Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Answering Jame's recent Spiral Island Questions. Plus: Is there a SPIRAL ISLAND BOOK in the works?

I received an email from James recently and I thought it was time to fill Spiral Island enthusiasts in on some pressing questions that should be answered to help site visitors to better understand Spiral Island and the man who envisioned creating it and did so, allowing us all a chance to bask in its' ecological beauty.

This blog will hopefully answer all of Jame’s questions about Spiral Island, and I will answer that pressing question as to whether there is a Spiral Island book in the works?

RANDYMAC: YES there is a Spiral Island book in the works. I have been working on a book for a few years, and there are three chapters in the book that deal directly with my adventure travels to the Yucatan, how I met Richie ‘Reishie’ Sowa and his side kick at the time, Kenny Coleman, and many of Richie’s other friends that I continue to stay in touch with over the years.

How did I come to learn so much about Richie and Spiral Island? I was introduced to Richie back in early 2001 by Burger McDougall of Vancouver Canada. I fast became friends with Richie, Kenny and many other island frequenters, and I guess I was designated the photo archive guy as I took thousands of photos and hours of digital video of building and moving the island from January 2001 through May 2001. I promised to create a Spiral Island web site for Reishie before I left the Yucatan to head back to my home country of Canada, and I was the Spiral Island webmaster for a few years, helping to promote and expose Reishie's island vision to the world through the power of the web.

Rather than bury these few chapters in my book, entitled 'Wound Too Tight', I decided to create a new book specific to and dedicated to my friend Richie 'Reishie' Sowa and his wonderful Spiral Island. It's an adventure story and photo journal history of the island, and has been in process for some time and I hope to have a draft version of this new book available for preview later this spring.

To answer Jame's questions:

JAMES: I have some questions, about Spiral Island, I was wondering if you could answer for me.

RANYMAC: No problem James, I am pleased to answer your questions to the best of my recollection and ability.

JAMES: 1) Has Richie Sowa put out a book about building spiral Island? If not, are there any plans for one?

RANDYMAC: No, Richie has not put out a Spiral Island book at this time, but I have had a Spiral Island book in the works for the past year, (see above) and hope to make a draft available for preview in the late spring of 2005. It's about time that a Spiral Island book is made available to the public to showcase this true man-made wonder of the world built but such a visionary and thoughtful person who truly cares about mother earth. My goal is to help Reishie spread the word about his Spiral Island vision, and I hope the book will share the history of the island and help to answer the many questions that have been asked about the island, including it's history, construction, it's survival through major storms and hurricanes, and how Reishie never gave up on his dream to rebuilt the island to the wonder and beauty that it is today in 2005.

JAMES: 2) Did he have help in building it or is it mostly self-built?

RANDYMAC: Richie Reishie Sowa is the chief architect, inspiration, and visionary of Spiral Island and the island is his baby, and has been built by Reisie over the past 7 years, but he will be the first to tell everyone that he has had help from many many people. Reishie has many friends and I am proud to be his friend. There have been many people that have helped Richie over the years, and I can think of a few that spent many hours in the early days back in 1999 and 2000, 2001. A local school teen used to help Richie work on the construction of the island back in 1999 and 2000, and I will try to find a photo of Richie and his side kick school age helper so someone can identify him and send me his name.

Richie also received help from Kenny Coleman on many occasions. Kenny Coleman, our good friend passed away in 2002, and he was quite the guy. He loved to work hard to keep in shape at his 70 years of age, and I called him Chief bottle tucker as Kenny could be seen on many occasions pushing the bags of plastic bottles into fisherman's nets and then he would stuff them down through a 5 foot open donut hole in the middle of Spiral Island, and this helped to give the island more buoyancy. While Kenny was busy stuffing bouancy bags, you could usually find Richie and I and many other visitors that there on many occasions helping to make other island repairs and improvements at Richie's direction. The mainly task was cleaning the island and tying the fishermen's net bags and bottles up under the island that had come loose over-time.

In the spring of 2001, many of my friends and I helped Richie periodically on island repairs, and one of the most memorable was the planning of the big move of the island from Puerto Aventuras to a lagoon just south of Puerto. To name a few, there were the likes of Kenny Coleman, Burger McDougall, Thomas Heller, the Maclellan family from Nova Scotia Canada, and so many others whose names I forget. I'll be posting a story and many photos of this adventure soon. The island truly is the labour of love of Richie 'Reishie' Sowa, the Chief Dreamer, Visionary, Designer, Architect and Chief Implementer and I look forward to seeing Reishie and how far his island vision has progressed since I left the Yucatan.

JAMES: 3) How much actual time was put into its construction?

I do believe over 7 years went into the construction of Spiral Island from its' incepetion to how it sits in the lagoon of Puerto Aventuras today in January 18, 2005. I'm in the process of gathering more accurate information from Reishie about the actual time involved from his original vision back in Europe in the late 90's, through the prototypes, to the present island as it sits today in 2005.

JAMES: 4) How much money did he invest into building it?

Spiral Island has been a labour of love for Reishie and I would have to ask him more specifics for a ballpark cost in $$. I don’t have the specific dollar amounts, but I do believe the main costs have been an investment of Reishie’s time and elbow grease efforts to gather the materials, and then construction of the island. If you include the time others helped Reishie with the island, I’m sure it would be many many man years in the making. And it would be hard to put a dollar cost figure to the construction of Spiral Island. Off course there have been many expenses over the years and Reishie has received a number of small donations to assist him with his cause.

JAMES: 5) The plants/ trees ............................many appear to be mangroves. I assume that their roots go all the way down to sea-water. Is this true? What other plants/ tress does he have growing on the island? How are they set up to be protected from salt in sea- water? How often does he water the non-mangroves?

RANDYMAC: From what Reishie told me, the mangroves came from shoots that he gathered from the banks of the lagoon in the back of Puerto Aventuras. He planted the mangroves on top of the over 20 tons of clear white beach sand that he gathered from a nearby beach. The beach sand sat on top of a plywood frame that sits on top of the bags of plastic bottles that are all tied together. Richie drilled holes in the plywood frame that covered the island, and this allowed for drainage, and also allowed the mangrove routes to find their way down through the sand, to entangle themselves into the plastic bottles into the sea-water. The mangrove roots are all intertwined under the island within the plastic bottles and fisherman net bags, and this helps to give the island its’ natural structural integrity. I’ve snorkeled under the island many times to repair the nets, and it’s a real eco system under there. You should see all the ocean creatures tat make their home under Spiral Island. It’s a whole chapter or two unto itself.

One day a small barracuda swam just off the island, and it would dart under the island and grab some of the small fish that strayed to close to the edge. It was quite the site to witness.

I will have to ask Reishie what other type of plants and tress that he has growing on his island. Since the Yucatan gets it's fair share of rainfall throughout the year, I think Richie leaves it up to nature to water the mangroves and plants.

JAMES: 6) Do you have any plans or sketches that you could share?

RANDYMAC: There are a few sketches made by newspapers that have written stories about Richie, or 'Reishie as he now likes to be called, and I am in the process of obtaining permission to post these images to this site. I also plan to create my own sketches of how I remember the island based on my own experience and that gathered from my many conversations with Reishie as he described the construction of Spiral Island when visitors arrived to tour his island.

JAMES: 7) I read that Sowa plans on attaching some sails and a motor...................has he already attached a motor? At what speed does the island move?

RANDYMAC: Yes, Reishie discussed his many future plans for the island back in 2001, and in late January 2001, I donated a new 9.9 Mercury outboard motor to Reishie back in late February 2001 and we attached it to the back of Spiral Island and it moved the island up and down the lagoon before Richie decided to move the island th lagoon just south of Puerto Aventuras. The 9.9 worked hard to move the island, and the speed was probably a whopping 2 kms per hour, and that's screaming for an island that probably weighs in excess of 60 tons, or 120,000 pounds. It probably weighs more by now. As for adding sails, keep in mind that Reishie is a dreamer and visionary, and if there is a will, Reishie will find a way to add sails and make it all work.

JAMES: Obviously a book of details needs to be put out.

RANDYMAC: Yes, I have received so many requests to get Richie to write a book, but he is so busy with the Island, so I have taken it upon myself to started on a Spiral Island history book. I have been contacting Reishie and our many friends for input into the book and as I said earlier, I hope to have a draft Spiral Island book available in the late spring 2005.

JAMES: I would very much appreciate whatever technical info you could give me. I have been inspired to try it myself.....................

RANDYMAC: This is one of the main reasons that I decided to create this new Spiral Island Blog. Back in 2001 and 2002, and early 2003, I managed the official Spiral Island web site that I promised to create for Reishie, and it was very popular for a few years and then I had to take it down, as I was not pleased with the limitations of Apple's .mac web site service or the costs. I recently created this Spiral Island blog site, and my goal is to add a message board and a photo area soon, and build the Spiral Island site out and encourage other contributors to write stories and post photos and messages about the island, Richie, ideas for other islands, etc, but the book is a priority for me right now. It's slow going, but it's coming together, and I am always encouraged when I receive questions from people such as you. I very much appreciate your questions as it will help others to better understand Reishie’s vision.

Reishie had always mentioned that Spiral Island was the MotherShip, and he hoped it would spawn other Spiral Islands to inspire people from all walks of life throughout the globe to care for the planet that gives us all life.

I hope I have answered some of your questions James. And please check back, as I will be adding many photos and stories throughout the spring and through the rest of 2005. And I hope you become a contributor to this Spiral Island blog, as it would be great to receive some help from someone such as yourself.

RandyMac -- January 18, 2005


At 3:23 PM, Blogger james said...

Thank you very much for answering my questions.

Can I get a little more detail on 1 question?

You say he started in 1999 on Spiral Island and he did have volunteers help him...in particular a school kid between the years 1999-2000 I know that Spiral Island is a piece of art, and as such is never technicaly finished. An evolving thing.....

In the 1st year...specificaly 1 year.....how much time would you say that he himself put in on a daily bases , how much time estimate (3 hours a day for 300 days?) from the shool kid volunteer, and after that 1 year how far along was he?

Did he have the 54 ft by 66ft matt completed including sand (one site says 10 tons you say 20 tons...we need a book...LOL) and sapling planting? if not could you please be more specific. LOL sorry, i am anal when i look at things like this...I crave the technical details to figure out what is possible.......

Thank you so very much for putting up with my questions.


At 3:07 AM, Anonymous Michael Sowa said...

Hey! Great to see this RandyMac...I am richies son, Michael. Me and my friends created a website for richy butgetting all the infomration out of him is very very hard. http://www.spiralisland.co.uk/ How about we collaborate and update that website, there is a working blog and there will be a messageboard on there too... It woul dbe good to get your input and a bit of motivation :-)

At 8:17 AM, Anonymous puertamayan@hotmail.com said...

Hi Randy...Deborah (friend of Jewel's) that lived in Puerto Aventuras. A big hello to you. I am going next month to see what happened in Puerto after the hurricane that just came in there. I am going to check on Ritchie too. I heard that the island is gone...but will be rebuilt in another area South of Puerto...Punta Soloman.


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