Between 1957 and 1959, China built seven tugboats for the Soviet Union: Chaser, Contemporary, Creative, Complete, Calm, Cautious, Classy.* After this set of septuplets arrived in our country, they were separated. Some were sent to serve in the Far East, and some to the distant North. Surprisingly, the most steadfast of them turned out to be a ship that landed in the northern town of Khatanga, where conditions were far from easy. All the other tugboats from that era have been consigned to scrap heaps, their metal recycled. But Creative (Созидательный) continues patiently hauling coal and guiding other ships through northern ice fields.
For some reason I was finding it difficult to remember the name of the ship I was to board in a few hours. Whoever named it Creative surely had a rich imagination. I stuffed my backpack with a few packets of ramen noodles, two chocolate bars, dried apples, a sweater and some slippers. Just in case, I also packed a lighter, a knife, and coil of rope. If Creative got into trouble, I thought, I might stand a chance of holding out a bit longer with these items. Yet, for a ship with a name like Creative, there ought to be a way out of any trouble!
I had about two hours before my departure, so I lay down and closed my eyes, trying to doze a bit. Who knew what sort of night was ahead? In my thoughts, I could hear the calm voice of the Khatanga Sea Port boss, Sergei Zverev. I recalled how he sat in a comfortable leather chair behind his massive desk, staring at me long and hard, taking my measure. Then he stood, walked over to the window, through which the port’s ships were visible, and asked, as if he already knew the answer, “You want to go out into Khatanga Gulf?”
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