Lake of Bays Marine Museum and Navigational Society 2018 Update

The Lake of Bays Marine Museum and Navigational Society is a volunteer, non-profit organization that acts as the guardian of the SS Bigwin. Our goals in 2013 were to achieve the following:

  • To save and restore the SS Bigwin, an important part of Lake of Bays Marine history
  • To add to the ambiance and nostalgia of the beautiful Lake of Bays
  • To support the local community by creating a destination brand to assist in economic development
  • To create a high quality, safe and memorable customer experience

We are happy to report that six years later these goals have been achieved. In fact, the SS Bigwin has played an important role in bringing the community and a variety of other causes together.

This past season was our sixth and most successful year of operations.  Not only have we had record financial success, but have also leveraged the SS Bigwin to assist in raising significant funds for other non-profit Lake of Bays organizations.

SS Bigwin 2018 Highlights

  • 1,330 guests on the Dorset public cruises and approximately 100 guests on our free Dorset Community day cruises setting new records
  • 30 private cruises for a variety of events including weddings, reunions, birthdays, anniversaries, and corporate events
  • We expanded operations to Dwight running once a week. These cruises were well supported servicing over 500 guests. In addition we had over 200 guests on our two promotional free days in Dwight 
  • Port Cunnington dinner cruises were consistently sold out with 385 guests in July & August
  • Lake of Bays Brewery Father’s Day & August beer tasting cruises continued to be successful hosting over 100 guests.
  • Hosted and donated 7-charity event private cruises and donated numerous public cruise tickets to lake special interest groups.
  • Completed building renovations to the marine museum
  • Invested in fire protection and a variety of other improvements to the historic Clayton Store
  • Welcomed a new tenant to the Clayton store – Prairie Boy Bakery which had a successful first season
  • Made improvements to the SS Bigwin to satisfy Ministry of Transportation safety regulations
  • Performed ongoing regular maintenance to the SS Bigwin
  • Re Branding and launching our new merchandise in the Museum
  • Continued to market our first Hybrid Boat designation and promote the Bigwin as a “Green Tourism” destination
  • Employed a total of 12 people including students and local residents
  • Joined with Algonquin Highlands Township to offer on site Wi-Fi
  • Worked with a number of watershed local groups to promote a healthy water shed and shore line development (Glen Vickers Swim around the lake, Andrew Daniels Fish Conservancy and the Muskoka Watershed Council)
  • Secured a variety of Government grants ( Federal and Provincial)
  • Improved and modernized our website

Bigwin Jimmy Buffet Summer Beach Party Gala Highlights

Thanks to the support of the Lake of Bays community we hosted our 6th successful Gala raising over $300,000 for a variety of charities. We are proud to have contributed $180,000 to the Huntsville Hospital Foundation (which led to additional contributions), $20,000 to the Dorset Health Hub, and $5,000 to the Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation. After the Gala, we were also able raise an additional $52,000 for The Dorset Heritage Museum. The balance was used to complete required Ministry of Transportation work to the SS Bigwin and on repairs to our buildings.

The Gala continues to be the Lake of Bays signature social event of the year and is an excellent example of how the SS Bigwin can be used to pull the community together to support a variety of great causes. One of our current goals as a Board is to leverage the SS Bigwin gala to help support local health care, heritage and economic development.

Special thanks to Wanda and Mark Cowie and Francine Gaasenbeek for their efforts in running this incredible event.

Save the dates – 2019 summer

Saturday June 15– Annual Dwight community barbeque and free public cruises

Saturday June 8 – Annual Dorset community barbeque and free public cruises

Saturday July 6 – 2019 Bigwin Mardi Gras Gala

This years theme is a New Orleans Mardi Gras theme party.  Similar to a member guest golf tournament – priority will be given to last year’s partygoers.  The event is limited to 200 guests and we are expecting a wait list again this year.  Tickets are $1,000 each or $10,000 for a table of 10. Once again guests can expect approximately 80% of the ticket cost in the form of a charitable tax receipt.

Major SS Bigwin Goals for 2019

  1. Continue to create a sustainable business model for the SS Bigwin

To achieve this we need to continue to expand into more private/corporate events such as employee team building/recognition events and corporate client events. Weddings, private parties, family reunions, and special milestones will continue to be the backbone of the private charter business.  As you plan your 2019 events please keep the SS Bigwin in mind.

  1. Ports of Call expansion – Dwight and Baysville

Building on the success of our first year of operating out of Dwight we are working on adding additional days. In addition we are also investigating running regular public cruises from Baysville.

  1. Public Accessibility & Customer Service

We continue to ensure public accessibility and remain committed to regular public cruises.  Please encourage your summer guests to use this great asset. Our goal is to deliver a high quality, safe and memorable customer experience.

  1. Leverage the SS Bigwin to help raise funds for other causes

Our annual Gala is evolving into an event that supports health care, heritage and economic development. As our operation becomes more sustainable we hope to grow our contribution to other important causes on Lake of Bays.

  1. Preliminary planning for a Boat House for the SS Bigwin

We have started the process to investigate whether and how we will be able to build a boathouse in Dorset.  This would dramatically reduce our annual maintenance budget and protect the SS Bigwin for generations to come.

Many thanks to our Board for their continued efforts.  Most importantly thank you to those who continue to support and use the SS Bigwin. Without you the SS Bigwin would only exist as a black and white photo of days gone by.  


Kind Regards,


Matthew Gaasenbeek

Chairman Lake of Bays Marine Museum and Navigation Society

On behalf of Lake of Bays Marine Museum and Navigation Society Board of Directors


David Flynn, Kelvin Johnson, Brian O’Connor, Collin Reaney, Tim Stanley, Don Tapscott, Paul Thomas, Mike Wilson