A man was charged Tuesday with stealing a docked houseboat and manning it several hundred yards up the Mississippi River near downtown Minneapolis until he was captured hours later.

John E.B. Stimpson, 48, of Minneapolis, was charged in Hennepin County District Court with two counts of theft in connection with the unscheduled Mississippi River cruise. He was jailed Sunday and has since been released. Court records list no attorney for him.

According to the criminal complaint:

Authorities were alerted late Sunday morning that a man had cut the rope keeping the houseboat tied up off Nicollet Island and was aboard as it drifted along the shoreline.

Police were told that Stimpson had boarded the boat several times in the past two weeks and was ordered to stay off the vessel.

Officers located the boat and told Stimpson to bring it to shore. He refused and said that "under maritime law, he was taking the boat to salvage," the complaint read.

Wind pushed the boat to the steps on the Boom Island shore.

Several people witnessed the hooded suspect's act of urban piracy carried out on a pleasant morning in the final days of summer.

The boat's owner, island resident Zach Norman, said the suspect is a "character who has been around for a few weeks" breaking locks and windows on the vessel.

Law enforcement was alerted to the heist about 10:30 a.m., but a man walking his dog said he saw Stimpson struggling with the boat on the water at least two hours earlier.

Chris Steller, who lives on Nicollet Island, said Stimpson was hit with a stun gun before being arrested.

"All I heard him say was, 'Ow!' when he got tased," Steller said.

Stimpson appeared in court Wednesday afternoon and is due back Oct. 26.

Norman said the boat is a 1970s River Queen, about 38 feet in length, and its engine is under repair.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482