Turner usually spent his summers travelling in Europe. He had been unwell in 1837 and unable to make his annual tour abroad. Instead he spent the summer in Margate, Kent. He made several sketches of the area which he used for later works.
It is not known why Turner made this unfinished vignette. It may have been designed for an unrecorded project or simply the beginning of an idea. The circular brush marks used to build up the water in the foreground demonstrate how Turner achieved the sense of movement and depth in his marine scenes.