The Caribbean
Unconventional travelogue of the Caribbean
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More About This Title The Caribbean


After a life-changing diagnosis, Dutch entrepreneur Jacob Gelt Dekker decides to take a step into the unknown. Setting sail from his home in Key West, he embarks on an odyssey around the Caribbean islands, navigating treacherous waters and nations forever shaped by the Age of Discovery and transatlantic slave trade. Soon he discovers that he is not alone on his boat. With him during the long days and nights at sea are Anansi the Spider, the West African trickster, and The Flying Dutchman, doomed to sail the oceans forever and harboring a terrible secret.

Together, this unlikely trio seeks to establish the truth about the history of the Caribbean. Along the way, they encounter famous pirates and unpick tales of untold riches, but also retrace the steps of the region’s slaves, finding out how events in Europe, the fledgling American colonies, and Africa sealed their fates. Informed by personal experience and the people he meets on the islands, Jacob Gelt Dekker offers an unconventional account that is key to understanding the Caribbean and its peoples today.


The charismatic Jacob Gelt Dekker (1948), is a well-known Dutch self-made millionaire, serial entrepreneur, and philanthropist. Despite being diagnosed with cancer in his twenties he has always been living his life to the full.

A world traveler pur sang, commuting between his residences in Amsterdam, New York, Curaçao, and Key West, Dekker is the pen-ultimate Dutch entrepreneur who sees opportunities everywhere and is a most generous patron of numerous institutions.

Dekker is always involved in improving the situation for the less fortunate, whether that is in Africa, Asia or the Caribbean.


Preface v

Introduction vii

1. Key West, Florida 1

2. Cuba 11

3. Hendrick van der Decken 29

4. How I met Anansi 39

5. Duppy Boy 48

6. Port Royal 54

7. Groundation 62

8. A King 71

9. Port-au-Prince, Haïti, and the emperors 80

10. Dead reckoning: a scientific sailor's challenge 94

11. Santo Domingo 104

12. Treasure 116

13. Bartolomé de Las Casas 129

14. The transatlantic slave trade 139

15. Powerful clergymen 153

16. Men-of-War, and the men who sailed them 169

17. Another three Dutch and three British pirates 179

18. St. Eustatius and the Golden Door 195

19. Islanders of all kinds 205

20. Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice 221

21. The decline of the WIC, the rescue, and modern-day



22. More local characters 241

23.Windward Islands, Trinidad and Tobago 253

24. Leeward Antilles 263

25. Curaçao, the end of a long sea voyage 272

Epilogue 284

About the Author 289


You thought you knew the Caribbean, its history, people, flavors, colors, traditions and contradictions? Set sail with Jacob Gelt Dekker on a journey to the Caribbean as only he can tell, away from common places, guided by a contagious curiosity and unmatchable experience. Let the Caribbean get into your veins, as only natural storytellers can make happen. You'll love every single page of Jacob's amazing account. Norbert Braakhuis, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Venezuela

A journey on a sailing-ship along the Caribbean Islands becomes a lucid experience through cultural history. In his erudite and eloquent log with a great sense of humour, Skipper Jacob Gelt Dekker, accompanied by an imaginary crew, takes us with him over the high waves of sea-battles and slavery to beautiful places on palmy coastlines where locals peacefully prepare their typical food. A most remarkable chronicle ! Hannedea van Nederveen Meerkerk, CEO MoWIC Foundation

“Never give up”. If anything typifies Jacob Gelt Dekker, it is his own adagio. I have met many people in many countries but nobody as impressive as Jacob. A most unusual man with a truly remarkable -if not unique- life history, defying an incredible amount of odds thanks to his intelligence, perseverance, creativity and willingness to travel uncharted waters. This book testifies to all that. He is also a noted philanthropist and a most valiant heart. The Fulbright center in Amsterdam is blessed with a patron like him. Rudolf Bekink, former Dutch Ambassador to the United States

An entrepreneur man on a mission! I have known Jacob Gelt Dekker for more than a quarter of a century and believe me, he is truly the legendary Flying Dutchman. A man with a genuine concern for the welfare of others and society. His love for the Caribbean Islands is clearly reflected in this book and his surprising apparition of life in the Caribbean is delightful. Jacob has allowed us to sail through the Caribbean Islands forever, while giving us a legacy of hope! Charles D.A. Ruffolo, President, The NetworKing Corporation & Founder of the Giving Back Foundation