Memorable: The Dorset area was a busy place on the weekend as people watched and celebrated the historic Bigwin Steam Ship return to Lake of Bays.
Photo by James Forte
It’s official – she floats.
After nearly a decade of restorations, the 100-year-old SS Bigwin was launched at the Lake of Bays Marine Museum and Navigation Society in Dorset on Saturday in front of a crowd of about 3,500 to 4000 people, said Jeff Gabura, restoration project leader.
The launch “went without a hitch,” said Gabura, who added water isn’t seeping into the boat as per usual with newly restored wooden crafts. Seepage usually happens until the wood expands and seals itself.
“It hardly leaks at all – for a wooden boat that’s great – shows the craftsmanship that goes into it,” he said.
The steamship was built in 1919 and served as Lake of Bays transportation for residents and Hollywood stars alike until it was decommissioned around 1970. Neglected, the Bigwin sank in the late 1970s and was left to rot in four feet of water.
But the boat was saved from its shallow, watery grave in 1991 by a few people from the Dwight fire department. In 2002, the Lake of Bays Marine Museum and Navigation Society bought it and began the epic restoration process. Although the boat won’t be available for private trips until 2011, Gabura said visitors are welcome to come aboard Wednesday to Sunday while the boat is docked. As a museum display, an interpreter will be on-hand for tours and to provide information. T-shirts, hats and sweatshirts are also available.
Gabura also said a raffle will be held during the long weekend in September, and people will have the chance to win a ride on the Bigwin for themselves and 20 of their friends.Raffle tickets are $10 each or three for $25 at the museum.
For now, Gabura said the ship’s final restorations take place on the water.
“We’re hoping in August to be driving it around,” he said.