It happens all the time—a random occurrence that makes you think, right place at the right time. Oftentimes, these events happen once in a while, and you chalk it up to chance timing, or blind luck. But every now and then, they happen more than once, and involve the same person, activity or location in a way that makes you think—maybe it’s not random. Maybe it’s something more. For our friends Ryan Adler and Danielle Van Niekerk, these types of events seem more than coincidence.
“Ryan and I just recently met, which is kinda bizarre to think about when you consider we grew up having mutual friends, came from the same city and yet never crossed paths. We like to believe in timing,” Danielle said, as we sat on the aft deck of the catamaran sailboat she and Ryan manage. (She’s the cook, he’s the captain.) “Ryan began planting the seeds of this adventure after just a few weeks of dating. He’d randomly ask me if I’d ever join him on a boat, what my thoughts about sailing were, how I felt about the Caribbean. He promoted the islands like a travel agent. ‘It’s paradise over there,’ he’d say. It wasn’t long before I took the plunge.”
Danielle jumped onboard and didn’t look back, taking to life on the boat like a fish to water. However, the world had other plans. “The BVI is a sentimental place for Ryan. He worked doing charters for a year prior to Hurricane Irma and absolutely loved everything about it. The entire lifestyle engulfed him,” Danielle said. “He returned home for a month during the hurricane season, only to watch Irma’s devastation on the news. The charter company continued to ask him to return, but sadly once the island had recovered, the pandemic struck and slaughtered tourism again.”
This was almost the end of the dream for these two. But again, timing is everything. “The power of timing has left us speechless. We were ready to leave this life behind. Ryan accepted a job to captain a private yacht in Turkey, and I accepted a teaching post in the Middle East where I had lived for five years prior. We were both on the brink of flying out to separate destinations when Ryan got a call from Voyage Charters. Tourism was back in full force and they were looking for a captain and chef,” Danielle said.
“We both pulled out of our prior commitments and I immediately signed up for my necessary training courses to become a confident and competent sea faring chef,” Danielle said. “I thrived in the training, I felt like I had renewed energy. Before we knew it, three months of training was over and we were packing both of our lives into carry-on bags. It was a three day journey from South Africa to the BVI, during which I just kept telling Ryan ‘it feels like I’m going on vacation.’ We hopped on this tiny aircraft in the Dominican Republic that shuttled us to our final stop, Tortola. I could barely contain myself. As we began our descent, Ryan started locating all the islands, the aerial view was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”
When you talk to Danielle and Ryan, it’s hard to not let their love of sailing, the water and the BVI rub off on you. They have an infectious positivity. “There’s so much to appreciate in this place, but I’d have to go with the water. Everything about the water—the way it glistens as you pull up to the mooring ball, the way the colors change depending on depths, the abundant sea life—it’s just unreal,” Danielle told us. “For Ryan it’s sailing itself; the power of the wind, the ability to cruise between islands and across oceans. He’s also an avid fisherman, he brings his personal rods on each trip and he’s caught some beautiful fish that the guests love.”
“There are so many amazing places in the BVI, it’s hard to pick just one. But we love White Bay on Jost Van Dyke,” Danielle continued. “The vibrant turquoise waters and lively atmosphere at the beach bars are hard to beat. Even if I’m stuck in the galley preparing a meal, I’m able to feed off the energy around me. If we’re on charter, as soon as the anchor is hooked and we’re settled, I’ll dive into the water before the galley rat race begins. The Baths are also at the top of my list—the boulders, the crystal clear waters, the white sand and lush vegetation on the beach make for a picture-perfect postcard setting. Ryan is all about the secluded bays for an overnight anchorage, where the waters are shallow and there’s a ton of sea life. You’ve then got the mountain goats trotting about on the cliffs and not to mention the most perfect little white stretch of private beach. Ryan finds something special in having a bay all to himself, it’s somewhat like being on a floating private villa.”
For now, at least, it appears that the storms are behind them and it’s smooth sailing for this South African couple. “We ideally plan on staying in the BVI for a few years. I personally don’t do well with stagnation, it tires me out, so this lifestyle suits me well. There’s a lot of movement and you’re constantly surprised by the guests and the conditions. Sure, it gets exhausting at times, but I love it.”