But....who is Marietje?

Rita Danser, born Marietje Andrea van Gent, married to Henk Danser, mother of five children.

Raised on an inland vessel

Rita grew up on an inland vessel. This meant going to a regular school was difficult. The only possibility of getting a few lessons here and there was attending a class organized especially for these particular children whenever the ship was in the vicinity of a town offering this service; Rotterdam in Rita’s case. As soon as she turned eight she had to start attending a proper school, compulsory for children her age. Rita had to leave her family and the ship and for the next three years of her life, boarding school was her “home”. “My parents dropped me off at the front-door and that was it.” Children stayed at the boarding school for periods of six to eight weeks to be picked up by their parents only for a weekend or holiday. Rita doesn’t like talking about this period in her life. As young as she was, she understood that her parents had no other choice but she was homesick regardless. 

The Danser family

In 1978, Rita marries Henk Danser. The construction of their first ship starts in 1980 and is named “Marietje Andrea”. This vessel will be Rita’s home for the next years to come. In those days being away, really meant exactly that. Nowadays we have modern media for our communication. Back then , it meant waiting for your turn to call home at a phone booth in a foreign port somewhere with a pocket full of coins.

While living on board, the first two of the five children are born. As soon as Hendrik Jan, the eldest child, needs to start attending primary school, a house is bought in Delfzijl. While Henk is sailing, Rita is at home, being both mother and father. To be a family as much as possible under the given circumstances, Rita and the children travel to see Henk on the ship as much as she can, traveling for miles if necessary. Clothes are carried in plastic bags and stuffed in every corner of the car. Suitcases would simply take up too much space. For both daughters, Benita and Deborah, both mothers now, history repeats itself.

Benita joined her husband Dennis onboard their ship for a few years, together with their two daughters and just recently started life ashore so their eldest daughter Annika can go to school. Deborah is currently living on m.v. Marietje Deborah together with her boyfriend Walter and daughter Julia. This will be her life until Julia also needs to attend school.

Henk and Rita’s first son Hendrik Jan sails onboard “Marietje Andrea”. His girlfriend Hester has a job ashore. Their second son Andries lives onboard the “Marietje Marsilla” together with his girlfriend Manon. And as stated in the previous article, Martijn, the youngest son in the Danser family is captain on the “Marietje Nora”. 

It’s quite unique that all five children finished their studies at a nautical college and are all sailing. It is not a given that the whole Danser family is home during important holidays like Sinterklaas and Christmas. The Danser family celebrates with whomever is home. Since a few years, Henk has been home for longer periods of time. Although this took a bit of getting used to, Rita is pretty clear about the goings-on in the Danser household: “At home, I’m the captain!”

As for every vessel the Danser family has built, Rita also took care of organizing the entire inventory for the “Marietje Nora”. Quite a task and with every square meter of the Danser home being used. The catering for everyone onboard during the technical trial of the vessel was, as usual, also done by Rita. It wasn’t even considered having this outsourced. Since the “Marietje Nora” is now delivered and sailing, it’s business as usual for Rita, organizing all sorts of things for the five vessels .

Rita is the driving force behind shipping company Danser-Van Gent. She wouldn’t want it any other way.


“At home, I’m the captain!”