Police: Man makes clumsy attempt at stealing 'pirate ship' in Kemah

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by Doug Miller/ KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on September 10, 2012 at 6:18 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 11 at 9:33 AM

HOUSTON--Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip.

Our captain on this quirky voyage is Joe Stumpf, renowned as the owner of the Captain Kidd, a Kemah tourist attraction that looks like a pirate boat. For thirty years now, he’s been a sailor and for the last twenty, he’s owned charter boats.

But during all his years at sea, he’s never heard a story like what happened to him last week.

"In 30 years of boating, this is my first experience with someone trying to steal a boat," Stumpf said. That’s right, a guy who owns a pirate ship has become a victim of a pirate.

"We’re the pirates," he says. "We’re the ones who are supposed to be doing all the stealing and pillaging and plundering and everything."

But last Friday morning, police say a guy who had apparently been drinking too many margaritas stumbled onto Stumpf’s other boat, the Flying Pearl, and tried to take her out to sea. As pirates go, he was pretty lousy at his job.

"I think he was too drunk to realize really what he was trying to accomplish," Stumpf says.

He managed to take the boat out of its slip, but the sails were locked down so he couldn’t open them.  He called for help from a woman at the marina, Stumpf says, but he also turned out to be a lousy liar, explaining that he’d just bought the boat so he didn’t know how to extend the sails. 

The woman reportedly became suspicious when he couldn’t say what kind of boat he’d just bought. She called the harbor master who called Seabrook police.

Somehow, he got the boat into the channel, but he didn’t get much further.

"Somewhere along here I was told that, after he couldn’t get the sails out, he jumped in the water and was swimming with the boat, trying to pull the boat out to the channel," Stumpf says.

Seabrook police confirmed they found the thief swimming in the channel, trying to pull the 44-foot, 12-ton sailboat behind him. They spent more than an hour coaxing him out of the water.

Phillip Beach, 26, was arrested and charged with felony theft. In his booking photo, he appears to be wearing a wetsuit.

Stumpf recovered his boat and piloted it back into the Seabrook marina. Inside, he says he found an empty margarita container.

"It never occurred to me before that somebody could just walk in and untie your boat and go," Stumpf says.

Now he’s taking extra precautions. The old pirate is locking his sailboats to their docks.

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