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Old 03-30-2013
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Re: Sailboat perishes off Hatteras, USCG rescues crew

There's now a $200 peak fee to climb Denali (Mt. McKinley) or Mt. Foraker in Alaska's Denali Nat'l Park. Used to be free. The money goes to defray the cost of the Park's 'Mountaineering Management Program' -- which is to say, rescue services. See, so many doofuses were getting themselves in trouble on Denali -- dozens every season -- and radioing for rescue, the Parkies were going broke. The situation was made worse, not better, by the medical research tent at 14,000' (called the 'rescue tent' by hacks) and by the high altitude helicopter ('the Denali Llama') out of Talkeetna. Now any peak-bagging idiot is willing to throw themselves at Denali, which is a very serious undertaking. If it goes bad, they can call for a rescue!

NPS shut down the entire peak after a season where some twenty people died, most of them manifestly unqualified to be on the mountain. Then they re-opened it with qualification check and a rescue insurance requirement. Now they've moved to a peak fee system.

Don't think they won't. Don't think they can't. And don't think our non-sailing fellow citizens are going to shoulder these costs forever.

So, question: How would y'all feel about a nationwide (or worldwide) sailing-specific rescue insurance program? It could be public, it could be private. Premiums could be quite low, if enuf sailors subscribed. But the upshot would be something like this: if you buy the insurance, we will respond to your distress call at no charge. But if you choose NOT to buy the insurance -- and it is entirely voluntary, unlike Liability in many countries -- you may, at our discretion, be charged by the responding agency or private party up to 75% of the actual costs of your rescue. Low six figures, possibly.

Do you think that would help the problem? Or would we just have what we have now -- people pulling the Panic Lever early because the insurance will bail them out?

Europe has used such a program for backcountry activities for many years; it's not clear what effect it has on rescue rates, but it does at least shift the cost of those rescues where it properly belongs. If we cannot police ourselves someone will offer to do that for us. Certificates of Competence. Mandatory inspections. Liferaft requirements.

Don't want that? Let's figure out a better way, then. That doesn't necessarily mean a return to the 'Iron Men on Wooden Ships' ethos -- but something better than the present "Marshmallow Twits on Plastic Condos" might be in order. Eh?
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