Little Toot paid a visit to Gasparilla Island

June 21, 2019
By Marcy Shortuse

BY MARCY SHORTUSE – It was quite an honor when Little Toot paid the island a visit … not to mention Christopher Robin as well.
Last week the Johann Fust Library brought the small tug and its captain to Boca Grande Marina. Little Toot is a very famous children’s story written and illustrated by Hardie Gramatky, a senior animator at Walt Disney Studios. As the tale is told, Little Toot the tugboat disgraced his father, Big Toot, by creating mischief in New York Harbor instead of doing his tugboat job. As a result, a cruise ship crashed into skyscrapers on the shoreline, and he was banished from the herd. After being sent out to sea alone, Little Toot eventually redeemed himself by pulling an ocean liner off a reef.
In 1948 Disney created an animated segment featuring the little boat, with a song sung by the Andrews Sisters. The song turned into the first children’s record to hit the one million sales mark.
Robin works with the Lee County Library System, bringing books up and down the coast for children. Robin started the Little Toot Foundation with the thought of teaching children to be storytellers in their own right, which of course includes a lot of reading.
The boat, formally called “The Giving Tug Little Toot,” was found in Labelle and restored to a likeness of the famous little vessel.
With a maximum speed of six knots per hour, Robin said it took him 10 hours to get from Fort Myers to Boca Grande. He said owning the little boat has been a big lesson in patience for him, and it has taught him to slow his life down and appreciate the little things more. He moved to Southwest Florida from New York City, and specifically sought out a tugboat because of their sturdiness, their slow speed and the fact that he had no nautical skills whatsoever.