The eerie anchorage off Maîtresse Ile, right in the heart of the notorious Plateau des Minquiers, is one of the most daunting corners of Europe to take a boat.

The eerie anchorage off Maîtresse Ile, right in the heart of the notorious Plateau des Minquiers, is one of the most daunting corners of Europe to take a boat.

We shouldn’t really recommend that you venture there at all, yet when you are cruising the rocky waters south of Jersey its magnetism is utterly compelling.

The Minkies plateau is almost as large as Jersey itself, with the main drying expanse of sand and rock comprising about 25 square miles.

The extremities are guarded by cardinal buoys and the only rock high enough to qualify as an islet is Maîtresse Ile, near the eastern edge of the reefs. It has a few stone cottages which are owned by Jersey families, and the most southerly loo in the British Isles.

You can catch the best view of the Minkies when making a passage east-about between Jersey and St Malo. Then, as you head towards the NE Minquiers’ buoy, the jagged profile of Maîtresse Ile lifts against the morning sun, hesitantly at first, but then more distinctly with lower, more sinister outliers on either side.

On a clear, calm day with the right tide, you might be tempted to swing south towards Demie de Vascelin green buoy, the gateway to the Minkies, drawn by a mysterious urge to see this watery graveyard.

Whatever you do, you must seek out Demie de Vascelin, approaching it from the north and following the pilotage notes to the Maîtresse Ile anchorage.

There is a landing slip just below Maîtresse Ile’s huddle of cottages, behind which is a helicopter landing pad, an austere vantage point from which to appreciate the full extent of this haunted seascape.

On a clear day, Jersey stands out sharply to the north. You can see yachts edging cautiously round the plateau outside the buoys, although no one on board will have the slightest idea that you are watching them from Maîtresse Ile.

Out to the west, the tide seethes through the main body of reefs, where several isolated beacons seem starkly reminiscent of headstones.

To the south-east, Iles Chausey look strangely rural and welcoming from the centre of the Minkies. Down to the south, the Brittany coast falls away from the hard outline of Cap Fréhel towards St Malo and the estuary of the Rance.

Your boat can look lonely in the anchorage. If the sun slips behind a cloud, the rocks turn drab and sullen while a ghostly chill flits over the island. It’s time to be on the move again. The Maîtresse Ile is no place for hanging around. The Minkies plateau is both intimidating and inviting to the cruising skipper, not least Peter Cumberlidge, who finds himself falling under its spell.