Installing a Collapsible Grab Rail and Rigid Support Strut

Item # X-HT-200322

In this series of how-to videos, we break it down for you, step by step, to show you how to install collapsible grab rails on your boat using rigid support struts. Grab rails are used on dodgers and biminis to give the people onboard the boat places to hang on for support and to assist getting in and out and moving around the boat. Using rigid support struts eliminates the need for webbing straps on both dodgers and biminis. Let’s get started with this video series.

Watch the videos in order to learn the complete process of constructing a collapsible grab rail on your dodger or bimini. In our videos, we’ve just completed the fabrication and installation of our dodger. We temporarily used webbing straps to secure the dodger to a cleat on the deck, but this is not ideal as the location of the webbing strap will cause chafe and eventually breakage.

Assembled Collapsible Struts and Rigid Support Struts can be found right here at Sailrite. We have a variety of sizes and lengths of tubing available, both in aluminum or stainless steel.

The first step to mounting a grab rail is to measure the location and figure out on your dodger where you want the grab rail mounted. Watch Part 3 of the series to learn how to measure and mount the grab rail.

Now that you’ve measured for the location of your grab rails, you need to dismantle the dodger. Unzip all parts, unsnap everything and remove the cover. Watch Part 4 of the video series to see how this is done.

The side mount hardware is used to mount the grab rail on the dodger. The side mount has a post which exits out of the canvas. Where this post exits it must be reinforced with leather to prevent the canvas from ripping easily. We’re using sailmaker’s leather to reinforce the canvas.

This short video shows reinstalling the dodger and positioning the side mounts. You need to line up the fitting with the hole in the canvas so the grab rail can be attached correctly and everything matches up.

In Part 7 of this video series, we show you how to determine the collapsible strut length. Install an eye end on each side mount post. You need to re-tension the dodger or bimini, either by attaching the webbing straps again or in our case, using strapping tape to keep the dodger nice and taut during the grab rail installation.

Now that the length of the collapsible struts has been measured and determined, you need to cut the struts down to size. You need to cut equally from both ends to keep the fold in the middle of the grab rail. Once you cut one rail, use it to add cut marks against the other so you make sure to cut the second rail to match the first.

Now all that’s left is installing the collapsible struts to your dodger and locking the ends into the eye ends.

Lastly, we’ll show you how to install rigid support struts that connect the dodger frame to the deck of the boat. This support strut gives your dodger more stability and aids in tensioning the dodger top. Watch how it’s done in this quick video.

Here's a breakdown of all the videos in our 10 Part series and their titles. Let us know how your grab rail and support strut installation turned out!


  • Collapsible Grab Rails & Rigid Support Struts for a Dodger or Bimini (0:44 min.)
  • Assembled Collapsible Support Struts (2:07 min.)
  • Positioning the Grab Rail on the Dodger (3:01 min.)
  • Dismantling your Dodger (2:48 min.)
  • Installing a Leather Patch (6:02 min.)
  • Re-install the Dodger & Position Side Mounts (0:52 min.)
  • Determining Collapsible Strut Length (3:30 min.)
  • Cutting Collapsible Struts (3:36 min.)
  • Installing Grab Rails Using Collapsible Struts (0:44 min.)
  • Installing Rigid Support Struts (2:17 min.)