Expect fair winds and calm seas in 2009 | Fred Hoeppner

Friday Harbor boaters can expect Fair Winds and Calm Seas for the year 2009.

How do we know this? Well, for a number of years now, Gloria and John Bentzen, and Judy and Arne Bentzen have celebrated their Danish tradition of “Saluting the Compass” on New Year's Day by hosting this marine ritual on the waters off Brown Island. The essential element is, of course, the toast to Thor, god of thunder, lightning and wind.

It works like this. At the appointed hour of noon on the first day of January, all boats must be on the compass heading of North. The boat's whistle is sounded and all hands lift a toast to Thor. Then all boats come to course East, and again a toast is hoisted to Thor. Then all come to South – repeat the toast. Then swing to West and again repeat the toast with a wish for Fair Winds and Calm Seas for all mariners at sea.

A parade of all the boats through Friday Harbor ends at Shipyard Cove Marina where the Bentzens host a sumptuous smorgasbord featuring traditional ethnic foods like pickled herring, rollmops, fried chicken and blackeyed peas. And, of course, sea stories of the past year, only slightly embellished, are told between sips of a delicious concoction whose ingredients are known only to John.

— Fred Hoeppner is a retired Navy captain and an active competitive sailor. He lives on San Juan Island.

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