Nova Scotia

Theodore Tugboat replica vessel can be yours for $495K

Ambassatours Gray Line, owners of the life-size replica of TV character Theodore Tugboat, are selling the vessel. The company's CEO says demand for TV-show themed Theodore tours of the Halifax harbour has significantly diminished in recent years.

'We're encouraging Theodore ... to start a new life chapter,' Ambassatours Gray Line CEO says

Theodore Too is a replica of the children's TV character, Theodore Tugboat, a show that ran on CBC for five seasons. (Colleen Jones/CBC)

A replica of Theodore Tugboat went on the market for $495,000 on Thursday.

Theodore Tugboat was the title character of a children's television show that aired on CBC for five seasons from 1993 to 2001.

The vessel, known as Theodore Too, is a life-size replica of the TV character. He was officially named as Halifax's welcoming ambassador by Mayor Mike Savage in 2016.

"While we are deeply aware of Theodore's significance as a Halifax icon, the reality is that we've been subsidizing Theodore's operation for several years," Dennis Campbell, the CEO of Ambassatours Gray Line, said in a press release.

"With a severe reduction in visitation to the waterfront, due to COVID-19, we're encouraging Theodore, now age 20, to start a new life chapter."

'It's a different world as a result of COVID'

In an interview, Campbell said Ambassatours needs to focus on its core assets and products like the Silva tall ship and Harbour Hopper, instead of Theodore Too.

"He's been really more of a community giveback, we've donated him for different charity functions and we've always felt good about that, but the reality is it's a different world as a result of COVID," he said.

Theodore Too was built in Dayspring, N.S., in 2000.

Early on in its boating career, Theodore Too would spend summers on the Great Lakes and the Eastern Seaboard promoting tourism in Nova Scotia, the press release said. In later years, Theodore Too would give rides around the Halifax harbour.

Campbell said demand to take Theodore Too out for a spin has "significantly diminished over the past several years."

He suggests new owners could use the vessel for ventures like a waterside café or pub, an event venue, a summer ferry or a unique Airbnb.

'He is a great community initiative'

Normally when Ambassatours sells a vessel, Campbell said they want to see it go far away. But with Theodore, they're hoping whoever buys him will keep him close to home.

"We just know he is a great community initiative, he welcomes all new cruise ships to the harbour, he takes out new Canadians when they're sworn in as new Canadians locally," Campbell said.

"... I'm hoping whoever buys it might continue those initiatives or similar community-type initiatives because everybody loves Theodore. Unfortunately, it just hasn't translated into an economic benefit."

Theodore Too has two washrooms, sleeping quarters for eight passengers, an interior dining area and a full kitchen. The vessel is registered to carry 49 passengers.

According to the press release, it has undergone annual full marine maintenance.

Theodore's short-term plans

While it won't be offering tours of the Halifax harbour this year, Theodore will remain dockside at DeWolf Park in Bedford, N.S., while it's for sale.

Since Theodore officially went on the market, Campbell said he hadn't heard from any interested buyers. But he said two weeks ago, someone interested in buying the vessel contacted him.

"They were thinking about making Theodore into a floating café and still running a couple of tours a day, but making him a dockside café, I think that's a great use," Campbell said.

A GoFundMe page was also set up in an effort to save Theodore late Thursday evening.

"He plays a vital role to Nova Scotia's culture and this money will go towards his purchase and giving him a proper permanent home here in the Halifax harbour," said the organizer of the page.

The organizer said any extra money raised will go toward the boat's maintenance but if the target of $495,000 isn't reached, the money will be donated to future Halifax waterfront projects.

As of Friday morning, $350 had been raised to save Theodore.

About the Author

Anjuli Patil

Reporter

Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.

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