Peter's Cafe Sport in Horta, Portugal, is a legend among sailors, dreamers and visitors

"Looking for a boat!" reads one jobs notice above the bar of Peter's Cafe Sport. "Any boat, any direction."

Another reads, "Spanish marine biologist looking to cross the Atlantic, or to Canary Islands. Skills: open water diver, life guard, cooking, cleaning, watch keeping."

There's probably no other bar like Peter's Cafe Sport, which celebrated its centenary last year. Declared the globe's "greatest yachting watering hole", it is beloved by schemers, dreamers and round-the-world sailors – including the late Sir Francis Chichester, who in the late 1960s became the first solo sailor to circumnavigate the globe from the United Kingdom (with a stop in Australia).

The schemers and dreamers typically head to Horta, a picturesque red-tiled town clinging to verdant green hillsides on the island of Faial, seeking maritime adventure – some admitting they've never been on a yacht before.

Faial is, officially, the westernmost part of Europe: a Picadilly Circus of Atlantic Ocean-going yachts.

Europe's tectonic plate ends with Faial, the eroded remains of a volcano that once rose spectacularly from the ocean bed as the continents drifted away from each other to form the Atlantic.

For 60 years, Horta's economy has been based on  its status as a primary stop for yachts crossing from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean, or those planning to round Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope.

Docking in Horta and visiting Peter's Cafe Sport is a yachtsman's rite of passage.

This morning, I've walked from Horta's cruise terminal along the esplanade, diverted through narrow cobbled lanes to gaze inside Catholic churches with beautiful facades and strolled along the fishing dock where wizened men prepare lures as their ancestors taught them.

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Along the way, I've seen Horta's unique contribution to graffiti. Decades of sailors have painted murals to declare their ambitions for voyages ahead. And sooner or later, everyone who visits Horta ventures into Peter's Cafe Sport.

 The cafe's bright blue facade is easy to spot but the magic starts inside, especially if you are fortunate enough to meet Jose Henrique Azevedo, fourth generation custodian, and son of the titular "Peter".

Apart from plaintive pleas for adventures, the cafe's interior is cloaked in yachting memorabilia, including a giant carved timber multi-cultural eagle above the bar which came from an American whaler.

During World War I, visiting Germans and Brits remained united in a love of football, tennis and water polo, introducing those sports to Faial locals, and persuading Azevedo's grandfather to call his new establishment "Cafe Sport".

The "Peter" came later. During World War II, Jose's father was a teenager assigned to repair HMS Lusitania, which was stranded in Horta's harbour. The youngster was befriended by a Royal Navy officer who asked if the Portuguese youngster minded if he called him Peter, since the Brit was missing a son he might never see again. "Peter" stuck.

Today, Azevedo is doing a roaring trade in G&T's. He makes his own Peter's Gin, which is much loved by cruise ship passengers. But his real passion is reserved for the scrimshaw museum, above the cafe.

Whaling ended officially in the Azores in 1984, but it really died, Azevedo says, when a third of the island's population emigrated to the US in 1959 after the last devastating volcanic eruption.

"Whalers from Nantucket used to call in at Horta on their way to the Pacific," Azevedo says.

The scrimshaw museum is extraordinary – its contents gathered by one family over four generations in such a small town – possibly the best in the world.There are about 1000 pieces of intricate art, mostly carved by illiterate whalers.

Chichester – the first solo sailor to circumnavigate the globe from the UK (with a stop in Australia) in 1966-70 – sailed back via Horta.

Azevedo's father, "Peter", had received a telegram from Chichester's wife. But he wasn't allowed to hand it to him under the rules of the competition.

"So my father put the message in a bottle and went out to sea to throw it to him," Azevedo says.

Chichester paid tribute to Peter's Cafe Sport when he gave his first interviews to Fleet Street, back on land.

TRIP NOTES

MORE

traveller.com.au/portugal

visitazores.com

CRUISE

Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers eight itineraries that stop at Horta, including the 14-night Grand Atlantic & Azores cruise from Lisbon to Miami, which costs from $7850 a person. See rssc.com

EAT

Peter's Cafe Sport has some of the best nautical food in the Atlantic, including "whale soup". It's actually a hearty meat and vegetable soup, much loved by Nantucket whalers. See petercafesport.com

Steve Meacham was a guest of Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

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