This painting has been formerly incorrectly attributed to Stanhope Alexander Forbes but stylistically it is closer to the work of Alexander M. Rossi (fl. 1870-1903). He was a painter of genre and portraits who lived in Preston and London and exhibited between 1870 and 1902 at the Royal Academy and Suffolk Street. Many of his paintings depicted the frolics and antics of well-dressed Victorian children at the seaside. A Story, in which elegantly dressed Victorian children lie on a beach eagerly listening to an old sailor's tale, was sold in these Rooms on 3 June 1999, lot 169 (£32,000). He frequently used the device seen here, where a pier or breakwater gives a sense of perspective out to sea, and yet there is a sense of immediacy as the central character is situated prominently in the foreground. This can be seen in both The Little Anglers (Christie's, London, 14 March 1997, lot 138) and Playing on the break water (Christie's, London, 3 November 1989, lot 122).
The tradition of Victorian paintings of the seaside was properly begun by William Powell Frith whose painting Ramsgate Sands (1854; The Royal Collection) was one of his greatest modern-life pictures. Other artists were quick to follow his lead as it was such a resounding success. The Victorian passion for the seaside provided not only a picturesque subject but also one of lively interest with the inclusions of the clutter and paraphernalia normally associated with an expedition to the beach. Telescopes were a popular item to be brought on such parties and many can be seen in Frith's work. Towards the end of the century, artists began establishing themselves in Cornwall and painters such as Stanhope Alexander Forbes, Sir Frank Brangwyn and Henry Scott Tuke all worked in Newlyn. Rossi was practising during this later part of the century so it is possible that he was influenced by the new approaches to painting developed there. Ship Ahoy! shows an interest in light and atmosphere common to the works of the Newlyn School and the immediacy of effect and freshness of colour demonstrate an allegience to their brand of realism. Rossi's square-brush technique is, however, very much his own.