SAINT JOHN, New Brunswick — With an improvised oar and an air mattress he had just purchased from Wal-Mart, John Bennett of Calais navigated the St. Croix River on Wednesday, driven by love and in defiance of laws governing the Canada-U.S. border.

The 25-year-old man had attempted to visit St. Stephen, New Brunswick, through an official border crossing about six hours earlier, but he was denied entry, as records showed he was charged with a mischief offense in Calais. If he wanted to enter Canada, he was told he’d have to clear up that matter.

Bennett, after a trip to a local Wal-Mart, found another way, about six miles downriver from the border crossing.

Unfortunately for Bennett, a St. Stephen resident spotted him midriver on his makeshift raft and called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Bennett was arrested, carrying his wet boots in hand, walking along Ledge Road, which runs parallel to the river, southeast of St. Stephen.

In provincial court on Thursday, Bennett pleaded guilty to violating Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Bennett told the court he was trying to reach his pregnant fiancee in St. Stephen because he was concerned about one of her ex-boyfriends and wanted to protect her.

While admitting he might not have used the best judgment, he added, “I did what I thought was right.”

Judge Andrew Palmer said he wasn’t going to get into why Bennet thought he had to get into Canada. His focus was that Bennett did it, even though he’d been turned back that same day.

“The decision you made yesterday was that you were going to get there come hell or high water, pardon the pun,” said Palmer.

Bennett said his being deported would be the biggest punishment, because it means he won’t be able to visit his fiancee.

Prosecutor Peter Thorn, though, said a message had to be sent in sentencing Bennett.

“Obviously there’s an element of humor, in terms of one coming across the St. Croix River on an air mattress,” said Thorne.

But he added that “the integrity of the border and the safety and security of the citizens of New Brunswick and Canada” also needed to be upheld.

The violation was punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Palmer opted to send Bennett to jail for two months. Thorn said Bennett would be deported once he finished serving his time.