned from Captain James Cook’s ship HMS Endeavour off Cooktown. These recovered artefacts from June 11, 1770 caused a sensation at the time. Vince’s efforts utilising Tropic Seas in the venture saw him awarded an MBE by the Queen in 1970.

Vince remained busy during the following years, involved with all sorts of activities in the Cairns region. He served on various committees related to the port activities and was the authority on things maritime in the area.

Regrettably, in September 1986 he suffered a fatal heart attack whilst aboard Tropic Seas.

So passed a pioneer in so many fields, a wonderful contributor to the Cairns and Great Barrier Reef, and a worthy entrant into the Cairns Game Fishing Hall of Fame for 2016.

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