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Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Peter's Café Sport: The Post Office in The Middle of The Atlantic

The Azores in the North Atlantic is one of the most remote archipelago in the world. Situated about 1,500 km from the west coast of Portugal, their location almost mid-way between North America and Europe, makes them an ideal stopover for yachts crossing the Atlantic—and it has been that way for more than three hundred years ever since Jesuit missionaries began visiting the islands on their trips between Brazil and Asia. Today, thousands of sailors anchor in the port of Horta, on Faial Island, and walk straight into Peter's Café Sport, a famous yachting pub and an extraordinary post office.
Peter's Café Sport Horta
Peter's Café Sport, a mid-Atlantic meeting point for adventurers. 
For more than a hundred years, sailors around the world have been picking up their mails from Peter's Café Sport—a tradition that was developed by Ernesto Lourenço S. Azevedo, great-grandfather of José Henrique Azevedo, the current owner of Peter's Cafe Sport. The establishment was originally called “Azorean House” when Ernesto Azevedo opened it in 1901 to sell traditional hand-crafted goods such as baskets, ropes, embroidered lace and straw hats, in addition to drinks. As a young man, Ernesto Azevedo would row around the harbor visiting the anchored yachts asking sailors if they needed any provision and assistance and a lot of them would ask him if he could hold their mails for them. Soon, word spread around the yachting community that you could have your mails forwarded to this small watering hole and when you arrived in Horta, you would have a pile waiting for you.
In 1918, Ernesto’s son Henrique Azevedo took over the business and changed its name to “Café Sport” to express his passion for sports. Henrique Azevedo pioneered some of the great features that are still typical of Peter's today—the choice of furniture, an eagle as the symbol and gin and tonic, which remains the most popular drink in the bar.
Peter's Café Sport Horta
Location of Horta on Faial Island in the Atlantic.
During the Second World War, a Royal Navy battleship arrived at Horta after suffering damage and spent the rest of the war moored in the harbor. The ammunition and supply officer of the ship saw a great similarity between his son, Peter, and Henrique’s son, whom he also began to call Peter. The name stuck and shortly afterwards it became part of cafe’s name.
Over the decades, Peter’s Café developed several traditions.
“There are three things sailors do when they come to this island,” José Henrique Azevedo tells the BBC. “The first is to leave a painting in the harbor.”
It is said that whoever doesn’t leave a painting attracts bad luck during the journey. Superstition and the pleasure of leaving one’s mark on the island have filled Horta’s harbor with small paintings all over the pavement and on the walls.
Peter's Café Sport Horta
Horta’s marina is filled with artworks. Photo: Viv Lynch/Flickr
Peter's Café Sport Horta
Peter's Café Sport Horta
“The second tradition is to leave a flag here in the café,” Azevedo continues.
A mass of flags and pennants donated by thousands of sailors who passed through the island, had a drink at Peter’s or exchanged mails there hang from the ceilings of the café.
“The third one is to sign our book,” Azevedo says and proceeds to show BBC the first ever log book.
If I ever forget your kindness, may I go straight to hell—Bill and Adriane, 1966,” reads one of the entries.
There are countless thank you notes like this one.
“I feel very proud of everything people wrote here about my family,” beams Azevedo. “This was actually the reason that made me want to keep the family business.”
Peter's Café Sport Horta
The longest and the most important tradition, however, has been to act as the post office. Unlike the island’s official post office, Peter's Café remains open many hours a day and night and sailors can get their mail as soon as they arrive at the harbor. They also like the idea of getting a cold drink while they read their letters, instead of waiting in queue at the post office.
José Azevedo doesn’t charge a dime for what he does, neither did his father or his grandfather, but the joy of building friendships is what motivates him to keep the family tradition alive.
In recognition of the service to international correspondence, in 2004, Portugal postal office honored Azevedo’s grandfather and the café by releasing three special stamps dedicated to the café.
Peter's Café Sport Horta
The harbor of Horta. Photo: Pro Garten GmbH/Shutterstock.com
Peter's Café Sport Horta
José Henrique Azevedo sorting mails at his café. Photo: rach2k/Flickr
Peter's Café Sport Horta
Inside the café. Photo: michael clarke stuff/Flickr
Peter's Café Sport Horta
Inside the café. Photo: Monteregina/Flickr
Peter's Café Sport Horta

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