Local couple launches Chain of Lakes map-making project

THE LAKES — When a local plastic surgeon was called in for jury duty, he finally found time for a big side project — mapping the depth contours of the Minneapolis chain of lakes. Now David Ruebeck and his wife are offering nautical charts for sale online.

Ruebeck said he became curious about lake depths when he started sailing a larger Catboat. Nautical information was dated, he said, and he couldn’t find much regarding the channels between the lakes.

“I thought that maybe I should collect the actual data,” he said.

During his jury duty stint, he waited for a call each day to summon him for the following morning.

“I never got called in,” he said.

Instead, Ruebeck and his wife Claire took out a canoe early in the morning when the air was cool, people were scarce, and fog settled over the water. He found a California company that could rent him a hydrographic surveying system with a depth sounder and differential GPS technology.  

“It was fun experience, and plus we ended up with all this data,” he said.

He imported the data into Adobe Illustrator to make the maps.

“It’s a testament to how these tools are ways for untrained people to dip their toe in the design field, and create something pretty good,” David said.

The Ruebecks have already relied on the data themselves. July 2011 marked the 100th anniversary of the linking of the Minneapolis chain of lakes. Back in 1911, there was a big celebration, David said, with a parade of boats traveling through the channels. Since there was no celebration in 2011, the Ruebecks decided to make their own.

“We invited some friends for the day, folded the mast down on our sailboat and motored through the lagoon to enter Lake of the Isles,” he said. “We raised the mast and sailed around Isles for the afternoon. Having taken depth soundings of the lagoon earlier that spring, I knew that our boat would be able to make the trip.”

A print version of the map is available for buyers to frame, and the Ruebecks are also working on a folding version that someone could take out on a canoe. Maps are also available for the iPhone and iPad.

“Now we just need to get the word out,” David said.

For more information, visit citylakemaps.com