If you’re looking into building a dodger or a bimini one of the decisions you’ll have to make is how you want to add additional support to the frame. This additional support helps to tension the fabric and keep the frame firmly upright. The two main options are using a webbing strap or another piece of tubing which is called a rigid support strut. If you’re not sure which one is for you, we’re going to break down the pros and cons of each.
Webbing Support Strap
The webbing support strap is a strip of webbing attached to the main frame of your dodger or bimini at one end and attached to your boat via a snap hook and a strap eye. The webbing strap is adjustable so you can get a tight, taut fit. Using an adjustable webbing strap is the more affordable option and many people find it easier to break down than a rigid strut. Webbing straps are also lighter than struts, so they save weight on board.
A common concern with webbing straps is that webbing is not as UV resistant as the tubing. However, using a highly UV resistant webbing like Sunbrella® webbing can help mitigate this concern.
Webbing straps however, are far less secure than the solid rigid support struts. Additionally, some people don’t care for the look of the webbing or the fact that they flap when traveling at higher speeds, like on a powerboat.
Rigid Support Struts
Rigid support struts are tubing pieces that attach to the dodger or bimini frame with a jaw slide on one end and then to the deck of your boat via an eye end and a mounting plate on the opposite end. This creates a very solid connection and a strong support for your dodger or bimini. Rigid support struts are sturdier and make better handholds than webbing straps. They also provide more consistent tensioning.
Using rigid support struts also offers more design flexibility than webbing straps because a pole can push or pull the frame into place, whereas a strap can only pull. This means there are more ways to position a support strut for equal or better support than from a strap.
A common drawback for rigid support struts is that they can be harder to disassemble than the webbing straps. If disassembly is a concern for you, rigid support struts can be set up using a flat mount with a quick release pin. This makes the disassembly time about equivalent to that of webbing straps.
We recommend using rigid support struts if cost is not a concern because the support is really much stronger. As one of our crew members put it, guests on board will hold on to whatever is handy for them, which is likely the bimini or dodger frame, so having those secure is key.
You can find kits to make webbing support straps and rigid support struts a Sailrite.com.
Which do you have on your boat, webbing support straps or rigid support struts? Why did you choose the one you did?