By: Scott Way
One of Canada's most recognizable boats is leaving the East Coast. Theodore Tugboat, a Halifax icon and the life size replica from the beloved 90s Canadian tv show, is leaving Halifax for Hamilton.
In its new location in Ontario, Theodore will be promoting marine careers under the new ownership of Blair McKeil. The marine industrialist has strong ties to Nova Scotia and was the former president of the Eastern Canada Tug Owners Association. Theodore will be involved in promoting the preservation and protection of freshwater in the Great Lakes, as well as various philanthropic projects encouraging youth to enter the marine field in both Ontario and Atlantic Canada.
For those who are unfamiliar, Theodore Tugboat was the title character in a children's tv show that aired on CBC from 1993 to 2001. The show was immensely popular and a springboard for many young Canadians getting interesting in the marine world. For new owner McKeil and his sons, now 25, the family grew up enjoying the show and is excited to bring a piece of their childhood back to Hamilton. The replica boat was build in Dayspring, Nova Scotia in 2000.
In an interview with the CBC, McKeil said "Ideally, we're going to use Theodore as a bit of a mascot and to sort of create awareness toward the whole industry, whether it's transportation or shipyards themselves. It had to be Theodore. He's the only guy who could do that."
Theodore had been serving as Halifax's official welcoming ambassador since 2016 and went onto the market for $495,000 in July of 2020. In Halifax the boat had been operated by Ambassatours and its usage was being subsidized by the company for several years. The effects of the coronavirus pandemic further tightened the economics, resulting in the boat searching for a new home.
According to McKeil, he had tried to purchase Theodore years earlier but Ambassatour CEO Dennis Campbell was still using the boat for regular promotional activities. But with the economic strain caused by reduced waterfront visitors during Covid-19, KcKeil contacted Campbell immediately when word spread Theodore was on the market.
"You know, we don't own anything. We spend time with things for a while and then we're gone," McKeil said.
"Theodore … will be a big part of our life for a while. So we're excited about that."
There had been efforts in Nova Scotia to keep the vessel in Atlantic Canada, but McKeil said Theodore will be back in Nova Scotia somewhere down the road. The boat's departure date hasn't been set but is expected to begin its tours in Ontario sometimes in June.
To satisfy your nostalgia, below is the Theodore Tugboat series for those seeking a trip down memory lane: