Arguably the most important Dutch marine painter of the first half of the seventeenth century, little is known of de Vlieger's early career, although his paintings of the 1620s and 1630s reveal a clear debt to Jan Porcellis. By the 1640s he had evolved his own style, recognisable for its silvery light, cool palette and strong draughtsmanship. De Vlieger formed a link between the second and third generations of Dutch marine painters, influencing Willem van de Velde II, who worked in his studio at Weesp, as well as Hendrick Dubbels and Jan van de Cappelle, who probably also worked there.
The present picture, which dates from his maturity of circa 1645, is a virtuoso example of de Vlieger's restraint, the carefully limited palette leading the eye through the picture, from the mid-browns of the foreground through to the silvery-white around the thin line of the horizon. Compositionally, also, the subtle arrangement of the boats - the receding diagonal created by the top of the front kaag's masts via the stern flagpole to the distant ship - and the snaking arrangement of shadows on the water create the illusion of depth. Combined thus with palette and design, De Vlieger's rendering of details of nature, such as the pair of birds skimming above the shallows in the left foreground or the exquisitely defined reflections of the boats, create a sense of sea and sky that display the artist's mastery of the genre.