As the hands finish their evening repast it is the custom on Traveler and many other naval vessels to close the meal with a glass or two of ruby red port. Traditionally, the decanter starts at the right hand of the host who pours himself a glass and passes the port to the left. It then makes it way around the table in a clockwise direction as tradition dictates. "Why clockwise?", you might ask. Some say this represents the passing of time, others say it frees up the sword hand for fighting. Most likely it is only because most people are right handed and find it easier to pour with their right hand. John claims it has roots in the Coriolis effect, that which makes high pressure weather systems cycle clockwise in the northern hemisphere. He also claims we should pass the port counter-clockwise when we venture south of the equator but that is a matter of debate. Sailors remember this clockwise tradition with the saying, "Port to port."
When at table, it is considered bad form to ask the neighbor to your right to "Please pass the port." Instead, you can say, "Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?" If he knows the tradition he will pass you the port. If not he might say something like this, "No sir, I don't. Why do you ask?" and your reply would be, "He is a terribly nice chap, but he always forgets to pass the port."
To get the decanter moving, you might also say something along the line of, "Do you have a current "pass... port?" while looking at the decanter. But back to the Bishop.... The Bishop of Norwich (John Sheepshanks 1893 to 1910) was quite a drinker in his early years and was known to hog the port decanter through two fill ups before passing it to the left. In his later years he'd developed the habit of nodding off at the table just as the port was making its rounds and so had to be prodded to pass the port.
At our table we have another tradition around the passing of the port, or the drinking of anything for that matter. We toast. To propose a toast, just hold up your glass, make your statement, then while clinking your glass with all others at the table make eye contact with one and all. Sometimes, like the Bishop of Norwich, a non-eye-contact guest at the table must be nudged to look up. Once everyone has establish eye contact, then down the hatch it goes. Proost! Cheers! Salute!
Popeye's Last Supper