Members of the Little family (from left: Joann Little, Warren Little, Alan Little, Wayne Little, Marilyn Little, Kathy Little) with the Miss Kal, a boat built by hand by Fred Little in Vernon that spent many summers on Kalamalka Lake. The boat has been in Victoria since 1982, has been restored by the family and will be re-launched on Kal Lake later this summer. (Little family photo)

Family restores 63-year-old Okanagan boat to original glory

Former fire chief Fred Little built boat at his house for under $400 in 1955

A Little boat has provided big memories.

Long-time Vernon residents may remember Fred and Pat Little, their sons Warren and Alan and their home-built boat Miss Kal, which was first powered across Kalamalka Lake 63 years ago, and whose keel returned to grace Kal Lake this summer.

Fred Little was Vernon’s fire chief from 1939 to 1970, and Miss Kal lived on Kalamalka Lake during the 1950s and ’60s. Her registration number shows that she was the 132nd boat to be registered in the Okanagan region.

In 1955 Fred, with some help from his sons, built the 16-foot Ski King model from Glen-L Marine plans. They worked in the basement of his home which once stood where the Vernon Jubilee Hospital parking lot is now.

Miss Kal was originally powered by a 1937 Morris car engine, but that was not enough to get her up on plane, so she was re-powered with the F-head Army Jeep engine she still has today. Fred made or adapted most of the parts himself, hand-crafting a water-cooled manifold, steering mechanism, stuffing box, rudder, strut and many more parts.

Pat Little kept a tally of every dollar spent. Her fascinating records show the cost to build, including lumber, plans and the engine, totalled $342.96.

In the spring of 1956, the boat was launched in Kalamalka Lake, and for many years the family enjoyed cruising the lake. Warren and Alan waterskiied behind her, as well as their cousin Wayne Little (also of the Vernon fire department), his wife Joann, and Alan’s wife Kathy.

As fire chief, Fred was always on-call for any fires. Cell phones were non-existent then, and one day while out on the lake Fred spotted smoke over Vernon. Racing to shore, he was unable to slow enough to avoid hitting the dock which put a hole in the side of the boat. The plywood patch still remains as a testament to Fred’s commitment to fire fighting in Vernon.

Fred passed away in 1970, and the fate of Miss Kal was uncertain until 1982 when she was brought to Victoria where, in 1991, Warren and his son Kevin (then 21 years old) began the long process of restoring Miss Kal to her original condition.

From 1991 to 2019, Miss Kal became a familiar fixture on Lake Cowichan, 90 miles north of Victoria. The distinctive throb of her Army Jeep engine became a familiar sound on the lake.

In 2016, the Little clan reunited in honour of Miss Kal’s 60th birthday. Using the original wooden skis from the early ‘60s, once again the Littles water-skied behind this beloved little boat. A toast was made in honour of the boat and her original builder, and most agreed Fred would never have expected that his creation would still be afloat.

The Little family’s floating heirloom has now passed to the next generation. This spring, Warren’s daughter Tracy and husband Joe Piercy of Lumby took over the care of Miss Kal. She will again be launched on Kalamalka Lake, where she began her journey so very long ago, later this summer.



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

Photos: Businesses start to reopen in Revelstoke

Multiple businesses have reopened their doors

COLUMN: Books come back with curbside pickup

Okanagan Regional Library begins first phase of reopening process

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Golden police seek Good Samaritan after house fire

An unidentified individual may have saved lives in the early-morning fire.

‘Problem is people, bears are predictable,’ says Okanagan Conservation

Officers begging public to keep garbage inside and keep bears alive

Eco-friendly bus service seeks to add Kelowna to Osoyoos route

Bus would stop in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Penticton, Kaledan, Oliver, Osoyoos

Kelowna trial date set for Penticton quadruple-homicide

John Brittain’s jury trial will commence on Oct 5, 2020 in Kelowna

Vancouver Island hasn’t seen a new homegrown case of COVID-19 in two weeks

Island’s low and steady transmission rate chalked up to several factors

COVID-19 Pets: What you need to know

An infograph from Cyberpets.com explains how to care for your pet during COVID-19

School buses could remain parked as Central Okanagan students return to class

SD23 staff has recommended the cancellation of transportation services for the remainder of the school year

Eight people arrested in Victoria homeless camp after enforcement order issued

Those living in tents were given until May 20 to move indoors

Andrew Weaver says he was ready to defeat John Horgan government

Independent MLA blasts B.C. Greens over LNG opposition

44% fewer passengers flew on Canadian airlines in March 2020 than in 2019

COVID-19 pandemic has hit airlines hard as travel remains low

Most Read