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Lifestyle : Harbour
1HERSA1 S010 We can t promise you the ability to roar noisily around the harbour or Pittwater, but we can offer a re ned, smooth ride at around 20 km/h with stability and comfort rarely found in today s mass-built boats. At 7.45m (24.5 ) in length, the Coopersloop is a substantial boat with plenty of room for families or up to 12 friends to relax and cruise in style, and enjoy time together in a safe, roomy and open environment. The Coopersloop is designed in Europe and powered by a reliable, economical Yanmar 29 hp diesel that consumes less than 3 litres of fuel per hour. Our hand-built boats feature crafted teak, stainless steel, and a range of equipment and quality inclusions you won t believe for the price. For owners wishing to customize the appearance of their boat, we offer the Coopersloop in a wide range of different hull colours with the ability to match interior trim and Sunbrella hood fabrics to individual tastes for no additional cost. A range of special options are also available to make your Coopersloop even more luxurious. Two fabulous models are available from just $69,000. Join us this weekend from 9.00 am until 7.00 pm for refreshments and on-water tests at The Sebel at Pier One, 11 Hickson Road, The Rocks RSVP Kyle Steel on 0414 709 500 or Duncan Stewart on 0418 350 220 to reserve your free concierge parking. www.coopersloop.com.au Summer is coming... Come with us for an hour or two and experience the Cooper 745 for yourself The ultimate European day-boat ON-WATER TESTS ALL WEEKEND AT THE ROCKS 10 HARBOUR Friday, November 19, 2010 smh.com.au This often-overlooked attraction has a rich, if mixed, history, writes Alyssa Robinson. Rock on . . . appreciative revellers enjoy the Sydney Festival entertainment on Cockatoo Island. Photo: Edwina Pickles Arts and picnics on a prison island I t's prime real estate with million-dollar views over Sydney Harbour, complete with its own private dock. But although day-trippers and campers are quite happy to meander over to Cockatoo Island, its original inhabitants weren't so eager. In 1839, fed-up Sydney law enforcers needed an isolated and easily monitored place for their most troublesome convicts. Cockatoo Island, with its steep cliffs surrounded by deep water, was the answer. As the curator of the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust (SHFT), Martin Terry, blithely puts it, the island ''was actually a big prison in the middle of the harbour''. It was a hard-labour camp where Sydney's most rough-edged men spent each Monday to Saturday quarrying stone to develop sites such as Circular Quay. The prisoners had committed capital crimes such as murder. ''We shouldn't really romanticise these people,'' Terry says. ''They were hardened criminals, so it was a violent place.'' Only one man ever managed to escape. Frederick Ward, better known as the bushranger Captain Thunderbolt, made a sensational exit by sea in 1863. As legend goes, Ward's partner, an indigenous woman named Mary Ann, helped him escape and the pair swam back to the mainland. Terry points out the gaps in this story: ''I think to be able to get through the heavy [prison] doors and make your way down [the cliffs] to the harbour edge, he may have had inside assistance,'' he says. Nonetheless, ''not many people were able to swim in the 19th century, so he was clearly a very enterprising guy''. By the 1870s, the prison had closed and its reluctant workmen were herded off to Darlinghurst Gaol. The island became home to a new breed of prisoners: unruly girls. The Biloela Reformatory and Industrial School housed young ladies who were deemed unladylike; window breakers, fire makers and purveyors of the obscene. ''They were really wild, uncontrollable girls who had been [held in a facility] in Newcastle, where they became a bit of a political embarrassment,'' Terry says. ''So it was thought that, like the convicts, you could hide them on Cockatoo, where they wouldn't upset the neighbours.'' But it wasn't long until the treatment of the girls was considered too cruel. ''The people who were looking after them were very abusive, like figures out of [a] Charles Dickens [novel],'' he says. ''[The girls] weren't criminals, they were just unhappy young women.'' Cockatoo Island had long dabbled in boat construction in the dockyard on its foreshore. In 1913, the dabbling became more serious when the federal government took over the island and made it the Commonwealth Naval Dockyard. In the following years, the island rose from the gutters of Sydney society to military glory. Crowded with up to 4000 naval workers, it assumed the title of Australia's biggest ship- building centre. This was when Cockatoo Island really made its mark on our history, according to Terry: ''The skills that were involved were very important ones for Australia at the time and contributed to Australia becoming a modern, industrial country.'' But the real challenge came during World War II, when Japanese forces captured Singapore and bombed Pearl Harbour. ''Sydney Harbour became the biggest base in the South Pacific, so we looked after British ships and American ships,'' Terry says. After booming as a dockyard, Cockatoo Island finally closed in 1992 and several buildings were demolished. It reopened three years ago as a much different site, run by the SHFT. While much of its legacy remains, the island is now the home of frivolity -- from biennale art exhibitions to New Year's Eve celebrations and music festivals. The events manager for SHFT, Tania Quax, says the island's rebirth as an arts-entertainment venue makes sense. ''It's the largest island in Sydney Harbour,'' she says. ''It has a unique feel. It has large, cavernous spaces which have great potential, particularly for the creative arts, and the combination of having that with the harbour trip involved is unlike anywhere else.'' The island was recently added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Quax says few Sydneysiders realise how accessible the island is, although it's on two ferry routes. ''The service is frequent and quick, 15 minutes from the city,'' she says. For many visitors, the attraction is ''just going out and picnicking, or chilling out in the same way you would with a park''. But while you gaze across the harbour to the city, spare a thought for those who knew they'd never set foot on the mainland again -- the convicts, who, in Terry's words, suffered ''psychological torment''. ''It's a bit of a ghost town and a place once unbelievably noisy, crowded with workers. That's all vanished [but] you feel it all around you.'' SPECIAL REPORT