Bigwin Wooden Ferry , a Restoration Project in Dorset Ontario
By Bev McMullen

The picturesque Village of Dorset, famous for the award winning Robinson's General Store was a hive of activity on a weekday in late August. Dorset, nestled in the hills of eastern Lake of Bays was the site for the restoration project of the wooden Bigwin Ferry. The Bigwin Ferry was the passenger/tour boat for the Bigwin Island Resort. In its heyday, it ferried famous writers, millionaires, even Gable and Lombard, all wanting first class accommodations and peace and quiet.

The 1910 Steamer sank in its berth at Bigwin Island. It was salvaged and then stored under tarps for over ten years. Marketing entrepreneur Jeff Gabura started the rescue project with the Friends of Bigwin and the Lake of Bays Navigation Historical Society. A hot August afternoon, brought over a thousand people to watch, reminisce and exchange stories about the ferry. It was a mini festival with local artists showing their images of Bigwin at the Bigwin Island, bands played and the excitement grew.

On Saturday, August 3, 2002, a launch party was held to welcome the Bigwin Ferry to Dorset and the beginning of the restoration project. It was a remarkable day with carnival flair. In the afternoon, a classic wooden boat sail was arranged featuring the great wooden boats of Lake Of Bays. Visitors and locals came in crowds to go behind the old Clayton General Store, next to the Dorset Narrows, to peer at this magnificent wooden boat on blocks. She is the last of the original fleet of wooden steam ferryboats. The project aim is to preserve an important part of the Lake of Bays Marine Heritage. Volunteers and carpenters are welcome to help out. Jeff Gabura's goal is to have the boat finished and plying the waters for summer 2005.

Bigwin is craned down to await her restoration in Dorset
Photography by Bev McMullen