A few weeks ago, just after sunset, I saw a gorgeous ship upbound at Clayton... It was unusual because it was bathed entirely in a soft blue light. I had never seen anything quite like it. No one I talked to seemed to have seen it, so I put it away as an isolated event.
Maybe my old eyes were playing tricks. As luck would have it, I saw it again last week, downbound, in daylight. Again I was struck by its fine lines, lack of rust, and absence of skid marks along the hull.
She looked brand new, just out of the box. I stopped to admire her as she passed, and was tempted to call on the radio and comment on her appearance. Propriety overcame the urge, and I went on about my business.
It was appropriate, as Dad is the oldest surviving member of our family that had served in WWII.
Next day was our US Thanksgiving, and when I went to spend the day with my 102+ father in Watertown. DeWitt Withington, our son, was there with his family. DeWitt is a Seaway Pilot and he had been the pilot on the Marietje Deborah and had seen the letter on the ship’s bridge. It was from the Captain to US and Canada. Dewitt brought a copy of the letter to my Dad, Lawrence Withington. He knew Dad is the last surviving member of our family who served in WW II, so the letter was appropriate.
I quote it in part:
"Dear People of the United States of America and Canada: I am Henk J. Danser and I was born March 17, 1948. I am a tenth generation sailor and have been sailing fifty-two years. My wife, Rita, and I have five children....all are, unbelievably, also sailors.
I have come to the United States and Canada for the first time in my life. ......in the name of my parents and grandparents, I want to thank your parents and grandparents for sacrificing their lives to free us on May 5, 1945. We still celebrated that day every year. So, THANK YOU.
I was born in Leiden, the Netherlands, and began sailing with my parents at age 12. By 18, I was a tugboat captain. I have sailed 52 years, mostly in Europe. Our family has designed and built four ships, all named after the ladies in our family. We live aboard the Marietje Deborah.
I wish my father and mother could be here to witness that I am sailing with my youngest son and crew to America and Canada after 52 years of sailing I find it so momentous and special, and so I wanted to share it with you...
Boe-ble Henk, Rita, the children, and crew of the “Marietja Deborah"
World and national news headlines are alarming and distressing. Just as I was feeling depressed, along came this gentleman who remembered the sacrifices of our families and countries many years ago,....and wanted to add his personal thanks. Folks like this give me hope, and I guess I needed some this year.
These are our true friends and allies. I do hope that when the ships, Marietje Deborah, Marietje Andrea, Marietje Marsilla and Marietje Astrid ... come up the River next season, that folks will take time to appreciate them and recognize them as our friends. In my game, one good friend tops a thousand enemies!
Some of you may not know that Canada provided refuge to the Dutch royal family during WW II, and their gratitude is shown each spring when Ottawa celebrates the Tulip festival. You see the Dutch government sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa in appreciation for this special care. In fact, they continue to send thousands of new bulbs each year. Obviously, the feeling has passed to the next generation, and they have not forgotten us. We should do as well.
My father was touched to find that after all these years someone would actually want to say Thank You to the people who had helped his country a couple of generations ago. By sharing this letter with Thousand Islands Life.com, the gratitude of one family will be delivered to more than 4000 families. It just strengthens the warm feelings between the Netherlands and their friends in Canada and the USA.
Greetings from Dick at Wintercroft, Round Island.
Dr. Richard (Dick) L. Withington is a retired Orthopedic Surgeon, living out a childhood dream spending his fifth consecutive winter alone at the head of Round Island. His wife Roseanne heads to Florida when "Rivercroft" is closed in October and Dick moves into the former servants' quarters, "Wintercroft". Dr. Withington has an airboat which he keeps at his own dock in winter ready to help. The Sheriff's office will call him directly if and when there is a problem. His first article for TI Life, A Winter Islander, was published in January 2009. To see all of Dick’s island experiences search TI Life under Richard L. Withington.