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

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