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Queen of the towing fleet Oksana Spivak

The only female tug captain in the Far East about her profession on International Women's Day

This fragile woman with a model figure and a gentle voice skillfully manages almost three thousand horsepower. Colleagues call her the queen of the tug fleet. Oksana Spivak is the only woman in the Primorsky Territory and the Far East - a senior assistant - shift captain of the flagship ice-class tug "Dobrynya", the most powerful and modern in the Vladivostok commercial seaport.

Queen of the towing fleet Oksana Spivak
Photo: Igor Bessarab

"Good morning, Vladivostok!" - this is how Oksana greets the city waking up early in the morning with her photographs of beautiful sunrises at the port, which she shares on social networks. While the city sleepily drinks coffee, gathers the children to school and stands in traffic jams, she takes her tugboat with the fabulous name "Dobrynya" to the water of the Golden Horn Bay, which really turns golden at dawn from the rising sun in the east. Sunbeams play with glare on the water and ice floes, are reflected on the captain's varnished nails, gracefully and confidently moving the control levers of a multi-ton vessel.


“When I was first offered to work in tow, I thought: well, no, he and I are incompatible things. And then I fell in love. There is such a dynamic here, such a drive! Although "Dobrynya" is not the easiest to operate. I didn't succeed right away. The entire navigational staff and the tug captain Vladimir Moroz helped to master the car, I am very grateful to them for that, ”says Oksana.


Oksana has been working at Dobryna for only a year. Prior to that, she replaced other shift captains of tugs at the fishing port, until she was invited to the commercial port for a permanent job. First there was the tug "Perseus", then a year and a half as a captain on the "Mighty", and only then - "Dobrynya". To get on the ship with the heroic name, I had to hastily master the control of azimuth nozzles.


The task of tugs in the port is to moor and unmoor various types of ships to the berths. Dobrynya does it better than others, but in capable hands. Its formal designation is "Project 2509 tug". It has the so-called azimuth steering columns - these are propellers that can rotate 360 ​​degrees, so Dobrynya can quickly turn around its axis, and such maneuverability is expensive in the cramped port. It may not be striking in size - 10 meters wide, 26 meters long, but, as motorists would say, “under the hood” - three thousand horses! The maximum speed is 12 knots, so there is no need for more in the port, but “Dobrynya can work even in the conditions of large-broken ice - in the conditions of the Vladivostok water area, the quality is irreplaceable.


Work in the port goes on day and night, ships can come and go at any time of the day, so tugboats work around the clock. The next shift of watch takes place at eight in the morning. Before that, the captain who intercepts for a day accepts the ship, carefully examines it, checking the operation of all systems. Every working day begins with this obligatory part, because the tug works non-stop. Further, during the day and night, the captain works on the instructions of the port dispatcher.


During mooring operations, the tug captain works closely with the pilot. Where special attention and thorough knowledge of local conditions is needed - in the straits, approaches to the port and in the port itself, his help is invaluable. But the captain's task is not an easy one either. It is necessary to have perfect possession of different knowledge: to know perfectly the sailing direction, the rules of navigation in the port of Vladivostok and the laws of different countries, the ability to quickly navigate in a constantly changing complex environment.


It is also necessary to subtly "feel" the ship - one's own and being navigated, accurately and safely put it to the berth in the shortest possible time, without any misunderstandings, excluding emergency situations. The work is carried out in any weather: with strong winds and high waves, in conditions of zero visibility during summer thick fogs and showers, in winter in ice.

When asked how in difficult weather conditions it is possible to fulfill the assigned tasks, Oksana says that her old hobby for sailing helps her.


“Just like in sailing, instant assessment of the situation and quick decision-making are important here. The strength of the wind and its direction can change instantly, the further actions of the captain depend on it. Knowledge of the water area also helps. I have sailed dozens of times to Slavyanka, Strelok Bay, and Bolshoi Kamen. You go in tow and think: here you were on a yacht, but how, I wonder, in tow? " - Oksana compares.

While still a student, she seriously began to engage in water sports. She was engaged in rowing on boats of the "Dragon" class. The women's national team of the Primorsky Territory "Tigers of Vladivostok" with Oksana Spivak at the wheel became the champion of Russia. Oksana's crew twice became the bronze and silver world champion. Every year, for many years in a row, she takes part in the main sailing regattas of Primorye on a yacht of the "Konrad 25 R" class as the captain of the female crew "Aria", and also as a race judge. Knowledge of the local wind rose at different times of the year, currents, approach depths, ebbs and flows came in handy when working in tow.


However, Oksana is clearly shy when she says that only sailing skills helped her quickly get used to the role of the shift captain of the Dobrynya. The requirements for tugboats are very strict, the captain bears great responsibility for the vessel with cargo on board and for the crew of several dozen people. When you moor or unmoor a ship, you need to know absolutely everything about it - what and how busy it is, how it behaves in waves, sailing. And if the weather is bad, every little thing becomes several times more important, but it seems that the Queen of the towing fleet knows how to tame the elements and how to appease the sea gods.


Oksana grew up on the shores of the Sea of ​​Okhotsk on Sakhalin. After school, without hesitation, I applied to Dalrybvtuz - the most prestigious educational institution in the 80s in Vladivostok, where they teach maritime professions - already on the coast of the Sea of ​​Japan. I successfully got into the second experimental educational wave, when girls were allowed to apply for boatmasters.

His naval career began with an 11-month voyage at the Sukhona floating base as the fourth mate. The young specialist went on the second flight as the third assistant, the next one as the second.

Then fishing vessels - super trawlers - burst into Oksana's life. Work in the winter, in ice ... The first "blue" (the famous so-called "blue" series of MRKT supertrawlers of the Spanish type "Cooperation" - Author's note) was "Captain Azarkin", after him - "Mechanic Kovtun". Oksana says that here she learned how to fish.

“At first, I stood with the first mate, Yuri Alekseevich Berestenko, and even took out his watch, because it was necessary to competently learn how to set and choose a trawl, and fish. In fact, it was very difficult for me, but the excitement and interest overcame everything: the harsh weather, the difficulty of work, fatigue and the desire to sleep, ”recalls Oksana.

The sea had to be postponed for a long time when Oksana had a daughter, and this despite the fact that she left the “big sea” with a senior assistant diploma.

“Then I decided that it’s probably worth saying goodbye to the seas, but it wasn’t there. The sea just doesn't let go. Raising her daughter, she continued to be on the water: she was engaged in rowing, yachting. At the same time, I thought that it would be good to restore my senior mate diploma, ”says Oksana.

To restore her qualifications, she embarked on a voyage on the Pavino tanker. “It was unexpected for the crew: the watch officer is a woman, but they believed my professionalism, and I am very grateful to them for that,” says Oksana. And then tugs appeared in her life. An old friend, the captain of one of the "gays", Leonid Grigorievich Karasev, called to the fishing port. How I looked into the water ...


Oksana believes that one of the most important conditions for the successful work of the captain is not knowledge of materiel, sailing directions and meteorology, but love for her work. “I'm lucky: I do what I like. I never thought about choosing a profession, because the answer to myself was obvious: of course, the sea, ”laughs Oksana.


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