Painted circa 1780, it has been suggested that this painting depicts a group of merchantmen in Yarmouth Roads gathering as a convoy before embarking for the Baltic. The Baltic was the principal source of all mast timber and tar, and therefore the trade route was vital. British ships formed convoys for their own safety, due to the possibility of finding the hostile forces of Russia, Denmark and Sweden (known as the League of Armed Neutrality) on the open seas. Merchantmen were often laden with valuable goods or money for trading, their heavy loads making them slower than naval ships and tempting targets for attack. Another source of these attacks was, of course, France, which had raised British ire by allying itself to the Americans during the Revolutionary War.
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