He may be marooned on a 50-foot catamaran that sits high and dry on his four-acre block above Maungatawhiri Road, but ex-navy man Keven Reily’s got a birdseye view of Whaingaroa Harbour and a rustic lifestyle that would be the envy of many a landlubber.

“It’s the best place to be for the next seven years without getting into a mortgage,” Kev told the Chronicle recently of his unusual living arrangement before tearing off down the road to pick up the older of his two boys, 13-year-old Sea, off the bus after high school in Hamilton.

“This (catamaran) will be seaworthy after that,” Kev reckons. And then he’ll be sailing to Fiji for the winters and running his accommodation business on site come summertimes.

It’s a lifestyle plan the larger-than-life, 40-something Kiwi bloke’s developing slowly but surely.

He’s imported four Swedish kitset chalets made of Norwegian wood – which means ‘Kev’s Place’ as it’s called can now accommodate campers and others passing through Raglan who are happy to rough it as a trade-off for peace and tranquillity. And for that spectacular view of course, from the wee huts which come complete with camp cookers and basic utensils.

The chalets’ arrival means Kev can house not only tourists but also family and friends because, he explains, living on a boat doesn’t leave much room for visitors. Before the boat, the small family – his other son, Hunter, is 10 – lived on-site in even less roomy quarters, a housetruck Kev built back in 1993 of Californian redwood.

“I believe the living tight keeps us close (as a family),” he says, recalling that in the evenings there was nothing but a curtain between him and the boys asleep in their beds. Now the pair have their own rooms in the twin hulls of the boat, and Kev’s busy building them beds and desks.

It’s a work in progress, and he’s in no rush. “Some things are best slow-built,” Kev reckons.

The housetruck that once took Kev all around the country as a firefighter – and to the surf on his days off – is still parked on site and is rented out to visitors, along with a smaller one acquired along the way.

Simple pathways, an outdoor fireplace and a basic open-air kitchen link the housetrucks in a way that evokes the gypsy – or is it hippy – way of life.

Kev’s had a build-up of business come his way over the past few summers, mostly through word-of-mouth. “I get really good people up here,” he reckons, explaining it attracts neither the “pack crowd” nor the backpacker market to any great extent.

With a tough military background and a good dose of DIY philosophy, Kev offers the more off-beat experience – as a traveller calling himself Elmoensio, a nomad Finn, recently blogged. Elmoensio described Kev as a “curious character … with a military-grade explosion-proof catamaran houseboat standing on the grass”.

And he was obviously impressed with his host’s entertaining stories of “knives, boozed bar-nights and robberies, Russian gangsters, plastic surgeons and a rubber nose”. The young traveller was on an organised trip and reckons he never would’ve found or chosen such a great place to stay if left to his own devices.

Kev’s certainly got a colourful past as an ex-serviceman who has trained elite rescue teams all over the world. But his lifestyle was not always conducive to family life, he admits, and a recent change in circumstances has seen him hunker down and develop his property.

Meantime he’s been working in security and, more recently, running a boot camp-style training course for Waikato youth keen to get into uniformed roles.

But ‘Kev’s Place’ is his piece of paradise to come home to. It’s got “blimming good water” which is gravity-fed from Karioi into his own deep spring, he says, it’s laid-back and it’s romantic in a raw kind of way with panoramic views from every chalet.

Travellers’ dogs are welcome up at ‘Kev’s Place’ too – just so long as they get on with other dogs including his own, and don’t chase the chickens.

Edith Symes