The urban native survival guide


Sea Kayaking; Broken Island Group; Pacific Rim National Park

I have a great opportunity to test my film making workflow coming up. A trip across the entire country and stopping to catch award winning footage is going to take some figuring out. While you may think that you can make a decent film out of Go-Pro footage that is hardly the case. 

Presently the camera that I use with a full frame sensor is the Canon 5D Mark II. It is a brilliant camera. Tough and reliable. It is heavy but for now it is the best quality for it's weight. There is a good reason 8 out of 10 war journalists use this puppy. I would like to upgrade to the mark III before leaving next spring. This style of camera has a serious problem and that is the audio. The camera has crappy mic's. Well all camera's do really. You'd have to be a tech to know this. 

Zoom H4N pro digital recorderThis trip I want to try out some of the solutions I may have come up with. I need good external mic's easy to set up and send a feed to my camera. So what I have been experimenting with is capturing audio on the Zoom H4N. I feed audio into the camera via the headphone jack which splits so that I can monitor the audio with headphones. I have had reasonable success with this system but haven't really put it to the test. 

I will produce a pod cast from this system on the trials and errors of sea kayaking camping with children in the  Broken Island Group. The unit gives me the option of using the onboard mic's or attaching external pro mic's via mini jack or XLR. 

The next thing I want to do is mess around with my iPhone 6S plus as a primary camera. In the last few years the camera quality on these thing have made them a real contender in the media capture market. There are a few other tings that I like such as GPS tagged photo's. navigation and weather apps are just a perk. It will be interesting to compare the $5000 dollar camera next to a smart phone. Not sure how they do it exactly but the footage looks pretty good. Here again the audio doesn't hold up but the Zoom H4N comes to the rescue once again. If I think the audio is important enough I can capture on the Zoom and sync in post.

There are some battery issues that I have to check out also. I have a couple 10.000 mil/amp external batteries to recharge devices and a small solar charger. Of course I have had some experience at this in the past just testing some new equipment out. 

Did I mention that I am doing this while sea kayaking in Pacific Rim National park. Never been sea kayaking before so this should be a good experience. It's a family trip with a mission. So tag along and I will try posting from the islands.

Talk to you in a couple days.



Sea 1 Canoe/Kayak boat of choice

While this trip has been a plan for over eight years with less then a year to go the final touches of the trip had to come into play. I pictured the trip being done in a traditional canoe. Something like a 17 foot prospector. A compromise of river and lake canoe. 

My prospector rocks in white water, eddying in and peeling out are as natural as breathing. The boat tracks ok on big flat water but a lot of energy is but into the correction stroke. The other thing is that I couldn’t navigate/captain this boat safely on the great lakes. The winds capture a broad craft like this and pushes it around pretty good. This is why my original plan was to partner up on the great lake section. 

I started to consider a sea kayak for the journey. Having done very little kayaking it was a question of bringing my skills up to par. Portages and being able to carry enough equipment. packing a kayak is not at all like a canoe. Everything is in smaller packages and distributed into cockpits fore and aft in water tight sections. So portaging of which there are many is going to get time consuming and tedious. 

However in my research I came across semi hard covered solo expedition canoes. This changed everything. These boats are designed with travel by a solo canoeist in mind. It is not near as susceptible to wind push. Tracks well and the Sea 1 takes a sail and handles it well. 17’6” in length v shaped hull this puppy tracks like a dream. 

The boat weighs 55  pounds and is made of kevlar. There is a attachable portage yoke. Completely attachable spray skirt that can be open when conditions require it. Needless to say this the boat of choice for me. Most importantly it allows me to travel by myself on a solo expedition. Not that I will be. It is quite likely that Todd Joyal a Metis adventurer from Winnipeg will be joining me on the sections from Winnipeg, Manitoba  to Thunder Bay, Ontario. We will be taking the original NW Co./ HBC route used to avoid the Grande Portage route into Superior drainage. While much tougher it is of a historical interest to retrace a forgotten fur trade route. 

The Sea 1 is not as quick in white water as some others with it’s flatter hull. We will see. See river route for exact information on the route of choice.  






Plans are useless, however planning is essential!

“Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
Dwight D Eisenhower

I had in my mind the idea of canoeing across country with my family in tow. And we would merrily see the country together. Sharing the experiences as we relived portions of my ancestors lives in the fur trade country. 
As the trip is only a 10 months away reality has struck in. First off I have done a fair bit of canoeing with the family in the last three years. The pace has always been casual and the trip designed to be fun for the whole family. Crossing the entire country is a horse of a different colour. 
First off it takes a mission oriented mindset to cover the miles required each day. Maintaining the pace for my family might be feasible for a week or so but they would break down. I wouldn’t blame them. As my brother said “ crossing the country by canoe is Joe’s dream not mine” this he said to my youngest brother Jamie after I invited them both to join me. This was a bit of a revelation. You mean there is somebody out there who wouldn’t want a piece of this grand adventure.
The second thing is that it is a long canoe route from Banff to Montreal. I mean really long. The number of km required each day is not even possible with my family. Add to that the at the endless ox-bow rivers of the prairies where where 5 km of paddling means about 1 km of forward progress eastward. I’ve done a bit of paddling there and it is maddening. All you need to add to that are few mosquitoes and some summer heat and a thundershower or two and we have the makings of a mutiny. Followed by a lengthy court case and divorce. 
In the end I decided to do portions of the trip solo and recruit a friend or two too do the Lake Superior section. The reason being mostly I don’t see myself being able to handle a standard open canoe prospector model in that big of water. Not safely at least. Then along came the Sea 1 hybrid canoe/kayak by clipper. It is by far the most suitable boat for a journey like this. Most importantly it is designed as a solo boat and as sea worthy as the titanic. 
I idea of going alone appeals to me on many levels. How often to you get to spend time with your own thoughts. Next is that if I don’t complete the trip I have nobody but myself to blame for it. Those are the two main reasons. Cost and not having to hang the lead mutineer are also important factors. 
I will also be pushing the launch date ahead by a month so that I can be at the mouth of the French River on lake Huron where the family may join me to paddle the 110 km section. 
Stay tuned as we ramp up for the real thing. Oh yeh sponsors who ever you may be get your check book ready ( also take Visa, MasterCard, amex and bottles).

Joe Mckay

Check out the boat! This thing is where science and art cross paths.


APTN sponsorship

Well looked through the Aboriginal Peoples Television Networks (APTN) criteria for proposal submission. They seem pretty hard line on the HD content. Primarily the camera formats. I will ask them if there is any wiggle room on this as I will be shooting on a Canon Mark III the go to for a lot documentary film makers. 
The next question will I be considered experienced enough of a producer to be taken seriously. Will my social media audience and time as a audio visual technician be taken seriously enough. I do about 50,000 video views a month on my youtube channel. 
The next thing will they reject my proposal because they consider it to risky. Camera and talent must be safe at all times. I have been preparing all my adult life for this trip it seems. While others are tucked away in bed I've waited out storms in a snow hole at 20,000'. Crossed ice-fields, pioneered grade 6+ ice routes and been close to cashing in my bingo chips more times then most people have had hot breakfasts. As a result I have a high skill level and a low tolerance for risk. 
Think I will try throwing the pitch out there to the regional director and see if they have any interest. Otherwise I can pitch the final product as a acquisition.


Born To be wild

This will be my final act. The big show before the curtains come down. So really this film is all about me. It’s is going to be my contribution the the survival of the Metis nation. So why dedicate what will be 4 years of my life and certainly a sum of my personal wealth. Mostly because it is all I have to give back that could possibly make a difference. I can’t think of a more fitting epitaph then the film The Last Metis. That would be my version of Boots on and both guns blazing. 

The idea of canoeing to Montreal from Banff a distance of some 3000 miles across the plains onto the eastern shield country is not a new one. In fact I have been saying something about it for decade. I know this because I am celebrating my 10th wedding anniversary and it is the 17’ prospector that we are traveling in today.



You ever been so poor that you have nothing left but your name. I don’t know why but for some reason until I was about 30 years of age this was a reoccurring theme for me. It was during the lowest points in my life that I took the greatest pride in being Metis. Not that the Metis should take any pride in a penniless rig hand who couldn’t put enough cash away that 6 weeks for spring break left me destitute. 

Unlike many of my cousins and other family my father moved from his homeland in Regina Beach Saskatchewan to seek his fortune out west. I became a product like so many others of a Banff summer fun relationship. I certainly wasn’t the first to be brought into the world under such circumstances. I didn’t ask to be born and if I knew then what I know now the answer might have been no! As the saying goes no matter where you go there you are. No matter how your born there you are also. 

My mother was from a respectable family who seemed to thrive on being civil servants. She herself was good with numbers and had a position with the Brewster Transport family. My father as far as I can tell had very little education and managed to secure a job as a survey helper on what was to become the trans Canada hi-way. This was our life until I reached the age of 5 yrs. Thats when my fathers position ended with the Trans-Canada and I suppose the romance of heading north into uncharted waters of the time, “Pack up family, we’re heading for the Yukon”. So we are i a place where the term running water means , “run and get some water”. My very first memory of that era is one of trapping squirrels. Don’t ask what a 5 year old kid is doing snaring squirrels, by todays standard it seems a bit unusual, at least for our home in banff (National Parks regulations aside). I guess things didn’t go all that well because it wasn’t long before my parents had irreconcilable differences. My brother Jerry ( 1 year younger ) were shipped off to live with my Grandparents on my Fathers side in Regina Beach Saskatchewan. I was six years old and a pattern of living with my grandparents and relocating to a new home with my mother was just emerging. Lets just say that I went to more then 10 schools in my 9 years of primary education. Anybody who has been through this kind of upheaval knows what that is like, anybody who hasn’t can well imagine. 

I doubt there isn’t a person alive who doesn’t have regrets. I certainly do! If I could pick out a negative result of such a life I believe it was the choice of friends that I made and the things I did as a result of this. It was a simple survival technique.