Local Current Blog

The internet is loving the bizarre true story of Grimes’s Minnesota houseboat misadventure

Elon Musk and Grimes arrive for the 2018 Met Gala on May 7, 2018, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. (ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)

Grimes made a splash Monday night when she showed up at the Met Gala with technology titan Elon Musk, who she’s now dating. (See above.) With the acclaimed musician the talk of the internet, some fans resurfaced the strange but true tale of Grimes — a.k.a. Claire Boucher — having a homemade houseboat impounded in Minneapolis in 2009.

Yes, that happened. Grimes and her friend William Gratz, who she met at college in Montreal, decided to build a houseboat and sail it down the entire length of the Mississippi. That took them to Bemidji, where they built the 20-foot boat, which they painted with murals and christened Velvet Glove Cast in Iron. They even took river names — Veruschka and Zelda Xox — and loaded the boat with “chickens, a sewing machine and 20 pounds of potatoes,” the Associated Press reported.

They got their boat to Minneapolis, where they launched in June 2009 and immediately had engine trouble. They tied their boat up for several days, intending to repair the motor. Instead, park police caught them letting their chickens graze and cited them for camping and alcohol consumption. After another short stint camping on an island north of the Lowry Bridge (which was about to be demolished and rebuilt), the houseboat was towed to Boom Island and impounded.

What became of it after that is unclear, but that was the end of Grimes’s river adventure. “I love the idea of the Tom Sawyer adventure,” a police officer told the AP. “The problem is it’s not 1883. You can’t do that anymore. You have to follow the rules.”

“I always wanted to live on a boat,” said Grimes at the time. “Even though it’s sad this happened, it’s still an adventure.”

After the river debacle and before taking up with Musk, Grimes had an extended relationship with electronic musician James Brooks, a Minnesota native who made an international splash with the Minneapolis-born project Elite Gymnastics.

Update 5/11/18: This story has now been developed into a short animated film by Drew Christie, narrated by T-Bone Burnett. It’s being released today on the AT&T Audience network — watch a trailer below.