Goodbye Giuseppe Carnevali, the man who invented the chartplotter

Joseph Carnevali

Giuseppe Carnevali, engineer, entrepreneur and yachtsman, passed away after a long illness at the age of 78. Founder of Navionics, he revolutionized the way we navigate with his chartplotter, making it easier and safer.

Behind the way we navigate, in the small gestures we do automatically when we are on board, we must always think that there are stories of great men and brilliant ideas. Also a genius in his own way was Giuseppe Carnevali, engineer and founder of Navionics, who passed away in Camaiore (Lu) last Nov. 18 at age 75 after a long illness. To him we all sea lovers owe one thing in no small measure: the invention of electronic charting.

In fact, if we have been keeping track of our course aboard our boats for years without squaring and compasses, but simply consulting the illuminated screen of a chartplotter, it is thanks to the intuition of this talented gentleman, the first to exploit satellite signals to locate a boat’s position. It was 1984 when Carnevali launched the Geonav, the first chartplotter, which at the time was still a kind of big box with an external keyboard. Then came smaller and smaller, more precise and sophisticated electronic devices. But his innovation was epoch-making in the history of navigation, and among prestigious awards it earned him the Innovator Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA).

He founded Navionics inspired by James Bond

A naval and mechanical engineer, an expert sailor, a pilot of helicopters and small planes, and a lover of philosophy and politics, Carnevali in 2007 abandoned the production of plotters to devote himself entirely to electronic cartography. And his company Navionics in just a few years has become a market leader.

He had founded it in Viareggio on the wave of an insight that inspired the famous film “Goldfinger” with James Bond. In particular, he had been struck by a scene in which the British secret agent visualizes his enemies on an electronic map: a cinematic fantasy shortly thereafter Carnevali translated into reality with immediate use and widespread dissemination in every sea of the world.

His most accurate charts from the Hydrographic Institute.

To get an idea of the importance of Navionics in Carnevali’s time, suffice it to say that the company employed 400 people between Italy, the United States, Estonia and India. Thousands of boats registered on that platform and gave their input to create and update increasingly secure electronic charters that took advantage of artificial intelligence. So much so that over time Navionics charts have become more accurate than those of hydrographic institutes. For this they were employed by the U.S. Navy and the navies of many other countries around the world. Quite a payback for Carnevali since he initially had to contend with the very dullness of certain military people who judged his chartplotter to be a crazy idea that would never catch on.

After illness, activity as a philanthropist

Then in 2017, at age 68, there was the arrival of illness for Carnevali and the decision to sell the Navionics company to Garmin. It was in that year that the entrepreneur decided to devote himself to the work of the Carnevali Foundation together with his wife Jacqueline. The charity still operates today in India, Ethiopia and Nepal helping hundreds of orphans and running schools for poor children, following them until they come of age. It does the soul good to think of an Italian like Giuseppe Carnevali, a genial and generous man who until the end helped others find their way, at sea and on land.




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