Marking the safe return from a successful foreign voyage, this composition proved a popular one. The characteristic outline of the Great Orme appears under May's bowsprit, with the distant Welsh mountains just visible on the extreme left of the painting. Walters shows the inward bound snow 'hove to' with the mainyards backed, awaiting the approach of pilot cutter number 8 seen on the left; the entry port (at the foot of the mainmast) being open in readiness. In addition to the name flag at the main, the Marryat Code hoist at the foremast (1st distinguishing pendant, 3,6,5,2.) confirms her identity at a distance. Especially useful for the semaphore station on the Great Orme, news of her arrival would reach Liverpool in a few minutes. This particular 'ship number' was the one allocated to May before the code was reorganised about 1840,  and prompted a reappraisal of the inscribed date thought at first to be 1849, but susequently found to be 1840.
May was locally built at Chester on the River Dee in 1810, and had an unusually long and varied life, voyaging to the West Indies, Africa, and India, for a succession of Liverpool's merchant shipowners, including Sir John Tobin, Mayor of Liverpool in 1819.
Originally ship-rigged and with three masts, May was 95 feet long, registered tonnage 300, and was owned for almost a year by William Forbes and Co. merchants of Liverpool, (probably related to the builders Carson, Forbes, Cartney & Co.). Sold in November 1810 to Affleck & Co. of Liverpool May voyaged mostly to the West Indies, and occasionally Africa before being purchased by Sir John Tobin in 1823 when she is recorded as being converted to a snow, having 'two mast and a trysail'. About 1832 Sir John had the vessel lengthened to 110 feet, (363 tons) -
Voyages were to Africa, and then India until sold to Glass & Co. in 1838, when she reverted to Africa, being resold to Greig & Co. also of Liverpool in 1839. Purchased in the same year by the well known shipowners Wilson & Co. of Liverpool, she was sold to Nicholson & Co. of Liverpool in 1847, and was last recorded in Lloyd's Register of 1850. According to a note on the final certificate in the Liverpool Customs Register (306 of 1847) she was lost on the coast of Africa in 1849 - based on information received in 1862!
Pilot cutter number 8 (Prince of Wales) was built by Finlay, Wilson & Co. of Liverpool in 1819, and was in service until 1846, when she was sold and subsequently registered at Cape Town. 54 gross tons, dimensions were 49' x 16'2" x 8'7".
. Popular in the 18th century, a 'snow' was in effect a large brig as here, having the aftermost sail on a separate small 'trysail' mast behind the mainmast as shown, and setting a square sail from the lowermost yard on the mainmast, as depicted.
. 'Marine Art & Liverpool' by A.S. Davidson, published by Waine Research Publications, 1986, p59, p63, p146.
 Liverpool Customs Registers, certificate 163 of 1825, and 182 of 1832