A Travellerspoint blog

Flip This House: Guana Cay Edition Part I

We never intended to buy a house in the Bahamas.

Really. We didn’t.

It was kind of like going into a puppy store. You never really MEAN to buy a puppy, but the next thing you know you are buying pee-pee pads and rope bones.

Of course we did the “what if” just like everyone else and imagined that ONE DAY we’d own a piece of paradise. We would never wear a proper pair of shoes again and would spend our golden years beachcombing and sipping rum.

But that was just IMAGINARY.

Wasn’t it?

On our very first visit to Guana Cay, some ten years ago, I took a photo of a charming little cottage in the settlement on Front Street. I have always had a soft spot for cozy, quaint, tiny, vintage houses. Put them on an island and they take on a special level of adorability.


Throughout the years we have visited Guana, I have never stopped loving that little cottage, with its precious little pineapple cutouts on the porch railing and its tiny wooden shutters. I have taken many photos of it over the years.

When I saw the for sale sign on it recently…..I knew.

I just knew.

In my heart, it was already mine.

When I mentioned it to Matt, his response was not what I hoped for. I envisioned him looking deeply into my eyes and saying, “It’s perfect. Let’s buy it.”

Instead, he said, “It’s too small.” He also said, “It’s not on the ocean,” “It doesn’t have a dock,” “It doesn’t have a deck,” and “We can rent a house 3 times that size several times a year for less than it would cost to buy it.”

It was immediately obvious that he didn’t get it.


In my head, I was already reading a beachy novel on my new linen sofa as the Guana Cay sunlight filtered in through gauzy white curtains. I was pretty sure I needed to start shopping for beach house furniture right away.

I had to figure out a way to make him see my vision.

I managed to do it with one simple sentence, “You know, if we bought a house, you’d have to get a boat.”

Next thing I knew, we were making a quick trip down to look at the house. Before the weekend was over, he saw my vision. Okay, maybe his vision had more boat and less house, but it was settled. We were buying a house on Guana Cay.

I was over the moon.

And scared shitless.

For those that are interested in the tedious details of the process because you might want to try this yourself someday – it wasn’t that bad. We worked with an on-island rental agent who helped us negotiate the purchase price. Both parties agreed to an attorney who coordinated the necessary paperwork. All we really had to do was get some initial information to the attorney, wire a deposit, sign a few things and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

It took WAY longer than it should, but what doesn’t in the Bahamas? Apparently, “island time” applies to everything.

About 90 days later, we signed some additional documents, wired the rest of the money and were home owners.

Buying it was the easy part.

The rest was a pain because there were just so many details to take care of and they all had to be done long distance. Thankfully, our on-island real estate agent became our on-island property caretaker and he made everything else as easy as possible. He did all of the leg work to get the utilities switched over, get the wi-fi set up, coordinate deliveries, he even cleaned up the golf cart.

The first thing we discovered was how much more everything cost than we thought. When you buy a house on an island, take what you think each thing will cost and triple it. Then add a little more money and a lot of frustration and you are probably in the ballpark. With this being our first venture into the world of Bahamian ownership, we were immediately glad we started small.

Before we knew it, it was time to head down for 2 weeks to make it our own – painting, redecorating, and getting anything the house didn’t already have.

Welcome to Flip This House: Guana Cay Edition!


Friday, September 4:

7:00 a.m. I am pretty sure we are going to crash. Why did I buy so much stuff to take down? The house is furnished. Seriously….do I really need a seahorse shaped cutting board? I should have just packed a toothbrush.



10:30 a.m. We have landed in West Palm Beach for the night. Somehow, we did not crash. This is good, because we would have been buried under 620 lbs. of home goods and would never have been able to exit the plane before it caught on fire and burned us along with an enormous assortment of turquoise bedding and beach towels.

10:00 p.m. I do not know how we did not die of heat stroke or exhaustion in the last 12 hours. We have been to every hardware store, house ware store, golf cart supplier, and marina in West Palm Beach. It is at least 112 degrees in the shade. Now the plane will have 720 lbs. of crap on it. Also, the man delivering the boat from Bonita Springs was late and got here after dark, so instead of dinner, we spent all night preparing the boat for its trip from West Palm Beach to Guana Cay. That’s fine. I’m too hot to eat anyway.

10:30 p.m. Damn. I forgot to get a clean change of clothes off the plane. I have no clean clothes for tomorrow. That’s okay. Mine aren’t that dirty. Matt’s, however, are decimated. I would burn them but I am pretty sure they are too sweaty to catch on fire.

Saturday, September 5:

10:00 a.m. I am waiting outside the Tommy Bahama store in West Palm Beach so I can buy Matt some clean clothes. Why did the only store within walking distance of the hotel have to be Tommy Bahama? Where is the Wal-Mart? I wonder if Publix sells shorts.

10:10 a.m. I’m walking back to the hotel with 1 t-shirt, 1 pair of shorts, and 1 pair of boxers that cost me $189. I should have walked the 9 miles to Wal-Mart. Or let him go without underwear.

12:30 p.m. We have arrived in Marsh Harbour! Yay! I’m glad we didn’t crash because the life jackets were buried under a do-it-yourself Murphy bed, an ottoman coffee table, and 500 lbs. of “beach house things” I was certain I needed 2 days ago. Now, I just really want some clean underwear. We made it through customs with a lot of stuff. I think the agent took pity on us and decided to ignore the fact that 2 people had 10 extra-large duffel bags for a 2 week trip. She only made us pay duty on 2 items. Probably because we are really sweaty and I am wearing dirty clothes. I think she wanted us to get out of her office.

1:00 p.m. I am sitting at the ferry dock and am feeling much better thanks to the Bahama Mama in my hand. I don’t even care that I am wearing dirty clothes.

2:00 p.m. We just got off the ferry. Where is the golf cart? We have 720 lbs. of stuff and it is 900 degrees out here. I need a golf cart.

2:30 p.m. We have stolen a golf cart. We saw one left at the dock with our friends’ names on it so we took it. Okay, maybe we have only met them once, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t friends. It doesn’t matter. We know they aren’t arriving until later this afternoon. They’ll never know. That's what they get for telling internet strangers their last name.

2:40 p.m. Dammit. They will be here in 20 minutes and will wonder where their golf cart is. We still haven’t found ours.

2:50 p.m. Golf cart has been found. We have safely returned friends’ cart to dock. They will never know. Except that their cart is all sweaty now.

2:55 p.m. What the &^%%%#****??????

3:00 p.m. We almost died on the golf cart. Who knew our new golf cart has a sticking gas pedal? We almost didn’t figure this out until it was too late. Note to self: Never drive golf cart with sticking gas pedal onto ferry dock.

3:05 p.m. First time walking into Bikini Hut and it’s mine. I love it even though it looks like a condiment cart threw up in the living room. Man, I need a shower.




5:00 p.m. Everything is unloaded into the house. I think we just put 1050 square feet of stuff in a 950 square foot house. It’s all haphazardly tossed in, but I was able to find clean underwear. That’s good enough.

5:30 p.m. I really need a shower. Matt says something is wrong with the pump because only a trickle of water is coming out of the shower head. I don’t care. Okay, I am pointing the trickle of water straight down. This is like trying to shower in fog. Let me try pressing my body against the wall of the shower to capture the water I can. Okay, this is gross. But it's working. I hope the wall of this shower is clean. There is no way I can wash my sweaty hair.

6:00 p.m. Finally, we are relaxing at Grabbers with some frozen grabbers and a sunset. Surely the worst of it is behind us. “Moving Day” is over and we can start settling in. First order of business: FOOD. I haven’t had anything since my complimentary yogurt and banana at the Residence Inn West Palm Beach. Geez, I am starving. I knew I should have shoved all those little kids out of the waffle line.







6:10 p.m. What is with all the flies???? So many flies. Matt is eating his dinner walking around so they can’t catch his plate. I don’t care. I have given up. I am too tired to care. I’ll share with the flies as long as I don’t have to move. They can’t really eat that much, can they?

6:30 p.m. I think Rooby is dead.


8:30 p.m. For the love of all that is holy, WHERE ARE THE FLIPPING SHEETS? I can’t find anything in here. It’s just a giant pile of mess. Yellow and red mess. With a lot of tools and tarps on top.

Sunday, September 6:

5:10 a.m. I am awake. This is what happens when you go to bed at 9:00. I may as well take Bella and Rooby for a walk on the beach. Is that a millipede?

6:00 a.m. I just remembered why I am doing all of this. I love it here. Bella and Rooby agree.





9:00 a.m. We just figured out that the water pump is fine. The shower is fine. The water was turned off. I am doing my best not to be mad that I was forced to shower in a trickle and go to bed with dirty hair. At least we now have awesome water pressure. Found a few more millipedes. What’s up with that?

12:00 p.m. We are waiting for Matt’s new boat to arrive from Florida, so we don’t really want to get into any heavy work. We’ll go to Nippers for lunch instead. Our new friends are supposed to be there.






12:15 p.m. Robert and Stacey keep talking about how their golf cart was really sweaty when they arrived. We say nothing.

12:30 p.m. We have work to do so I am just going to get lunch and have 1 Nipper. Definitely not more than one. Mmm….lobster salad sandwich goes so well with a Nipper.


1:30 p.m. I’ll just have one more Nipper. Two should be fine.


2:30 p.m. The boat is here and I think I had more than 2 Nippers. Hello boat, I am going in for a nap.


3:00 p.m. Apparently, I am not taking a nap. Matt has neurotically decided that the boat must be cleaned. Now. I am on my way to Guana Grocery to buy more paper towels and magic erasers.

6:00 p.m. The boat is finally clean. I am too tired to get cleaned up for dinner. I will just make something here at the house. Good thing I brought plenty of food.

6:30 p.m. Damn stove doesn’t work. Does anything work in here? Matt is certain the gas regulator is broken. I don’t care. I will make something in the microwave. Thank goodness we made that stop at Trader Joe’s. Pre-grilled chicken and microwave baked potatoes it is. I will eat anything I can eat in my pajamas.

Monday, September 7





6:00 a.m. I just enjoyed a beautiful sunrise on the beach with the dogs. Today is the day we start “doing stuff.” I can’t wait. I’m ready to get started. This place looks like a dump. And I keep finding more millipedes.


7:00 a.m. Matt is going lobster diving with friends. Really? I suppose I will be working alone today. I think I can get painting supplies at Guana Hardware. Sure, it would be cheaper in Marsh Harbour, but I’d lose a day of work. How much more could it cost?

9:00 a.m. I did not know a gallon of white paint could cost $70. I am discouraged by my tiny pile of supplies that I just spent $200 on. Matt better come home with some lobster. A lot of it.




1:00 p.m. I am in paradise, and I am inside painting. Matt is fishing, and I am inside painting. The sun is shining, and I am inside painting.


2:00 p.m. I just figured out the difference between renting a beach house and owning one.





3:00 p.m. I just threw 4 more millipedes in the toilet.

3:30 p.m. I just learned that, despite the desire to conserve water, one should not put millipedes in the toilet and not flush, lest they crawl right back out. This is not ideal for the person sitting on the toilet unaware.

4:00 p.m. The painting is done! I would pat myself on the back, but I can no longer lift my arm.

6:00 p.m. Matt came home with 10 lobsters, so he is forgiven. A little.

7:00 p.m. God knew we were tired, so he treated us to an exceptional sunset. Wait a minute…. I am tired. Matt didn’t do anything but fish all day.







7:30 p.m. I am too tired to fend off the flies, so dinner is indoors at Nippers tonight. There is nothing better than a monochromatic plate filled with brown and white foods. This means there is nothing on the plate but fat and carbohydrates. There is nothing green on my plate unless you count the lime. Please don’t tell my mom. This is awesome.


Tuesday, September 8

Millipede count: 4

6:00 a.m. I think I will stain the dining table and paint some furniture today. I made my own stain a few days ago with vinegar, steel wool, and coffee. It’s supposed to look like driftwood.


6:30 a.m. Coffee, steel wool, and vinegar really do make wood look like driftwood. They also make it stink.



8:00 a.m. I am determined to use this ugly ass piece of furniture. Sure, it’s made of plywood and has pencil marks all over it, but do you know how much furniture costs down here? My new mantra: Throw away NOTHING.


10:00 a.m. Matt declares he would like to take his new boat out. We have work to do, but he really wants to take our friends to Firefly before they leave and it’s closed on Wednesday. I really want to go to Firefly. I am tired of working and picking up millipedes. I agree.

10:10 a.m. Matt just left to spend the morning “getting the boat ready.” I suddenly realize that Matt has done nothing but clean his boat, play with his boat, consume grabbers and nippers, and go lobster fishing since we arrived. I have unpacked, organized, washed all of the laundry left by previous owners, painted the entire interior, stained the table, painted that ugly little nightstand, and made most of meals. Somehow, this does not feel equitable.

3:00 p.m. I LOVE THE NEW BOAT!



4:00 p.m. I have to admit getting out on the boat was a good idea. I was getting cranky. I needed a day off. Boat drinks, a trip to the beach at Man-O-War Cay, and a stop at Austin and Amy’s is just what the doctor ordered. Lubbers Landing is still the BEST!















5:00 p.m. Amy was right – Firefly has the best fried pickles EVER.






7:30 p.m. We just made it back for sunset. Perfect timing. I wonder if there are any millipedes in the house? Yep.


Wednesday, September 9

Millipede count: 5

8:30 a.m. I just ran to Gauna Grocery and found fresh made banana bread. It's the small things.


10:00 a.m. Apparently, the millipedes are an epidemic right now. I am not sure if I feel better knowing our house is not uniquely cursed with them or worse knowing it’s obviously not something I can do anything about right now. For now, I will just keep throwing them in the toilet each morning.

10:30 a.m. Finished staining the table. I like it.



11:00 a.m. I have been compiling a list of things we need to buy ever since we arrived. It is time to head to Marsh Harbour in our boat to see how much we can find. I am excited! My only experience with Marsh Harbour to date is the brief view outside my taxi window as we pass quickly from the airport to the ferry dock. Marsh Harbour, here we come! Yay, shopping!






12:00 p.m. We are in Marsh Harbour and have a rental car. It is an old mini-van that has not been cleaned in a very long time. At least the a/c works. Sort of. Wow, it’s hot today.

12:30 p.m. We decided to stop for lunch. Most of the restaurants seem closed for the season. Except Kentucky Fried Chicken. It’s in a strip mall. Something about that is weird. I saw an “Open” sign at this place – Oasis. We’ll give it a shot. I don’t want to eat at the Bahamian KFC in a strip mall.



1:00 p.m. Oasis rocks. Sure, they are even slower than the average Bahamian restaurant, but that is probably because they are the only thing open. Unless you want a 2 piece meal with a biscuit.






2:30 p.m. Oasis gives an entirely new meaning to s-l-o-w. The food was great, but I think we just lost 2 hours of much needed shopping time. Maybe we should have gone for that chicken. How late do the stores stay open? So excited to finally go shopping!

3:30 p.m. Shopping here sucks. I can’t find anything here. When the Ace Hardware is the best store in town, you know you are in trouble. What I can find costs 9 times what it should. I just paid $9 for a cheap rubber plunger and $25 for a throwaway sponge mop. They don’t even have normal stores. There is no “Bed, Bath, and Beyond.” They have “Bed, Bath, and Between.” I understand “Beyond,” you’ve got lots of rooms beyond the bed and bath….the kitchen, the living area, the dining room….What the hell’s between the bed and the bath? The closet? That’s just stupid.




4:00 p.m. ALL Mart? Seriously? Like Wal-Mart…except they have it ALL.


4:30 p.m. Shopping was not as fun as I thought it would be. Half the things on my list are still on my list because I refuse to pay for them. I am not paying $34 for a $7 hairdryer or $49 for a $10 iron. I will just have wet hair and wrinkled clothes. And $25 for a cheap curtain panel that looks like something Big Lots would have for $3.99? No thank you. I bought a glue gun and a pile of fabric instead. And forget about replacing those curtain rods the previous owner made out of PVC. They are just fine, thankyouverymuch. This was the best thing I found in Marsh Harbour and they wouldn’t let me buy him.


5:00 p.m. I thought we would never get all that stuff on the boat. And it was so hot. I have sweat running down my back. We look like a refugee boat. Did I mention that it is hot? I don’t feel like I will ever stop sweating. Thank heavens we found some frozen drinks nearby.






6:00 p.m. We were so hot we decided to stop at Mermaid Reef for a quick snorkel on the way back. Amazing. I saw my first lion fish.


8:30 p.m. Thank you, Kidds Cove for cooking Matt’s 10 lobster tails since my damn stove doesn't work. That might have been the best dinner ever. Can you guess which plate is mine and which is Matt’s? She who does all the painting alone gets the most lobster, I say.





Thursday, September 10

Millipede count: 6


8:00 a.m. My OCD is kicking in. Usually, when one moves into a new place, one immediately reorganizes and unpacks. We can’t unpack anything because we don’t have the modifications done. So far, all we can do is shuffle crap around. Move one pile to another pile. Put some junk on top of some different junk so that we can get to some other junk. There are no curtains on the windows. The initial excitement and newness has worn off. It has been replaced by frustration.

Stress, dirt, and chaos have become the defining aspects of my life.

I can’t take this.

If we can’t get over the hump today and get some of this stuff organized, I am certain I will die.





10:30 a.m. We are kicking some major remodeling ass today. Matt is building the Murphy bed and I am repainting the cabinets. We are getting it DONE.



12:00 p.m. Matt just got the Murphy bed completely put together on the floor and realized it’s too tall to stand up. The ceiling is too low. I am pretty sure Matt has reached his maximum frustration point with the Murphy bed.

Murphy Bed: 1
Matt: 0


12:30 p.m. Nope. He was definitely able to get even more frustrated.

2:30 p.m. The Murphy bed has now been taken apart and reassembled on the wall. It’s up! I think Matt is dead on the inside, though.




3:00 p.m. The cabinets are painted, the handles and doors are replaced, and I have an enormous blister on my hand. Why don’t we have an electric screwdriver? Oh yeah, because I needed 620 lbs. of beachy dishes and scented candles and it wouldn’t fit in the plane.

4:00 p.m. I am using a glue gun to make curtains and hang them on rods made out of PVC until I can go back to the states and get something better. Oh, dear God. I am making glue gun curtains and I have been eating a lot of instant food (because we still have not figured out the stove). I have reverted back to the 1989 college version of me. What’s next? Ramen noodles?


5:00 p.m. Rooby has given up on us.


6:00 p.m. It’s been a long work day, but the Murphy bed is up, the house and cabinets are painted, and we were able to put most of the stuff away. We have at least moved from “this place looks like hoarders live here” to “organized chaos.”

It’s starting to look like a beach house!



Next up - Part II: Taking a vacation from our vacation....Hello, Eleuthera!

Posted by vicki_h 09:11 Archived in Bahamas Tagged island caribbean tropical abaco elbow_cay guana_cay marsh_harbour treasure_cay lubbers_landing

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Love those pictures in the last shot. Where did you get them?!

by Lindsey310

Lindsey- That's a photo I took in the Bahamas and had put on canvas.

by vicki_h

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