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June 01, 2011

Autopilot Innovations

Better autopilots steer you to savings and better fishing

GeoNav Debut
The newest player in the United States, GeoNav entered the market with a sound autopilot as the backbone of its total suite of electronics. Much like Garmin purchased a proven system and built on it, Johnson Outdoors provided the GeoNav line with a proven autopilot with the purchase of the Italian Navicontrol.

“They had been building them for 25 years,” says GeoNav’s Bruce Angus. “The beauty of it from our point of view is it is a reliable and proven autopilot in Europe. We went directly to our first-generation redesign of the head, and we have not missed a beat. We are able to deliver a stable and good-running autopilot. It causes us no headaches, it’s very competitively priced, and it doesn’t break.”

The GeoNav pilot incorporates dual-station functionality, full duplication of features and a joystick control that provides instant hands-on control for jogging around obstacles and returning to a set course. Installation eliminates the traditional potentiometer and replaces it with a rotary transformer, the short version of which is that there are no parts to wear out. Outboard installation eliminates the mechanical feedback, and the unit instead relies on the linear feedback system of different manufacturers, such as Teleflex and others.

A Better Skipper
Capt. Sam Heaton of West Palm Beach, Florida, has given the GeoNav auto-pilot a good workout already.

“The great thing about the autopilot is it is much more precise than manual steering, which means I can get to a hole quicker than I can if I am steering the boat,” he says. “On a typical 30- to 40-mile run, I put my waypoint in, and it [the autopilot] gets me there quick, with less fuel burned. It takes a more direct line, and on a run to the Bahamas, it saves me six to 10 gallons of gas each way. Now that we are paying $5 a gallon at the marina, that makes a big difference.”

The autopilot’s handling simple helm-minding once Heaton reaches the fishing grounds also comes in handy. “I usually troll five lines, two on downriggers, two on the outriggers and a shotgun out the back,” he says. “If my lines are screwed up, and there are some days I don’t have the luxury of having a mate to handle them for me, the autopilot allows me to take care of that and keep fishing.”