When you’re dropping the anchor, you want to know how much rode you’re putting out to determine if you’ve got enough scope. To know that, you have to mark your anchor chain.
People have come up with all sorts of systems for marking chain (or rope). The most popular two are using cable ties or paint. You can also buy little plastic pieces that fit into links in the chain (see them on Amazon).
With any system to mark anchor chain, you come up with a color scheme (in the US, red-white-blue is popular) and a distance apart for the markings. On our previous boat, 300 feet of chain was marked every 50 feet.
- First red = 50 feet
- First white = 100
- First blue = 150
- Second red = 200
- Second white = 250
- Second blue = 300
Ways to Mark Anchor Chain
The problem with cable ties is that they get chewed up by the windlass and the bottom, and fall off over time. You can put on multiples so that there will still be another one there for you to see, but that ignores the other problem with cable ties: all those bits of broken plastic in the water. The plastic pieces that snap into chain links are better, but still can pop out and end up as plastic trash in the water.
Individually, they’re not large. But added to the rest of the plastic trash in the oceans? No thanks. I hope others will move away from using cable ties (or other plastic markers) and switch to paint.
How to Paint Galvanized Anchor Chain
To paint the chain, start by laying it out and determining where you’re going to paint. It’s usually easiest to zig-zag it back and forth at whatever interval you’ve decided upon.
IMPORTANT: Paint will appear to adhere to galvanizing when first applied, but actually flakes off easily. Our friend Greg Delezynski told us the secret to getting it to adhere well: vinegar!
The vinegar will etch the galvanizing so that paint can adhere. Just pour it over the sections of chain that you intend to paint and let dry, then paint. Greg uses either white or cider vinegar.
Greg’s other tip is to use yellow paint for the “white” in the red-white-blue color scheme. White can be hard to spot if you have new galvanized chain — it will blend right in with the galvanizing. Yellow shows up much better.