Serenity Articles : The Dandy Flyer

(Originally published on on October 7, 2006)

In the August 17, 2006 issue of TV Guide (large format), there was an article by Billy Campbell (actor, The 4400) who spent 13 months sailing on a square-rigged tall ship (The Picton Castle) as a crew member. His briefing recounting of what he found fascinating about his time aboard the ship (and why he plans to return to sail with her again) inspired this next contribution to the ‘Verse.

At First Sight…

“When I first set eyes on her, I thought I was looking at a Cortex show on the Earth-that-Was. The Dandy Flyer looks more like ancient sailing ships than a real spacecraft with her long booms, solar sails, and sleek lines. I don’t know how long I peered out that portal of the Jazonah Skyplex before I decided to see what she was about. I latched on to an enthusiastic crew member and soon was getting the grounders’ tour of the ship. Kinyeta, the First Mate, told me later he saw something in my face and he knew I’d be joining them. ‘It’s easy to see who hears the song,’ is how he put it.

“The Dandy Flyer was a relic of the great expansions from Sinhon and Londinum, when people were trying all sorts of ways to make travel to the other planets cheaper and easier. There used to be hundreds of her type but she’s one of the few left that doesn’t hang in a museum. When she was built, pulse drives weren’t being built for civilian vessels so she had to make do with reaction drives and an elaborate and elegant set of solar sails. Where a ship today takes an engineer or two to keep the pulse drive running smoothly, the Flyer needed a crew of forty to sail her effectively. And that’s forty experienced zero-g crew, able to spend hours in the black tending the sails, then come inside and keep working, repairing one of the delicate microfiber sheets, fabricating a new part for a broken winch, or just maintaining the rest of the ship. These days you crew her because you want to, not because she’ll make anyone rich.”

“You never got lonely on the Flyer. She can haul twice as much cargo as your typical Firefly-class, but the living space isn’t generous. Fully crewed, you hotbunked at times, and hammocks lined single room serving as crew quarters. (Officers had it a bit better). That makes an unusual community these days, but you soon learn the rules. As Captain Campbell put it one night at his mess table, ‘Serenity, hard work, and good cheer make a good shipmate.’ Kinyeta had his own version: keep sharp objects and sharp opinions to yourself, live and let live, do your job.”

“The crew I sailed with were mostly dark-skinned men from the moons of Londinum, those hot-climate settlements where many of the original African settlers drifted to. That said, the face and character of the crew continued to evolve as some left and new hands were always coming on board. It doesn’t take too long before you either were in love with the Flyer or you couldn’t wait to get to a decent pulse-drive ship. I enjoyed meeting so many different people.”

“In my time, I saw more lonely settlements and outposts than I can count. Captain Campbell was devoted to bringing food, medicine, and other supplies to places forgotten by everyone else. Much of his payment was in trade so while you never had much coin in your pocket for shore leave, I’ve never eaten better.

“They’ll never credit a solar sailer with making a fast crossing, though on a long leg, she can certainly get much faster than just reaction drives would be able to get. So, yes, sailing the black is a slow process but you… you hear the quiet of the ‘Verse better. It isn’t a complicated life, once you get your duties down. It’s a nice escape for awhile.

“I sailed with her for three years before I had to make my parting. And I know, if I see her again, I’ll be sailing the black with the Flyer.”

The Dandy Flyer

Still need ship statistics for here. Any fan want to submit stats for the Dandy Flyer?

Comments are currently closed.