The painting shows the Tamar sailing barge Shamrock standing across Start Bay, Devon near the mouth of the River Dart. Although these vessels worked principally within the river limits, they would occasionally make coastal passages in summer.
Unfortunately little is recorded of their day-to-day working and although the painting shows Shamrock bound for Torbay, possibly for a freight of ochre, there is no documented evidence of such a voyage.
Shallow draft vessels such as these, designed to work up rivers and creeks, would only make coastal passages in settled weather for it would not do for them to be caught out in heavy weather.
When sailing empty, these vessels were poor performers to windward and when loaded, had so little freeboard they would be constantly awash in bad weather.
The fact that Shamrock – the only surviving Tamar barge – can be seen today in her home waters lying alongside Cotehele Quay is the result of the joint efforts of The National Trust, the National Maritime Museum and several companies and private donors who contributed to her restoration.
Shamrock is portrayed with a background of the stretch of coast at the entrance to the River Dart, showing the lands of Higher Brownstone Farm to the east of the entrance, which has been acquired by The National Trust.