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Dock-to-dock delivery | Kitsap Week

Brewer Dave Lambert rowed a keg of Slippery Pig
Brewer Dave Lambert rowed a keg of Slippery Pig's Rhubarb IPA from Poulsbo to Ballard.
— image credit: Dan Hollingsworth photo

The warm sun was cutting through a crisp, cool Northwest summer morning as Poulsbo’s Dave Lambert woke up on Aug. 24.

The owner and head brewer of Slippery Pig Brewery had a delivery to make. So he tightened his utilikilt, strapped on his boots, and hit the water.

Lambert cast off from the Poulsbo shoreline in a 10-foot rowboat to deliver a keg of Slippery Pig’s Rhubarb IPA to Hale’s Ales … in Ballard.

Lambert was given a send off for his day-long rowboat ride by friends and family, and even the mayor of Poulsbo.

“I think what he did was really fun and novel and he did it in a safe way,” Mayor Becky Erickson said. “He was really excited. My hat goes off to him.”

The Aug. 24 journey began at the Port of Poulsbo marina on the shores of Liberty Bay. He curved around Keyport before turning north through Agate Pass and around the north end of Bainbridge Island. Lambert then took on, perhaps, the most challenging leg of the trip; a nearly 6-mile stretch across the open Puget Sound, through shipping lanes and to the mouth of the Ballard Locks.

“We got a little bit of chop, but all in all the water for the whole trip was really cooperative,” Lambert said.

By the end of the approximately seven-hour trip, Lambert had paddled just over 14 miles. All to deliver a keg of beer — actually three: one full keg of Slippery Pig’s Rhubarb IPA, and two empty kegs that Lambert was returning to Hale’s Ales. The full keg was placed snuggly in the bow, wrapped in a life preserver.

But it wasn’t just about the beer.

“I wanted to do it to honor my ancestors, some of whom founded Poulsbo,” Lambert said. “That was how they went to Seattle.”

It wasn’t just how they traveled to Seattle, Lambert notes, but also how they delivered goods, such as farm produce, eggs, and more. For Lambert, whose modern-day product is beer, delivering a keg in such a way was an apt way to honor those that came before him.

“I really wanted to this to say ‘This is what people in Poulsbo did,’ ” he said. “Those guys were tough. It wasn’t an easy thing for them, but they persevered.”

Lambert prepared for the journey at his local gym in the weeks leading up to the delivery. But getting physically prepared wasn’t all he did.

“Our friend is a tug boat captain and I sat down with him and figured out tides and currents to figure out the best time to leave,” Lambert said. “It worked out perfectly to what he said would be going on out there.”

Lambert had two support boats with him for the journey. One was a sailboat with a collection of friends and family onboard. He also had a friend, Jeff Ericson, at his side in a kayak.

“Through the entire stretch we were yelling jokes at each other, talking, singing on occasion,” Lambert said.

The plan was to embark on the trip and hit certain check points along the way to ensure the delivery would make it to Ballard on time.

“One (checkpoint) was down at Keyport. We wanted to hit that corner at about 8 o’clock,” Lambert said. “We were almost to our checkpoint and Keyport played music on the loudspeakers, the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ ”

Keyport’s morning musical tradition signaled that it was around 8 a.m., putting the delivery on time so far.

Lambert said the outgoing current came in handy while leaving the bay, giving him an extra push out.

Once in Agate Pass, the current became stronger and gave Lambert a little time to relax.

“The current sucked us under the Agate Pass Bridge,” he said. “I didn’t row then. I just sat back and ate a sandwich.”

Hunger became one of the biggest challenges while on the water.

“I was kind of surprised at how hungry I was the whole trip,” Lambert said. “I think it was mostly all the calories going out. It didn’t feel like a lot of real physical muscle work, it was more duration. Quite a lot of times on the trip I was just kind of bored of rowing, not tired, but tired of rowing.”

After Agate Pass, Lambert’s group turned their bows toward Seattle. The expanse of Puget Sound they faced is most popularly used for crossing ferries and as a shipping lane for large ships.

“We hit the southbound shipping lane and there was nothing within sight,” Lambert said. “And then we crossed the northbound shipping lane and we saw two container ships coming and a third one behind it. If we would have been there an hour later we would have hit a lot of traffic.”

With the ships off his stern, Lambert was soon at the Ballard Locks. Both of the larger support boats turned around at the locks, and only Lambert and his kayak companion were left.

It was Lambert’s first time through the locks, and the portion of the journey that was most difficult.

“The doors open and close and it’s a continuous, heavy current. It’s hard to stay in place or get out of other boats’ way. It was a lot of effort.”

A couple of Lambert’s friends were waiting at the locks and watched him rise to Salmon Bay. His supporters also spread word through the crowd about the brewer in the rowboat.

“By the time we hit the top, people standing around were clapping for us,” he said. “It was pretty nice to get applause from strangers.”

The locks was the last checkpoint. Lambert was rowing into a public dock where Mike and Kathleen Hale of Hale’s Ales were waiting with a double decker bus to give them a ride to their pub in Ballard.

“Jeff turned to me and said, ‘We just crossed that. We just did that,’ ” Lambert said.

Lambert said it was a good trip and recommends it to others, though, with a little bit of advice, starting with generously wearing sunscreen.

“The top of my head got hit pretty good. My knee caps are pretty red,” he said. “I tried to use sunscreen.”

He added, “If you want to do it, do it. It was something. Really something.”

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