Marine electronics evolve at a mind-numbing pace, but it’s pretty unusual to see an entirely new player spring up out of nowhere—which is exactly what’s happened this year, with a company called Geonav. Sort of. Actually, this company has been building marine navigation gear in Europe for several years, but its products have never been sold in the United States. For 2011, however, Geonav has decided to target the American market with a full lineup including all-new multifunction displays, multi-instrument displays, and a unique bluewater side-imaging sonar system.
The appearance of Geonav in the US is no coincidence. It’s being caused by freshwater marine powerhouse Johnson Outdoors, which builds Humminbird fishfinders, Minn Kota electric trolling motors, Cannon downriggers, and Ocean and Old Town kayaks and canoes. Johnson Outdoors purchased Geonav, and has brought its gear across the pond in a not-so-subtle attempt to gain a foothold in the saltwater world. We had a chance to play with their initial offerings at the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show, and started off by pushing buttons on the GIS 12 and GIS 10 multifunction displays (MFD’s).
These MFDs are expandable, integrated, NMEA2000 and NMEA0183 compliant units, with 1024 x 768 XGA TFT LCD screens. They’re both LED backlit, waterproofed to IP 67 standards (which means they can survive immersion under one meter of water for 30 minutes), and can run on either 12 or 24 volt systems. Communications take place via Ethernet, and these MFD’s also sport USB ports and a pair of SD/HCSD card slots.
The big-daddy GIS 12 (which carries a $4,299 MSRP price tag), has a 12.1 inch display. The GIS 10 (which lists at $3,299), has a 10.4 inch display. I found them crisp, colorful, and plenty bright. The systems are thoroughly expandable, with a 50-channel GPS, four kW MARPA-capable radar in both dome (four degree horizontal beam width) and open-array (one meter/two point four-degree horizontal beam width and one point four meter/one point seven degree horizontal beam width) configurations, AIS, and a dual-beam 50/200 kHz two-kilowatt fishfinder.
G12 and G10 non-integrated MFD’s with built-in sonar and plug-and-play expandability are available for single display configurations, and these units will be of interest to those who own smaller saltwater boats but don’t have multi-station capabilities. The G units have built-in sonar capability, so you don’t have to add a black box to start seeing what’s beneath the waves.
Both the integrated and non-integrated Geonav MFD’s have a couple of unique features that set them apart from the competition. The first is multi-chartography capability. Geonav’s units can take either Navionics or C-Map, not one or the other. The second is the inclusion of side-imaging sonar. Geonav is the first company to introduce a side-imaging system, the GSM 2000, that’s designed specifically for large, straight inboard or pod drive, offshore sportfishing boats. Instead of the usual single side-imaging transom-mount transducer, which is long and narrow, this system utilizes a pair of small bronze triple-element through-hull transducers. One gets mounted in the hull on either side of the boat, and they shoot off a pair of 455-kHz beams that form a detailed picture of everything within 240’ to the left and right of the hull. Similar to the technology Humminbird uses in their side-imaging units (no surprise there), the side-imaging beams are incredibly tight and focused. That allows them to draw a much more detailed picture of a limited swath of water. As a result, the images you see on-screen look closer to those of an MRI than to a regular fishfinder.
Ease of use is one aspect of marine electronics that holds a lot of value for most of us, and since the Geonavs are all new, you’ll have to become accustomed to their also-new “BlueLogic” interface. Eight quick-access keys, a rotary knob, a joystick, and soft keys are used to control the menus, which allow you to customize overlays, multi-pane views, and a virtual keyboard. I found it comprehensive, but it is different from the norm so you’ll have allow some time to become accustomed to it.
Another new offering from Geonav is their MID 110 multi-instrument display. The MID 110 is a 3.5” QVGA 320 x 240 TFT color LCD, which is NMEA 0183/NMEA 2000 compliant and links into the system via Ethernet. You can use it to display all sorts of data: navigational, wind angle and speed, engine instrumentation, air and water temperatures, battery voltage, and time/date data, for example. Like its bigger brothers, the MID 110 is IP 67 waterproof and runs on either 12 or 24 volts.
Geonav rounds out their electronic offerings with the GSC 110 autopilot, which utilizes the same 3.5” display as the multi-instrument displays and can be matched up with a TC 110 joystick control. They’re also offering multiple transducer configurations for one and two kW through-hulls; a fluxgate compass, SCP 110 course computer, and rudder feedback unit; the GNS 5 Network Switch, which accommodates up to five Ethernet lines; the GTX AIS transceiver; the GSM 1000 down-looking sonar; and Geonav’s Mapmaster PC nav software, which lets you plan out your voyages at home on the PC.
With all of these options, it’s pretty clear that Geonav—and by extension Johnson Outdoors—plans on becoming a real player in the US saltwater market. And if they continue surprising us with goodies like these, it’s a safe bet they succeed at it. For more information, visit the Geonav website.
Lenny Rudow has been a writer and editor in the marine field for over two decades and has authored five books. He runs his own web site at HookedOnFishingBoats.com and his syndicated blog appears at Boats.com in the BoaterMouth blog section.