Show Boat

The Hunt for the Missing 'Caddyshack' Yacht

Never mind that the boat helmed by Rodney Dangerfield makes what might politely be called a cameo appearance in the movie. It’s still got a story all its own.

Moviestore collection Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Currently bobbing lazily at a dock in Pasadena, Maryland, the boat captained, briefly, by Rodney Dangerfield in the 1980 film Caddyshack is now on sale for $129,000. The boat, a 60-foot Striker yacht christened Big Dog, appears for all of 90 seconds in the film in what is known among Caddyshack fans as “the boat scene.” The scene, in which Dangerfield’s character, a gauche arriviste named Al Czervik, caroms through the genteel waters and by extension the comfortable lives of the members of Bushwood Country Club, at the helm of the ship—Seafood in the movie—can be summoned simply by uttering its catchphrase, “Hey, you scratched my anchor.” So iconic are these 90 seconds that they have saved this damaged ship from the scrap heap where it almost certainly would have ended up.

This is not the first boat to have claimed to be Seafood but, according to the Wall Street Journal, it is certainly the boat most likely to have been Seafood. [The other contenders were built after Caddyshack was shot.] It is owned by Richard “Dick” Philips, the son of Herbert Phillips, the World War II vet who founded Striker Yachts in 1951. Phillips pere was an enterprising sort, who near the end of his life sold the other boat—confusingly dubbed Caddyshack—claiming it was Seafood to a guy named Jim Shatz, who seems rather good natured about the whole thing. (Dick, who decried the Journal article as “full of lies" says, “My dad was probably trying to make him feel good.“)

Herbert Phillips’s other son—Mark Steven Phillips—should be finishing up a five year sentence for marijuana and cocaine trafficking about this time. He ran a sizeable operation in the ’70s called Black Tuna before going on the lam for the last 30 years. (He was caught in 2011 in a retirement home in West Palm Beach, living out of his suitcase.)

Anyway, back to this boat, which is pretty much the only thing left of Caddyshack. Dangerfield is dead. Ted Knight, who played Judge Smails, whose boat Seafood destroyed, is dead. And so is writer/director Harold Ramis. Chevy Chase is an asshole, and Bill Murray is bartending in Brooklyn. The guy who played Gatsby, who also co-founded Sha Na Na weirdly, is an orthopedic surgeon in Burbank. This boat—“It is not a piece of junk!” according to Phillips—is the only meaningful vessel of that past.

So, at $129,000 is it worth it? Generally, it seems the value added by a thing having been a prop is inversely proportional to the overall value of the object. So an ashtray that bears the name of a golf course in Caddyshack sells for $95 on PropMaster but a house that belonged to Robert Redford, for instance, in Westport, Connecticut, is on sale for $1.3 million, not too much higher than median asking prices in the area. This is, perhaps, because in the former case, you can hold what Rodney once held but in the latter, you can simply be where Redford once was.

When it comes to the yacht, it may be that the history is immaterial. As Dick says, “Caddyshack really has no bearing on the price of the Big Dog. For 129 grand, it's a lot of boat.” As for whether the yacht will move now that its authenticity has been established, that depends whether there are enough Caddyshack fans with deep pockets and lots of nostalgia. According to Dick Phillips, “I’ve had some offers but they've all been low-balls.” In other words, Seafood just don't get no respect.