New Kid on the Dock
Geonav hits U.S. shores with a full line of high-tech marine instruments.
Turning our attention now to performance, I found the radar and sonar to be on par with other high-end electronics on the market today.
The radar showed good clarity, the controls let you clean up a cluttered screen, and, as I mentioned, the target returns were nearly on top of buoys, shorelines, and other fixed marks. On the sonar side, we ran out to around 70 feet of water and the unit never lost the bottom. The fishfinder display was accurate enough to actually show us the contours of a wreck we located on the chart, and it was sensitive enough to show us bobbing up and down on the waves.
We then spent some time checking out the MID 110 multi-instrument display, which is a huge nav station space saver for sailors. Specifically, we tested the Sailing display that was connected to an Airmar PB150 ultrasonic weather station. No need for cups and vanes here; this all-in-one sensor has no moving parts and detects true wind, apparent wind, air temperature, barometric pressure, GPS data, and even wind chill all in one compact unit the size of a medium coffee cup. It was very helpful to see the true- and apparent-wind information clearly shown—graphically, numerically, and in color—right on the MID 110. The MID 110 works with data in both NMEA 0183 and 2000 formats, as will the advanced GIS series of multifunction displays that Geonav will introduce in the fall.
And finally, we put the autopilot through its paces; it was, of course, integrated with the main multifunction display. I had our captain plot out a multi-waypoint route to determine how well the autopilot held to the plotted course line and what it did when it came time to turn on to a new leg of the route. The autopilot did an exceptional job of holding us on the plotted line, even in a sloppy, beam-to sea that was constantly trying to push us toward a lee shore. And when the time came, the autopilot dutifully made a 90-degree turn to port without prompting, which for some skippers could be an issue. Once you near a turning waypoint, the unit displays a very short text message on the screen, then goes ahead and initiates the turn with no further input from the captain. This is in sharp contrast to some other autopilots I’ve used, where you must confirm the turn before the autopilot will execute. While the company says it argued internally for hours over this decision to automatically make the turn rather than requiring confirmation, it pointed out that the captain did plot the course, meaning that he or she would want to make the turn at the appropriate time. My only issue with this is what happens if there’s another boat nearby and the turn will put you right on it? Fortunately, at sailing speeds there’s usually plenty of time to make a course correction if it’s needed, and that can easily be done with the push of a single button to disengage the autopilot and take over manual control. Or you can simply use the joystick to maneuver around the other boat or any other obstruction that’s in your way.
Overall, it’s refreshing to see a “newcomer” to marine electronics that actually has 25 years of manufacturing under its keel. And given the fact that the new Geonav is part of the giant Johnson Outdoors organization—the makers of Humminbird fishfinders, Scubapro dive gear, and more—you know the company is going to be here for a long time to come. So if you’re the type of navigator who likes to roll up your sleeves and really dive into the menus, the complete navigation system from Geonav has the ability to make you the coolest captain on the dock.
Captain Chris Kelly is a veteran navigator who writes frequently about marine electronics.