From: Customs & Traditions of the Canadian Navy
By Lt. Graeme Arbuckle, RCN
Passing the Port
After 'Thanks' are given, port glasses are brought around by the stewards and set before each diner. Decanters of port, stoppers in, are set before the president and each vice-president. Other dessert wines such as Madeira or Marsala may be used instead of, or in addition to, the port.
When the decanters are in place, the senior steward reports to the president:
"The wine is ready to pass, Sir."
The president then unstoppers the decanters in front of him, as do the other officers with decanters. The president passes his decanters to the left, and other officers do the same without serving themselves.
The decanters are kept at least one place apart as they move around the table. If no one is seated at the end of the table, the stewards move the decanters across it. Any officer who forgets to help himself before passing the port is out of luck since decanters move only to the left. The port is passed by sliding the decanters along the table, reducing the risk of dropping them or spilling their contents. They may be raised from the table to pour. The practice of never lifting the decanters, even to pour, is an exaggeration of the passing method. It is not a tradition, should not be practiced, and getting caught is a good way to get fined.
No-one is required to take wine if they do not want it, but it must be taken on the first round of
the decanters, or not at all. In civilian toasts, if you do not take wine, your glass is filled with water. In the Navy, however, toasts are never made with water, as superstition says that the person toasted will die by drowning.
When a set of decanters arrives in front of an officer who has charge of it, he serves himself and keeps the new set in front of him. The stewards then bring the decanters' stoppers to the
officer so that the sets remain matched. No one touches their wine until the 'loyal toast' has been proposed. When the wine has been passed and the decanters are in place the senior steward reports:
"The wine has been passed, Sir."
The president then stoppers the decanters in front of him and the other officers do the same.
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