The Compass Goes Virtual

The Caribbean Compass, a scrappy monthly newspaper favored by the tropical cruising crowd, takes on cyberspace

If you live as far from the tropics as, say, Alaska, and you've noticed that over the last few months you haven't received your mailed copy of the Caribbean Compass, the newspaper that caters to cruising sailors, guess
where you'll find it?

On the web, of course.

In early 2007, the recently privatized Postal Corporation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which is still more or less bound by government rules, altered regulations that effectively increased postal rates to the Compass's
international subscribers by 1,300 percent, according to Tom Hopman, who with his wife, Sally Erdle, have put out the monthly publication from the island of Bequia, just south of St. Vincent, for a dozen years.

"They forced us into the 21st century," Sally says. "We were flabbergasted."

There's a silver lining to this cloud, Sally stresses: While the Compass may have initially lost a few of its 300 hard-copy subscribers, it's gaining new ones from people who'd never before signed up for the paper. "We sent a
postcard explaining the situation and asked them if they wanted to get it via the internet," she says. "A handful we never heard back from, but a lot of people have told us they actually prefer it because they receive the
paper as soon as it comes out the first of the month." Advertisers like it too, and that's always good for business, she adds.

And what's still good for sailors cruising anywhere from the Virgins to Venezuela is that the Compass still faithfully prints 11,000 copies that are distributed throughout the eastern Caribbean, free of charge.

Most folks aren't complaining, but one did, and Erdle and Hopman decided to make an exception and send the Compass by snail mail to--who else but?--Don Street, granddaddy of cruising guides and regular Compass contributor.

"Since Don's Don, we did it for him," Sally says. We can feel her grin through the phone lines. To subscribe to the Compass on line, log on to the website (www.caribbeancompass.com).