Once again rafts own the big number even though their numbers are off slightly from last year. The upsurge in kayaks continues unabated with every year since 2002 showing an increase.

The crew poses for glamour shot (left to right) Bill Tuttle, Joe Rumler, Mike Beebe, Mike Hendges and Jim Bretes (crouching)

The crew poses for glamor shot (left to right) Bill Tuttle, Joe Rumler, Mike Beebe, Mike Hendges and Jim Bretes (crouching)

Since 1987, Bill Tuttle has conducted this count. To get a handle on the mechanics of the count, scroll below “highlights” on this page. For every data detail imaginable, click Vital Statistics. But we recommend that you start with the highlights below.

Total number of boats
The total number of boats this year is 1254, that’s down from last year (1312) and down from the peak year of 2008 when 1350 were counted. In 1960 there were only 713. Between 1960 and the next available count in 1987, the number grew to 1178. (Counts from 1961 through 1986 are no longer available. Please see the explanation near the end of this post).

Rafts are number one
Rafts dominate with 523, that’s down from the all-time high of 556 in 2012. The low number was 1960 with 222. Since 1960, raft numbers climbed even though some dips occurred along the way (such as 1990 when 232 were counted).

An explosion of kayaks bolster person-powered craft count
The big story is kayaks. This year is their best ever showing with 164 counted. They got their start on the lake around 2000 and have multiplied like Clark Lake chipmunks ever since. Because of kayaks, all person-powered craft (canoes, paddle boats, kayaks) came in with their strongest showing this year (247). Over the years, the number of canoes has varied, but there are no apparent long term trends. There were 29 canoes in 1987, 40 in 1990, 10 in 1996 and 2001, 28 in 2013. Paddle boats peaked in 1989 (111) and have declined steadily ever since. This year they came in at 55.

Sailing craft
The largest count of all sailing craft was recorded in 1987 with 257, and it’s down to 73 this year. Hobies also peaked out in 1987, and other sailing craft been decline for years. Outside of 1960 (50), this year’s count showed the lowest number with only 73. Regular sailboats peaked at 147 in 1987 and are down to 41 this year. There are 24 Hobies this year, down from 29 last year but up from a low of 16 in 2002. In the early 1980s Clark Lake’s Hobie Cat Fleet 58 was the second largest fleet in the world for an inland lake (second only to an inland lake in South Africa).

Bill Tuttle captains

Bill Tuttle captains

Motor powered crafts, not counting rafts and jet skis, are in decline
The remaining motor powered crafts reached a peak in 1991 (460) and touched a low this year with 261. Today, the most motor powered crafts are inboard-outboards (107) followed by inboards (69).

Jet skis are declining
Having reached a peak of 196 in 2005, jet skis declined to 126 this year.

Boats per houses on the lake
There are about 365 houses on the lake. Using this number as a base, the largest number of boats per house were counted in 2006 and 2008 (2.9 per house). This year there were 2.6 per house.

How the boat clubs affect the count
The long-term trend shows a rise of boats docked at clubs compared to boats docked at houses. The total number of boats at clubs is 322, down from a peak of 356 last year. This year 26% of all boats were docked in clubs, about the same as last year (27%). The lowest percentage docked at clubs was 17% in 1992.

About the Boat Count
This is the 55th annual boat count. Traditionally it takes place at 6 am on the 4th of July under the theory that most boats that would be in the water were in the water by then. At 6 am most boats would at their dock rather than on the lake. As always, Bill Tuttle was in charge of the crew that circled the lake. Bill captained the raft, Mike Beebe was scribe, Joe Rumler called out the numbers as the crew passed by each dock. Jim Bretes and Mike Hendges assisted. Because of extreme shallow water, the count of boats in Pierce Bay was done by canoe courtesy of Josie and Frank Hones.

Bill Beebe performing the duties of scribe

Bill Beebe performing the duties of scribe

The history of the count goes back to 1959. For years, it was conducted by Bowser Eagy. After his passing, Bill Tuttle took up the mantle. Unfortunately the counts from years 1961 to 1986 were lost forever when Bowser’s estate was processed.

If you look over the chart in Vital Statistics, you’ll also notice that 2009 and 2010 are missing. Bill Tuttle now says that he has discovered that chipmunks ate the data for those two years. And in support of that story, there are a lot of chipmunks residing here. Bill has, however, discovered an iPhone app that is supposed to recover data from errant animals. We’ll see if it works.

Bill Ligibel recorded the 1972 house count on an inside wall of his garage where it remains to this day

Bill Ligibel recorded the 1972 house count on an inside wall of his garage where it remains to this day

The number of boats per house was calculated by subtracting boats docked at clubs from the total number and then dividing by 365. The 365 number is seen to be fairly consistent year-to- year. But reaching back to the early 70s, there were fewer lakefront structures. On August 9, 1972, Bill Ligibel counted 346 lakefront cottages.