What holiday by the sea would be complete without a voyage on a pirate ship? Having seen the ‘Barbarossa’ in the harbour at Rethymno, we decided to take the three-hour cruise along the coast to the Caves at Skaleta, and back.

We were warned that the sea was rather rough today – still, it looked perfectly fine to our untrained eyes from the harbour, and we weren’t planning on joining in with the ‘swimming from the ship’, so off we went!

Not soon after leaving harbour, we understood how deceptive appearances could be! The ship was certainly rocking and rolling as it ploughed on around the coast. A couple of our fellow travelers were VERY ill, and unfortunately would have to get through the rest of the three hour trip, which left us feeling rather sorry for them. But for those of us with strong stomachs and a reasonable sense of balance, I have to say it was one of the more exciting things we’ve done on our holiday!

Clearly a well-practiced expert, the Captain was able to bring the prow of the ship to within touching distance of the ‘pirate’ caves at Skaleta. Far too rough to allow any free time swimming from the ship though, so we began heading back. On approaching Rethymno, we cruised around the headland for a sea view of the old Venetian Fortezza.

I was curious about the history behind Barbarossa, after whom our ship was named. In the west, we always think of him as a notorious pirate. But it turns out he’s something of a hero in Turkish quarters. Having successfully created the Kingdom of Algiers along with his brothers and a small fleet, he was later appointed by Sultan Suleiman to lead the Ottoman Empire navy. At that time, the inexperienced Ottoman navy could not compete against the well-established Genoese and Venetian navies. Barbarossa transformed that, and in the following years he dominated the Aegean and Ionian seas and the Italian coasts. He’s now regarded within Turkey in a similar light to our own regard for Admiral Nelson. We live and learn!