New Kid on the Dock
Geonav hits U.S. shores with a full line of high-tech marine instruments.
Over the past 20 years as an electronics columnist, I’ve seen more than a few marine-electronics companies come and go. When they arrive, they usually start off with a single product and a promise to build out the rest of the line in the future. But that’s not what happened this time with the launch of Geonav (www.geonavmarine.com) into the U.S. market.
Unlike many other companies seeking to provide electronics to U.S. sailors, Geonav is no first-time startup. Rather, according to the company’s business director, Bruce Angus, Geonav was founded in 1982—in part by Giuseppe Carnevali, who also founded electronic-chart maker Navionics—to produce plotters and basic charts, but it soon became a subsidiary of Navionics so it could sell charts to its own plotter base. Geonav plotters were sold primarily in Italy, with a minor share in France and a few other small markets. “Navionics,” says Angus, “deliberately didn’t market Geonav into the major U.S. and European markets because it didn’t want to run afoul of the original-equipment manufacturers who built plotters compatible with Navionics charts in the United States”—Raymarine, Furuno, and Lowrance, to name a few. “Since then, Geonav has been relaunched in Europe as a full-line electronics manufacturer under Johnson Outdoors ownership, and the company made its debut in the U.S. market at the 2010 Fort Lauderdale boat show. This year’s Miami show was the second and biggest stage of our U.S. launch.”
And that’s where we got the opportunity to put the full line of Geonav gear to the test out on the water. The first thing you’ll notice about this series of electronics is the ultra-cool graphics on all of the displays. The resolution is like a high-definition TV, super-sharp and colorful, and I immediately wanted to start twisting knobs and pushing buttons to see what lies behind the opening screens. Which is exactly what I did offshore in 3- to 5-foot seas off of Government Cut, in Miami.
Our test boat was decked out with an entire Geonav system, starting with the G12, a 12.1-inch, daylight-readable multifunction display. (The G10, with its 10.4-inch display, is also available for smaller nav stations and helms.) Interfaced with that was its HD Ethernet radar; side-and-down-imaging sonar; GPS 50 receiver; MID 110 multi-instrument display; GSC 110 autopilot; along with all related gear, a joystick, and Automatic Identification System. The multifunction display is really the command-and-control center of a Geonav system, which—like other brands—includes a series of plug-n-play sensors like sonars and radars that can be added to the mix. That part of the Geonav story isn’t unique. There are, however, several other features that make Geonav products stand out in the busy marine-electronics marketplace.
First off, the system offers what the company refers to as “groundbreaking DualFuel Cartography.” This means the unit can display electronic charts from both Navionics and C-MAP at the same time, including the former’s highest-level Platinum+ and the latter’s 4D packages, thus giving you the best of both cartography worlds. Having spent days and days using both brands of cartography at sea, I can tell you that there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to each brand. Without going into specifics, one brand is known for showing larger buoys at a greater zoom range than the other. Why is this important? Because as a bluewater sailor, if you’re plotting a coastal cruise from, for example, Cape Hatteras to Block Island, you don’t want to have to keep zooming in, find the buoy, mark it as a waypoint, zoom out, then plot the line to the next mark—it’s easier and faster to plot a route if you can stay out at the same zoom level and enter all the waypoints in one shot. So, as this relates to DualFuel Cartography, the benefit became obvious when I tested the system’s radar-overlay capability.
To fine-tune the radar, I turned up the sea-clutter setting to eliminate the whitecaps around us from the display, and I picked up a target on the radar where there were no boats or ships that I could actually see. There was no buoy shown on brand A’s chart at that zoom level either, so one would think that it might be a small boat. But after I toggled over to brand B’s chart, there it was, a buoy marked on the chart plain as day, with the radar target very close to it, leading me to conclude that the target and buoy were one in the same. I can envision lots of scenarios—from shoreline curves to chart-notation variations—where having the ability to toggle back and forth between C-MAP and Navionics charts gives you the ultimate peace of mind, and only Geonav offers this technology at the time of this writing. In addition, some parts of the world are better charted by one of the companies or the other.