The youngest member of the Arctic Cowboys, a team of three Texas paddlers trying to become the first to kayak through the Northwest Passage in a single season, bowed out of the expedition today.
Rebekah Feaster, 31, who signed on to the adventure in late March, left the team Friday, and was transported back to Pond Inlet where she will recover, then return home.
“It is with a heavy heart that I write this update,” she wrote in a statement released by expedition manager Barbara Hansen Friday afternoon. “Due to some pretty intense nausea caused by sea sickness and anxiety, I decided to bow out of the expedition. I was not able to intake enough nutrition to keep up with the demands being placed on my body and I realized we needed to start making the kind of mileage I couldn’t manage.”
The Arctic Cowboys – Feaster, along with expedition leader West Hansen, 60, and longtime paddling partner Jeff Wueste, 62 – launched their roughly 2,100-mile attempt Tuesday morning, after being pinned down for a week securing paperwork and waiting out gale force winds in Pond Inlet.
They made slow progress their first three days on the water, battling gusty winds and high seas to cover a total of just 34 miles.
“Wind and waves have been much more than they expected,” expedition manager Barbara Hansen said earlier Friday. “The placement of cliffs versus the wind direction versus waves made for a bad combination.”
The Cowboys hope to reach Tuktoyaktuk, a small Inuit community on the southwestern side of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, by late September or early October.
Rebekah Feaster left team Friday
A Pond Inlet resident who has assisted the team with logistics picked Feaster up by boat Friday morning. Hansen and Wueste continued paddling today.
Feaster, a proven endurance athlete who has finished the Texas Water Safari, a 260-mile non-stop paddling race from San Marcos to the Texas coast, eight times, and holds the record for the youngest female to complete it solo, described her decision to drop out as gut wrenching.
“Jeff and West were incredibly kind and understanding of my situation and did everything they could to make it possible for me to stay out there,” she said. “My teammates are some of the best people I’ve come to know and I miss the conversations, story telling, and jokes already.”
Hansen has already led two other major expeditions. In 2012, he became the first to paddle the entire Amazon River, from its newly discovered source to the sea. Wueste paddled most of that expedition, and all of Hansen’s follow-up trip down the entire Volga River in Russia two years later.
The challenges this time are different. They’re likely to face polar bears, sea ice, storms, and frigid water.
“I’m cheering for them so hard from land now and if anybody can tackle this challenge, it’s these two! “ Feaster says.