by Steve Lague

Garmin has just made it easier, and cheaper, to add autopilot to your offshore fishing boat. The GHP Compact Reactor Hydraulic autopilot is ideal for outboard powered boats fitted with hydraulic steering and up to 9.0m long. While autopilot systems for outboards is not new Garmin has made its latest offering available in three specification levels with a starting price of under $2000.
The GHP Compact Reactor is based on the same advanced solid-state 9-axis AHRS technology as Garmin’s other Reactor autopilot systems. With the three different configurations all using a 1-litre pump, it’s a flexible solution that allows buyers to choose the features they need for there boat and circumstances.
The Compact Reactor Starter Pack includes the core autopilot components needed to install and use in conjunction with a compatible chart plotter, such as Garmin’s echoMAP CHIRP combos and GPSMAP series. Fully integrated with compatible Garmin electronics, the Compact Reactor series can be controlled directly from the chart plotter. The autopilot can also be engaged to follow Garmin’s Auto Guidance technology (when used with BlueChart g2 Vision charts), which eliminates the hassle of entering different waypoints to create a route to your destination. By simply moving the cursor on the map to where you want to go on the chart plotter it will automatically plan the route from your vessel’s current location – avoiding shallow water and other charted obstructions – and then engage the autopilot.
If you don’t want to run the autopilot through your chart plotter you can add a GHC 20 Autopilot Control Unit to the package.
The third option adds the GHC 20 and the Garmin patented Shadow Drive that enables the users to disengage the autopilot with a turn of the steering wheel, allowing them to regain manual control of the vessel for any quick maneuvering or emergency procedures. Once the manouvre is complete, and the boat heading back on normal course, the autopilot system automatically resumes control. Without the Shadow Drive feature the autopilot system must be turned off before you can resume manual control of the boat.
The standard GHP Compact Reactor Hydraulic autopilot has a recommended retail price of $1799.