Ukrainian sailor given refuge
A solo sailor stranded in Bermuda after he ran aground off the island on his way to a new life in the Caribbean is being helped to get back to sea.
Valery Ivantsov, who fled from war-torn eastern Ukraine, was denied refugee status in Canada this summer and decided to seek a new life on the French territory of Saint Martin.
But six weeks ago marine police brought his crippled Tartan 34ft yacht, MacKenzie Hope, to St George’s.
The dock at Ordnance Island in St George’s has been his home since then.
His meals come from the Salvation Army and the kindness of local people. Mr Ivantsov said area residents “give a lot of help and are very friendly”.
Now Ilya Cherapau, manager of the Bermuda Sailors Home, has appealed for the public to pitch in with donations to help Mr Ivantsov to resume his journey. Mr Ivantsov said the voyage from Halifax, Nova Scotia, which he left on June 11, had not been plain sailing.
An engine fire damaged the cabin of his yacht and forced him to return to port.
Mr Ivantsov, 58, set out again on June 20 but ran into stormy seas, which damaged his mast and tore off his anchor.
He said: “It was serious — I was very afraid.”
The storm blew his vessel off course, but close enough to Bermuda to seek help.
But Mr Cherapau, a Russian national who helped translate for Mr Ivantsov, explained: “He had no map, only a small GPS, and he did not know about the reef.”
The MacKenzie Hope ran aground off Wreck Hill in the West End on July 2, which put a hole in the hull and damaged the rudder.
Mr Ivantsov, a carpenter to trade, is originally from the Donbass, a centre of unrest between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces since 2014.
Mr Ivantsov sought refuge in Antigua in 2012 in a bid to find a new life in the Caribbean but was unable to secure permanent work.
He joined up with two refugees from Georgia, a former Soviet State, in November that year and the group travelled to Canada as refugees.
Mr Ivantsov was able to remain in Canada while he pleaded his case and bought his boat in the expectation he would be allowed to stay.
But his application was turned down at an immigration court hearing in November last year, although the Canadian Government offered him a ticket back to Ukraine.
Mr Ivantsov said: “In this case I would lose my boat and all my tools.”
But Mr Ivantsov added that friends in Saint Martin helped him get a job as a carpenter.
The Bermuda Department of Immigration has granted Mr Ivantsov permission to remain here until October 1.
An immigration spokeswoman said the department assessed stranded mariners on a range of criteria.
The spokeswoman added: “Provided there are no issues, we agree with persons a reasonable date by which they must depart Bermuda.
“Consideration of current weather conditions will assist with the agreed departure date as well.”
But Mr Ivantsov faces a steep repair bill and his boat will have to come out of the water to be made seaworthy again.
Wayne Knight of the St George’s division of the Salvation Army said the organisation had helped Mr Ivantsov with dry goods from its food bank once a week.
Mr Knight said: “Our normal policy is one a month, but given his hardship we have made it every week — that’s the least we could do.”
Stranded sailors are “rare”, but Mr Knight recalled at least one other in the past two years.
Mr Knight said he got the impression of Mr Ivantsov as “an adventurer, unafraid to go it alone — he seems one of those who lives on the sea”.
Mr Cherapau said the sailors’ charity, set up to help seafarers with accommodation, had asked the island’s sailors for assistance.
• Anyone who wants to help Mr Ivantsov can contact the charity at email@example.com or call 295-5598. To assist the Salvation Army call 292-0601