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Cruisers again have immigration woes

Told to leave Canada, the Russian family set sail for Bermuda but had problems and turned back

Told to leave Canada, the Russian family set sail for Bermuda but had problems and turned back

The Russian family who ran afoul of U.S. immigration in 2003 encountered further problems in Canada late last year, but were given an 11th-hour reprieve by the government to spend the winter there.

Vitaly Bondarenko, 56, his wife, Marina, and their sons Ivan, 11, and Vasily, 6, had been living aboard their 36-foot sailboat, Viajero, in Nova Scotia since last June. The family was told to leave Canada by December, though they would have been allowed to apply for new visas and return to the country this year. They set sail for Bermuda Dec. 4 but encountered mechanical problems on their second day and had to turn back.

Concerned about the family sailing the North Atlantic in winter, Canadian officials issued a temporary residence permit that allows the Bondarenkos to stay in the country until June 30, according to a spokesman at the office of Citizenship and Immigration in Halifax. The Bondarenkos were told of the government’s decision Dec. 12, the day they were to set out a second time.

“The government of Canada is concerned about the safety and security of the family going out to sea at this time of year,” Bryan Amadore, director of operations for Citizenship and Immigration, told the Canadian Press.

The Bondarenko family reportedly was to stay with friends in Lunenburg, and the children would attend local schools.

The Bondarenkos, whose earlier troubles were reported in the February 2004 issue of Soundings, have been cruising for more than a dozen years. Though they enjoy their cruising lifestyle, they have encountered hardship and have had immigration problems in the past.

In June 2003 they were sailing their 28-foot Pearson sloop from the Bahamas to Nova Scotia when they stopped to fuel at Block Island, R.I. They were told to report to immigration officials in Newport, but the family was traveling without valid passports or visas. Federal authorities arrested Vitaly Bondarenko, and he was jailed for four months. His wife and sons stayed in Newport, where the community rallied to support them. After Bondarenko was released, the family repaired and provisioned their boat and set sail for the Virgin Islands.

A year earlier the Bondarenkos had overstayed visas while living in Florida.

Bondarenko, an engineer, and Marina, a teacher, have been married for 23 years. They set out in 1991 aboard a 24-foot steel sailboat and have been cruising the world since, often settling in a country for months at a time. Ivan was born in the United States; Vasily was born in Australia.