Garmin buys Nautamatic, sweeeeet!


Moments ago Garmin announced that it has acquired Nautamatic Marine Systems, the inventors and manufacturers of what’s arguably the most innovative autopilot system out there. When I first profiled the TR-1 Gladiator in a 2004 PMY column I noted that breaking into this niche has to be really hard as experimentation and testing are difficult and reputations are built over decades. Hell, I think even the Furuno NavPilot has gone slowly, despite the great name and what I understand is very good performance. At any rate, Nautamatic stuck with it, eventually began to prove its technology,  and—yeehaa!—just made the big leagues. 
  Naturally a Gladiator autopilot is going to be a lot more attractive as part of Garmin’s already ambitious Marine Network, both to individuals and boatbuilders, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Garmin engineers help Nautamatic shine up its user interface a bit (though the “Shadow Drive” feature needs none). Of course, the bigger picture here is that Garmin—obviously intent on going toe to toe with Raymarine, Navico, Furuno, etc. over serious recreational boat electronics—just stepped a dite closer, ramping up a competition that I think is good for all of us. It’s also ironic that today I’m finishing up my PMY feature on ideal electronics systems! At least I recommended designing such a system so that it is easily modified or even replaced.

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

4 Responses

  1. Russ says:

    If I understand this correctly, it is only interesting to those with a power yacht.

  2. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Is there some other kind? Kidding. One limitation of TR-1 autopilots is that they only work with hydraulic steering systems, which of course leaves out a lot of sailboats. Plus Nautamatic was never much interested in sail anyway, perceiving that the TR-1’s ability to steer at very slow speeds, even in reverse, was most attractive to fishermen. But I am noticing that Garmin is showing a little respect for sailors, or at least has added the ability to show wind info on the new displays.

  3. Nina Huether says:

    Hello, we are trying to replace the ECU for our GHP12 autopilot system on our Island packet sailboat. We have a Teleflex electric drive motor and Garmin rudder sensor arm. Does the GHP10 & GHP12 use the identical ECU unit? The part numbers appear to be the same. Would really appreciate your help. Garmin offers none.

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Sorry, Nina, I can’t help you with that. However, I suggest that you keep trying Garmin tech support, preferably by phone, as the quality of response seems to vary a lot. I’d also try local marine electronics shops as there are pros who’ve been working with systems like yours for many years. And I’d certainly call Max Marine Electronics, which specializes in keeping older gear in service. In fact, they can apparently test and refurbish at least GHP drives so they should know which ECU (aka CCU) they work with.

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