"Lieutenant David Collins wrote in his journal in 1793 that the introduction of the first private ferries, the Passage Boats, was "amongst the conveniences now enjoyed in the colony". They were, he said, "allowed to go between Sydney and Parramatta" and were "the property of persons who had served their respective terms of transportation".
One owner registered in 1803 was the redoubtable Ann Marsh, who appears regularly in the early issues of the Sydney Gazette. Born in about 1768 Mrs. Marsh was transported to Sydney in one of the 'Hell Ships' of the second fleet, the Lady Juliana for stealing a bushel of wheat. She appears to have been married a number of times and had ten children. Ann was prosecuted for selling liquor without a licence (a bit of a joke in Rum Corps Sydney), and also for landing goods elsewhere than at an approved wharf.
Her first son, John Irving, was trained as a boatbuilder at the government dockyard and went on to become a shipowner. Her last marriage seems to have been to William Chapman, house-painter, butcher and inn-keeper, who conducted his hostelry near Argyle Street and the Hospital Wharf. Although she was officially known as Ann Chapman or Ann Marsh, Ann spelled her name Mash and her Passage Boat is said to have been known locally as Mash's Boat.
Little is heard of Ann Marsh in The Gazette after about 1805, although references to other passage boat proprietors continue. She died in 1823.
The Passage Boats served the colony well in place of the Rosehill Packet which disappears from the record in around 1803. The story of their rough trade is well told by marine historian Vaughan Evans, who has suggested that they used wherries, similar to those used by the Thames watermen, longboats and a variety of smaller craft. A study of pictorial works by colonial artists confirms his identification."
Source: Sydney Maritime History