Wanted: missing driftwood

06/03/2010 12:00 AM |


Garrett Cutler of Mattituck with one of his last remaining large pieces of driftwood last Thursday. Mr. Cutler said five other prominent logs, which he had arranged on the beach below his home on Bailie Beach overlooking the Sound, went missing over the winter.

The Marathon Man, The Boxer, Babe Ruth, Dancing Ballerina and A Beautiful Piece of Driftwood.

When he found them three years ago, collector Garrett Cutler, 66, gave names to the largest, most prominent pieces of driftwood in his eclectic summertime display on a section of Bailie Beach below his home in Mattituck overlooking Long Island Sound.

Last week, as he took his usual springtime inventory of the collection, stashed for the winter beneath nondescript piles of wood in thick beach grass close to the bluff, Mr. Cutler discovered that all five pieces were missing from his property. Since then he’s been posting fliers around the North Fork, hanging pictures and descriptions of the pieces and offering a $500 reward to the person who returns the driftwood sculptures or identifies their whereabouts.

“The name of the person who tells me will be kept completely confidential,” said Mr. Cutler, a Manhattan financial adviser and part-time Mattituck resident. “And yes, they are worth that much to me. It’s like having a Rembrandt exhibition and not having a night watchman.”

Though he said he’s not a sculptor or visual artist by trade, Mr. Cutler, a Massachusetts native, said he is a beach bum and environmentalist by nature. It was while walking on the beach that he started to wonder what to do with all the wood that washed ashore, he said.

Mr. Cutler has spent the last five years placing dozens of pieces of driftwood in the sand, angling them this way and that. A bamboo hut sits next to the display, and Mr. Cutler and his friends often relax in its shade. A circle of upright driftwood logs called the Sanctuary houses a bench, a collection of other beach junk and a guest book.

Over the years only one man — another Mattituck resident — has complained in the guest book about the elaborate display, last summer calling it a “monstrosity” and an “arsonist’s dream.” Mr. Cutler said he didn’t know if the apparent theft of what he calls his “foundation” pieces was driven by vengeance or greed.

“It could have been an act of malicious vandalism by someone who disapproved of what I am doing,” he said. “Or it was someone who had an eye for driftwood and wanted it for themselves, either to display on their own property or to sell.”

And with one of the pieces weighing more than 200 pounds, Mr. Cutler said, “It’s a lot of trouble to take something that you don’t want just to punish somebody — that’s why I think it was for the second reason. My thinking is that they came down under the cover of darkness in the middle of the winter with a truck and drove away with them.”

Mr. Cutler said that he even checked eBay for his driftwood. “People do sell driftwood pieces on eBay,” he said. “But mine were not there.”

Last summer’s guest book in the Sanctuary included pictures of the pieces that are now missing with exorbitant prices attached — but that was only a joke, Mr. Cutler said.

“For example, The Boxer was listed as ‘$3,500, will negotiate,'” he said. “Everything had a very high price attached to it, and my wife reminded me of that recently. She said someone might have come down and taken the joke quite seriously.”

Though a few of his bigger driftwood pieces remain, such as an upright log resembling a headless Venus de Milo, Mr. Cutler said he doubts he’ll ever be able to find pieces like the five that are gone.

“Our master is heartbroken and so are we,” reads the “driftwood wanted” flier, written in the voice of the wooden pieces. “We were very happy there with our other driftwood friends and want to go back where we belong.”

Call Garrett Cutler at 917-697-3616 with any information on the missing driftwood pieces.

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