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Local hobbyist creates a Chain of Lakes nautical chart

David Ruebeck and his wife, Claire, who live in Minneapolis, have a sailboat that they usually keep at Lake Calhoun.

At one point a couple of years ago, the Ruebecks considered sailing Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake, where they don’t normally spot too many sailboats out and about.

To find out if it was doable, Ruebeck looked for information on how deep the channels were between the lakes. He got a rough idea on that from the park system and the state’s Department of Natural Resources. However, the nautical charts he got were decades old and didn’t address the channels and lagoons.

The state of affairs got him thinking. As someone who loves maps, he thought that other people might be interested in up-to-date depth data relating to all four of the lakes composing the Chain of Lakes, he says.

In 2011, Ruebeck, who works as a plastic surgeon, rented equipment that allowed him to “move across the lake and log the depths under the boat with precise GPS coordinates,” he says. Going back and forth across the watery depths, it took him a couple of weeks to cover the lakes.

Then, he imported the data into mapping software, where he cleaned it up to “look like the official chart a sailor might use on the ocean or one of the Great Lakes.”

He found some differences in the contours and shapes at the bottoms of the lakes, especially in Lake of the Isles.  

The resulting Chain of Lakes nautical chart is a unique document. “There really is nothing else like it, no fishing maps or depths charts that include all of the lakes that are connected,” he says.

The nautical chart, which has waterproof and archival versions, is also available electronically, on a smartphone. “I hope people find it interesting and that fishermen find it useful,” he says. “For sailors who’ve navigated with charts, they can practice navigating with it.”  

The nautical chart is also a piece of art. “It’s an interesting homage to the lakes,” not necessarily a scientific document, he says, adding, "I'm kind of a self-taught cartographer."  

In the future, he might chart out other lakes, such as Lake Harriet and Lake Nokomis, or others that don’t have up-to-date depth data.   

Source: David Ruebeck, creator, City Lake Maps and Charts
Writer: Anna Pratt

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