Van de Velde perfected this type of ‘pen-painting’, a painting in black and white that resembles a pen and ink drawing, which suited his eye for the details of ships and his stylised treatment of the sea. He followed the stylised conventions of earlier engravings in his swirling waves, but displayed an in-depth knowledge of ships and their construction. The large merchant ship in the centre flies the Dutch flag from its main mast. On the right is a small war vessel known as a fluit or flute, which flies the Swedish flag. The distant port may be West Terschelling.