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The SS Bigwin: A Ship from Muskoka’s Past

Blog by Susan Brown | May 22nd, 2017

In 1910, the SS Bigwin used to go by another name: the Ella Marie. It served as the private boat of James Kuhn, a resident of the U.S., who named it after his wife. He spent summers with her sailing to Belle Isle, which lies north of Beaumaris on Lake Muskoka. During these times, many of the world’s elite owned steamships, which they used to travel to Lake Muskoka, enjoying its natural beauty during the summertime.


Eventually, Kuhn was forced to sell the Ella Marie due to financial reasons. It passed through several owners and was later renamed SS Bigwin, after the Bigwin Island Resort, one of the largest and most luxurious resorts in North America. It was used to transport vacationers and golfers to and from the grand Bigwin Inn for the next 45 years, carrying many notable personalities such as Clark Gable, Louis Armstrong, Winston Churchill, Greta Garbo, and many others.


As time passed, the resort came upon difficult times, leaving the SS Bigwin in a state of disrepair. Soon, the once majestic ship was left abandoned and partially submerged in her slip, next to the Bigwin Inn.




Many Lake of Bays residents who considered the ship part of the township’s rich history couldn’t bear to see the SS Bigwin further deteriorate. Many fundraising events were organized, and the ship was moved from the waters and stored on dry land where it sat for a few years. They began restoration in 2002, and ten years later, on November 17, 2012, the SS Bigwin sailed once again. It was officially launched on 2013, and can now be used for public and private cruises from the docks of Dorset.


Many boats, structures, and other pieces of Muskoka’s past have been lost due to fire and the passage of time. Having a great relic such as the SS Bigwin restored and happily floating along the beautiful waters of Lake of Bays once again is something we can all appreciate.