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By John R. Nieb
Troop 175, boy scouts from Farmington Valley towns, became the first American troop to visit Cuba since 1959.
On April 8 they left Granby at 4:30 a.m. for the Newark Airport to board a direct flight to Havana, Cuba.
“It was awesome. We love setting records like this,” said Charles Brinegar, assistant senior patrol leader and life scout of Troop 175. “We were the first to go to Cuba, as well as to summit Mount Kilimanjaro and to enter the Amazon Rainforest.”
For the first two days they toured Havana before taking a four-hour bus trip to Cienfuegos in the southern part of the island. There they chartered two catamarans and spent the next five days sailing.
Charles’ father, Jack Brinegar, felt that “It was a great education to actually see first hand a socialistic country. For me, that was extremely educational.”
“We were able to see a part of the world that I never thought I’d see and I experienced it with friends and my dad,” Charles added.
Charles found the people of Cuba welcoming and proud of who they are. They don’t have as much as other countries have, but they keep their chins up and they’re proud of what they do have.
Jack did a lot of research prior to the Cuba trip to understand what to expect when they arrived. He explained that Cuba is a relatively young country but has a very rich history. It wasn’t until 1959 that Fiedel Castro, a late Cuban revolutionary and politician, took over and lead Cuba to where it is today. Cubans are still working on their revolution, because they feel that there are still things that need to be fixed. So, they continue along the path of change.
The inn where Troop 175 stayed served fresh food, including cereals and grains for breakfast every morning. For dinner, they had incredibly fresh seafood and meats. “It was just amazing. I think my favorite part was the juices,” Charles said; “They had fresh guava and pineapple juice, stuff you really don’t see much in America.”
“A lot of extremely fresh seafood and a lot of pork, rice and beans. Everything was delicious”, Jack added.
During their stay in Havana the boys played a soccer game with some of the local children. The Cuban children couldn’t speak English, and most of the scouts couldn’t speak a lot of Spanish but the international language of sports took over.
The sailing portion of the trip was spent aboard two catamarans with small staterooms for the adult leaders while most of the scouts slept outside on couches, pads and nettings. One catamaran was 45 feet long and accommodated 12 plus the skipper and the other was 41 feet long and hosted nine people plus the skipper.
“It was close quarters. I think it was awesome to see the connections we made with each other,” Charles commented.
Six scouts completed their public speaking merit badges on the trip. Other scouting activities included cooking, tying knots and performing first aid.
Jack and Charles investigated several other troops before joining Troop 175, which is based in Simsbury and has members from Simsbury, Granby, Avon and other Valley towns. This troop is big about leadership in the sense that the boys lead the troop. It is a big responsibility to lead a group of over 80 boys for nine months of the year. Alexander Stine, a junior at Simsbury High School, is Troop 175’s Senior Patrol Leader and, with the help of five assistant senior patrol leaders, runs the largest troop in the council. The assistants are Charles Brinegar, Cameron Delo, Jack Farrell, Daniel Puleso and Lucas Watson.
“So, in my opinion, that’s the difference this troop has over others in the area,” said Jack. “That’s not to say that other troops don’t deal with leadership, I just feel that Troop 175 really focuses on leadership at a scout level,” he added.
Boy Scout Troop 175 meets at St. Mary’s Parish Center in Simsbury. Contact Brad Mead at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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