Hold the presses! Among the many gadgets and gillhickies my husband, Dave, and I have added to our trawler, installing a "granny rail" on our dinghy was one of the simplest and most indispensable.
I have two artificial knees, and never like to make a step down on something without a handhold; I just don't trust the knee not to wobble at a crucial moment. I find I am not alone. In the past month we have cruised with friends who have had injuries from tennis, auto accidents, MS, or vertigo; whatever the reason, a good solid grabrail on an otherwise wiggly dinghy is boon beyond belief.
We talked about adding a good grabrail for years. Finally, in the spring of 2007 while in Turkey, where building things in stainless is a cottage industry, we told the workers at Anker Marine in Marmaris what we had in mind: It must be solid, it must be removable, and it must work whether climbing on the dinghy from the side or straight off the bow—something I would never do, even though that step in the bow is the highest part of the dinghy and the easiest way to climb onto a higher dock.
The yard built two bases, like stanchion bases, and then the curved metal grabrail, which sets into the bases. The design was theirs and it was completed in just a few days. Turkish workmen are super-skilled in handling stainless, and the price was right. In fact, Anker Marine built most of the stainless grabrails placed around our boat—valuable aids for almost anyone, but essential for a lot of us "experienced" boaters.
If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you could just buy stanchion bases. You could just use stanchions, or T-topped stanchions, whatever works for you, but the "granny rail" has been just great for me. Be sure a backing plate is put behind the base bolts, and use set screws or wing nuts to make sure the stanchion is not pulled out of the base.
Now, when I climb in the dinghy from the side, I can put one hand on the granny rail and one hand on the grabrail on the console, and even if the waters are rough, I can enter the boat with security. Even Dave, who doesn't need the support, says he uses it all the time. I can't tout its virtues enough; just do yourself a favor and get a "granny rail."