Crew members in this view show concern about the weight of sail carried while steadying themselves by lines rigged athwartships, awaiting orders from the ship’s master. Such ropes were rigged to ensure as far as possible that men were not washed overboard.
The vessel is heading into rough weather. Such large volumes of water on deck were not uncommon and posed no threat other than to the crew who would avoid the onslaught of the seas by clinging to life lines rigged for their protection. The water would rush out through the wash ports as the ship was raised by the next wave, wash ports being metal plates in the bulwarks, hinged at the top, preventing water coming in but allowing it to flow out readily.
The weather around Cape Horn, however, left nothing to the imagination and was notoriously unpredictable, some vessels having to make repeated attempts to navigate its treacherous waters and round the Cape in the constantly shifting winds.