Garmin’s Great Idea - Part 2
  |  First Published: December 2009

This continues a look at the new Garmin 620, which can operate either as a car GPS or as a marine GPS. The unit will go from streets to reefs with a quick chip change.

As I said last month, that means you don’t leave expensive items in your car at the boat ramp, and also you can make better use of the money you spend on navigational items by investing in one unit instead of two.

I promised last month to go to an area I know well, to see what sort of result the 620 gave. So I headed over to Tin Can Bay to see what the 620 has to offer. It’s great having a reason to go fishing, rather than just an excuse.

Anyway, this time Boobs and I were in his car towing my boat, so I didn’t have the holder. But because the battery is so good on these units, I was able to have a good look at the area beforehand on the 620, to work out a plan of attack.

Johnny Hel, our buddy at Tin Can, gave me some wide marks to head for the next day. At 4am Boobs and I got up, drove over to Johnny’s, grabbed the boat and headed off to the ramp.

The sun was coming up as we headed out, so there was no need to rely much on the chart, and the wind was blowing about 10 knots. With the tide up, the bar was behaving itself pretty well, so I plugged in some spots and the unit took us out.

My sounder is sensitive enough to pick up a shipping container in 20ft of water, but that’s about it, so the accuracy of the 620 was vital in landing us on our spots. The Stacer 469 took us out through some choppy seas to our various spots with no dramas at all.

One of the great advantages this unit has over similar ones I have used is its touch screen. You can pan across to any spot you want and with the chart details on high, check out the depths.

This means you can also pan across your tracks to see where you’ve been drifting or fishing, especially when you combine that with Man Overboard markings.

We managed to pick up a couple of reefies, just enough to keep us out wide until the sun went over Fraser Island. That’s when the 620 came into its own. Luckily, the wind had dropped to almost glassy, and we were able to point the Stacer back west at about 40 clicks.

I chose a mark just outside the bar, and got a track back to there. At this stage, I was able to choose between a 3D view, and an overhead view. Both were reliable, and kept me on a very straight track back to the bar.

At this point the unit froze. It’s not a nice feeling having your GPS die on you with no moon and some tricky navigation ahead, but by then the lead lights were well in sight so we weren’t too worried. I had soft wired the unit into the boat, so it’s quite possible the bashing over the chop earlier in the day had shook something loose. I took the battery out of the unit, turned it back on, and we were good to go.

At this point, I decided to test the unit well and truly. It has a choice between a ‘guide’ function and a ‘route’ function. The ‘route’ takes you in a straight line between your current site and your destination whereas the ‘guide’ chooses a path for you. The path it takes depends on what minimum depth you enter into the unit. So to test it, I selected the boat ramp at Tin Can, and chose the ‘guide’ function.

Happily, the route it took was spot on. I was able to follow the track, checking all the time with Johnny Hel and the lead lights. The 620 was bang on the money, taking me over the bar, across to the Tin Can Inlet, and down to Snapper Creek. If you don’t know this area, it’s pretty tricky, with a narrow channel, plenty of markers, depth changes, and confusing lights and beacons around. Apart from the freeze at the bar on the way home, the unit was a big success.

I would not hesitate to get hold of this unit. Its disadvantages include the need for two holders, and the sometimes-clumsy road software of the Garmin as well as perhaps the price. But it has massive advantages in the size and quality of its screen, the touch screen functions, its dual capacity to be used on land or sea and the fact that it is simple to use. The cost depending on options is $1200 to $1800, which in my book is money well spent.

note how much space there is on the chart.

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