Boat Info

How big is the boat?
66′ in length, 6′ in depth, with an 11′ 8″ beam and a registered weight of 25 tons.

What is the capacity of the boat?
32 passengers and 3 crew members.

What is the boat currently powered by?
The boat is currently powered by an electric motor. At night, it is plugged in at the dock, similar to an electric car. The batteries allow for 6 hours of cruise time.

Why isn’t the boat powered by a steam engine anymore?
There are many reasons, including:
Technology has improved since the invention of steam boats – electricity is more clean and efficient.
It is costly to hire a steam engineer to be on board at all times; and costly for insurance.

What type of wood is the boat made of?
Mahogany, oak, fir and poplar.

Why is this boat registered in Toronto?
This is the closest Port of Registry.

History

How old is the boat?
In 1910, James Kuhn (an industrialist from Pittsburgh, PA) launched a steamship on Lake Muskoka which he named after his wife Ella Marie. They spent their summers on Belle Isle (recently destroyed) just north of Beaumaris on Lake Muskoka. Due to financial difficulty, the Ella Marie was sold some 15 years later to Mr. Shaw who relocated it to Lake of Bays where it was renamed the SS Bigwin.

What was the boat used for?
For the next 45 years (starting in 1925) it served as the ferry boat for vacationers and golfers to the famous Bigwin Island Resort – one of the most spectacular summer resorts in North America.

Did any celebrities ever go on this boat?
It carried guests such as Clark Gable, Louis Armstrong, Winston Churchill, Greta Garbo and many other famous people out to the luxurious Bigwin Inn on Bigwin Island.

When and why did the boat stop being used?
With the decline of the resort half a century ago, the SS Bigwin fell into disrepair. After years of neglect, the boat sat partially submerged on the bottom of her slip at Bigwin Inn.

Restoration

How long did the restoration take?
1991: The SS Bigwin was purchased and after considerable volunteer effort was raised and floated to dry dock in South Portage with the assistance of the Dwight Fire Department.
2002: Restoration began on a property in Port Cunnington.
2004: Lake of Bays Marine Museum and Navigation Society purchased the Clayton property in Dorset as a location for the restoration to continue, and eventually, to serve as a permanent docking facility.
2012: Saturday, November 17th, at approximately 10:30am, the SS Bigwin set sail on Lake of Bays and passed its preliminary engine tests.

How was the boat restoration funded?
A coalition of Lake of Bays cottagers, residents and organizations conducted a massive fundraising and restoration project to return this precious part of lost heritage for residents and visitors to Lake of Bays.

Who owns the boat?
The boat is owned by a registered charity and not for profit organization called the Lake of Bays Marine Museum and Navigation Society, established to promote public interest in the marine and navigational heritage of the Lake of Bays region in the District of Muskoka.

Where is the boat docked?
In 2004, the Lake of Bays Marine Museum and Navigation Society purchased the old Clayton property in Dorset, Ontario as a location for the restoration to continue. It now serves as a permanent docking facility.

Why is the boat docked in Dorset?
The old Clayton property in Dorset, now the permanent home of the SS Bigwin, has a considerable marine history itself. The property, wharf, and building were used in the past by the Huntsville/Lake of Bays Navigation Company and the Bigwin Livery Company for selling tickets, and storing shipments and mail. The upstairs of the building was the sleeping quarters of the ship captains of the Mohawk Belle and the Iroquois steamship. The steamship operators used the wharf area since 1885 and the ticket office directly beside the wharf since approximately 1918 as the centre for steamship traffic across Lake of Bays. Visit our History page for more information.

Where can I find out more information about the history of the boat and restoration?
At the Marine Museum next to the SS Bigwin dock in Dorset you will also find artifacts and photographs on display and many historical recollections concerning the marine history of Lake of Bays and the SS Bigwin. Stop by to learn more about the history of Lake of Bays, check out some local art on display in our upstairs art gallery, or purchase various novelty SS Bigwin items – everything from apparel to that perfect cottage gift! A Muskoka Century, a book by Marijane Terry and Jeff Gabura, is an excellent source of SS Bigwin history and is available for sale online and at the Marine Museum. You can also visit our History page for more information.

What is the story behind the flag?
The flag was stolen by Malcolm Burwash from the SS Bigwin on August 1st weekend, 1953 (2AM to be specific) as a prank on the Captain after a night of drinking. The man who stole the flag always felt guilty, but never returned it until 2010, when he found out that the ship was being restored.

Cruise Info

How long have you been running cruises of the restored boat?
The ship launched officially to the public in July 2013, and is available to be enjoyed by everyone today and future generations tomorrow. 2014 was the first full season of public and private cruises aboard the restored SS Bigwin.

Do you offer public cruises?
We offer regularly scheduled one-hour public cruises from June to October. Departures are from the dock in Dorset, Ontario. Visit our Cruises page to view our schedule and make a reservation. We also have many Events and Experiential Cruises that are open to the public.

Do you offer private cruises?
The SS Bigwin is the perfect venue for your celebration! Private cruises can be booked for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, reunions, corporate functions, and so much more. The rate for a private cruise is $750/hour, based on pick up and drop off at the Dorset dock. Pick up/drop off can be arranged at alternate locations on Lake of Bays with a Placement Fee of $200/hour. A 50% deposit is required when booking private cruises. Visit our Cruises page for more information. A maximum of 32 passengers can be accommodated on board.

What is a Placement Fee?
When pick up/drop off for a private cruise is requested at locations on Lake of Bays other than the home port of Dorset dock, there is a Placement Fee of $200/hour (round-trip). This fee is for repositioning the boat to the desired location for your cruise and helps to cover the operational travel costs for the staff and boat.
Examples:
Bigwin Island – $400 ($200/hour x 2 hours)
Port Cunnington Lodge – $400 ($200/hour x 2 hours)
Baysville – $1000 ($200/hour x 5 hours)
South Portage – $900 ($200/hour x 4.5 hours)

Can the SS Bigwin pick me up from my own dock?
The SS Bigwin can be chartered for a private cruise with pick up from any dock on Lake of Bays, provided that the Bigwin is able to sail there. An SS Bigwin captain will assess the proposed pick up location to determine if it meets the required criteria. A minimum water depth of 10′ and a minimum dock length of 40′ is required.

What are the Travel Times?
The SS Bigwin cruises at a speed of approximately 6mph. Some approximate (one-way) travel times between locations on Lake of Bays include:
Dorset to Bigwin Island – 1.25 hours
Dorset to Port Cunnington Lodge – 1.25 hours
Dorset to Baysville – 2.5 hours
Dorset to 10 Mile Bay – 1.5 hours
Dorset to South Portage – 2.25 hours
Dorset to Bondi Resort – 1.5 hours
Bigwin Island to Port Cunnington Lodge – 35 minutes
Bigwin Island to Foxwood Resort – 40 minutes
Bigwin Island to Norway Point – 15-20 minutes
Bondi Resort to Bigwin Island – 1 hour
South Portage to Bigwin Island – 1.25 hours

Do the cruises go to Bigwin Island?
During July and August, Bigwin Island is a private members only club so we are unable to offer public cruises that stop at the Island. However, in July & August at 2:30pm on Wednesday we offer a 2.5 hour cruise that departs from Dorset, sails around Bigwin Island, then returns back to Dorset. (On demand, minimum of 12 passengers).

Why are there fees to sail on the SS Bigwin?
The Lake of Bays Marine Museum and Navigation Society (owner of the SS Bigwin) is a registered charity and not for profit organization. Sailing fees and proceeds from merchandise sales are used to fund maintenance of our 2 buildings, property, wharf, marine railway, and of course, the SS Bigwin. We also host an annual gala to raise funds vital to help the SS Bigwin keep sailing! Visit our Donations page to make a contribution.

Can we eat and drink on board?
We do not currently offer food and beverage service, however you are welcome to bring your own food and drink on board. We also offer  many Events and Experiential Cruises that include food and beverage.

Can we bring alcohol on board?
Alcohol is not permitted on board unless you are chartering a private cruise and obtain a Special Occasion Permit from the LCBO. SS Bigwin staff can guide you in the SOP application process. Contact Us for more information.

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Dorset

What else can I do in Dorset, Ontario?
DorsetCanada.com has comprehensive information about Dorset including cultural information, events, community services, attractions and more. Check it out for a great source of all things Dorset! We recommend climbing up the Dorset Lookout Tower for incredible scenic views overlooking Lake of Bays and the beautiful surrounding area. Be sure to also visit the Dorset Heritage Museum, and check out the famous Robinson’s General Store (voted Canada’s best country store). There is a lot to see and do in Dorset!

What other attractions & activities are around Lake of Bays?
Visit our Attractions & Activities page to discover what the Lake of Bays region has to offer you and your family!

Coming by Boat?
Old Mill Marina, located next door, has completed a significant dock expansion accommodating 40 boats, coupled with property landscaping to create a new marine destination on Lake of Bays. Visit Old Mill Marina to check out all the improvements and additional services Old Mill Marina provides.