He spent the past seven years carefully constructing a floating eco-paradise – complete with a hot tub and Internet connection – out of 150,000 recycled bottles.
But Richart Sowa, 61, started to feel the only thing missing from his idyllic life on Joyxee Island near Cancun, Mexico, was someone to share it with. The artist, originally from Middleborough, Yorkshire, met former model Jodi Bowlin, 47, from Tennessee, on Facebook last year and invited her to come and live with him on the Island.’Living on my own floating island has been my dream for over two-decades,’ said Mr Sowa, who has been married twice and has four children and six grandchildren.’I’ve always wanted to share my life’s work with a soul-mate. But I’ve avoided any relationship with anyone which I thought wouldn’t be the real thing.
Despite being 30-yards from the shore and having a base made from air-filled plastic bottles, wood pallets and sand, Mr Sowa insists his island has all the mod-cons a lady could want.
The three-storey house on the island boasts, two bedrooms, a hot tub, three shell showers, a kitchen and working Internet.
It is surrounded by palm trees, mangroves, fruit trees and edible herbs and plants, which all grow from the sand and soil of the hand-made island.
Jodi Bowlin was a successful model in Japan and she graced the covers of several magazines
A 100ft-long umbilical cord connects the island to the shore and provides solar generated electricity, water and internet.
‘My plan is to become self-sufficient, I am a vegetarian and have many plants growing on the Island which I eat, but for more variety I go by bicycle to the nearby local shop,’ said Mr Sowa.
‘I have a ferry I also made from plastic bottles which can carry up to eight people to and from the shore.
After her first visit to the Island, Ms Bowlin decided she wanted to make a life there – as long as she could apply her woman’s touch.
‘I’ve been able to motivate Richart to fix the place up,’ said the former model.
‘The toilet works perfectly now and solar panels now provide electricity.
‘He is a great carpenter so we were able to work together to ensure the structure is sound and the house is as solid as a rock.
‘But the island itself gently rocks on the water, so sleeping there is like being held in your lover’s arms.
‘Now, we can enjoy waking up with the morning sun and enjoying a morning fruit smoothie for breakfast and fresh coffee.
‘I have always been interested in architecture made from reclaimed materials and I have a love of Mexico.
‘So when we met I was thinking to myself – wow, here’s a man who is already living my dream life and we have so much in common.’
‘I think most people would think living on a floating island is pretty strange, but I guess I have more of a liberal view on life.’
Ms Bowlin was one of Japan’s most well-known models and from the age of 16 to 22, she was featured on the covers of glossy fashion magazines.
‘A few days after I arrived, some things began to give way. It didn’t feel very stable and I was worried that the house was going to fall through the island and sink.
‘There were also some mosquitoes cockroaches and even a scorpion in the house because there were some areas which had not yet been finished off and properly sealed.’
Joyxee Island is Mr Sowa’s third bottle paradise, the previous two were in unprotected waters and destroyed by hurricanes.
Undeterred by these disasters, instead of giving up his dream of living on a floating island, he rebuilt his third Island beginning with ten bags of bottles he retrieved from his second attempt which was called Spiral Island.
He now makes a living from his music and art and showing visitors around his private island in exchange for voluntary donations.