By this time, whether you live on the US or Canadian side of the River you have probably heard about Theodore. If you grew up in Canada in the 1990s you would remember him as the star of his own children’s TV series that aired on CBC from 1993 to 2001. Why am I mentioning him now? If you haven’t been following the story, the rumors started way back in May or June that Theodore would be making a major appearance here at the River.
Theodore Tugboat is a Canadian children's television series about a tugboat named Theodore, who lives in the Big Harbour with all of his friends. The show originated and was set in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and was filmed on a model set using radio controlled tugboats and ships. The star of the show, Theodore, and his friends (several other tugboats) lived in the Big Harbour, which was a scale model of Halifax Harbour. The Harbormaster, host, and narrator of Theodore Tugboat was Halifax born and raised Denny Doherty, who was also a founding member of The Mamas and the Papas. The show premiered in Canada on CBC Television, then went to PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) in the United States, and has appeared in eighty different countries.
Until recently, I had never heard of Theodore Tugboat. I would have figured it was just one among hundreds of different shows for kids. However, unlike other similar kids series such as Thomas the Train, or Bob the Builder, I learned that Theodore Tugboat has a real life tugboat representing him.
Theodore Too is a life-sized tugboat built as an exact replica version of the tugboat model used for the show. It was constructed by the series producers in the late 1990s, and it went on a fifty-city tour of harbors from Tampa, Florida, through the Great Lakes to Chicago and back to Halifax. He lived in Halifax Harbour for 21 years. In 2020, Theodore Too was purchased by Blair McKeil. The Ship Watcher (@theshipwatcher), Michael Folsom, announced to the world that Theodore Too would be leaving his Big Harbor in Halifax and would be moving to his new home in Hamilton, Ontario. And to do so, Folsom tweeted, meant that Theodore Too would be coming through the Thousand Islands.
Well then! We decided we very much wanted to be a part of Theodore’s upcoming River adventure. We followed the unfolding story even before he left Halifax. Then, on June 10th, Folsom tweeted the announcement that Theodore was departing Halifax at that point hundreds if not thousands of us river rats found ourselves captivated by his journey. It was a long one, though, as he stopped at different Canadian ports all along the way to the delight of his fans. As he made his way toward the River we began to count the days, and plot our viewing strategy. My dream was to go out and meet him in my kayak! Knowing he would probably be coming through on a Monday, I had even taken a day off from work and told my boss right up front that I was taking a tugboat day. She was fully supportive.
But then, the unthinkable happened! Just a day before he was to pass through Alexandria Bay and Clayton, it was announced that Theodore would make an impromptu stop in Gananoque and would therefore not be going through the main US channel after all. His US fans were heartbroken (okay, I admit it — I was heartbroken). I was pretty sure this could potentially do damage to US/Canadian relations. It appeared that all hope for my Tugboat rendezvous was lost . . . or was it?
The Ship Watcher made the disappointing announcement just before Theodore arrived at Brockville. In two days he would leave the main channel and follow the Canadian channel to Gananoque. But I had a thought. I pulled out my nautical charts, and realized that there were a couple of different courses he could set for Gananoque. One would be through the Canadian narrows but one would be through the main channel past Singer Castle (don’t tugboats like castles?) and then cutting over toward Rockport. We were told there would be no way to view him in the US. But if I were a tugboat, I’d follow the main channel.
The odds were not in my favor. And then there was the issue of the weather. I have a very small kayak and the forecast, at least a day or two out, was for rain and possible thunder storms. This just wasn’t going well at all. I debated scrapping the whole plan and going to work. But I didn’t. That morning I pulled out my rain gear, booted up marinetraffic.com and waited. Sure enough, marine traffic showed him leaving dock in Brockville at about 7 am. It was cloudy, maybe even a little drizzly but the wind wasn’t bad. The big question - the question that would determine success or utter failure- would need to remain unanswered at the time I needed to start padding IF Theodore decided to come my way.
I paddled to the main channel and waited. And waited and waited. I figured it couldn’t take more than a half hour for me to spot him if he was coming my way. At 35 minutes I realized Theodore was not coming. It appeared that my mission had failed. I started to paddle home, turning back for one last look when I spotted it. A tiny speck on the horizon wearing a red baseball cap! I was so ecstatic I just about tipped the boat!
I watched as the little dot wearing a red cap slowly made its way to where I was waiting. Ah, victory is sweet and Theodore is definitely the cutest tugboat I have ever met! He did a little toot toot as he went by. I’d like to think he spotted the little blue kayak but it was more likely the lighthouse he was greeting. Either way, I felt acknowledged by my new friend.
Theodore is definitely one of a kind. He was made to be a real life representative of his TV counterpart. So I was thrilled when I got to see the one and only Theodore in person . . . er . . . well . . . you know what I mean. You could say that I saw him face to face! It made me think of how God sent a real life representation of himself to us and told us that “the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness..” (John 1:14). You could say we got to meet him face to face.
I suppose now that Theodore’s permanent home is in Hamilton he might decide to visit the River again now and then. He probably won’t remember me, but I will never forget him and our River adventure.
By Patty Mondore
Patty Mondore and her husband, Bob, are summer residents of the Thousand Islands. Patty's most recent books include "River-Lations Revisited: More Inspirational Stories and Photos from the Thousand Islands", "River Reflections: A 90-Day Devotional for People Who Love the Water" and its two sequels, "Nature Reflections" and "A Bird Lover's Reflections." She and Bob co-authored "Singer Castle" and "Singer Castle Revisited", published by Arcadia Publishing, and co-produced "Dark Island's Castle of Mysteries" documentary DVD, in addition to a Thousand Islands Music DVD Trilogy. Patty is a contributing writer for the Thousand Islands Sun. Her column, "River-Lations", appears in the Vacationer throughout the summer months. The Mondores are online at www.gold-mountain.com. (Be sure to also visit Bob's singercastle.blogspot.com.) See Patty's most recent TI Life Articles here and several others here and here!
NOTE: Patty Mondore will give a photography lecture on August 19, 2021 at the Cornwall Bros. Store Museum in Alexandria Bay. Call for details.
Other families kindly sent in their photographs of Theodore Too on its way to a new home in Hamilton, ON. Did you get to see him? If not, then stay tuned as we are hoping he liked his voyage through the Thousand Islands so much, he will want to come back to see the American Channel in the near future.
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